DANA POINT, Calif. — “Change is inevitable, yet not all change is necessary,” that’s what one longtime local in Dana Point wrote on a petition he started to get lifeguard towers at Doheny State Beach renumbered after California State Parks changed their original numbers.
The towers were renumbered late last year, and some locals noticed the towers suddenly had new numbers. Tower 7 was the spot Mike Foster grew up surfing at and hanging with friends.
“It’s strange,” he said about seeing it renumbered to Tower 33.
He said the new upgraded physical lifeguard towers are great, “but it will look better with the original numbers on it.”
California State Parks had said some towers in the area had the same numbers, so the department changed the numbering system to avoid confusion for rescue and operation efforts.
Foster said the original numbers have history attached to them in Dana Point — the place he has called home since 1976. And the place he now co-owns and runs, Killer Dana Surf Shop.
“When they changed those numbers,” he paused as his eyes filled with tears. “Sorry. It was a big deal.”
Foster was emotional because he explained changing the numbers that have been around for decades was like erasing memories.
“It just felt like a big piece of my childhood was gone,” Foster said.
Foster said he started hearing from members of the community who felt the same way. So he started an online petition to convince California State Parks to return the numbers to the original tower numbers.
“I don’t get involved in political stuff. I’m not a petition kind of guy,” Foster said.
He said this was a big enough deal for him and many others that he decided now was the time to get involved. Foster had tons of help from the community, friends, neighbors and political leaders, including Dana Point Mayor Joe Muller.
Muller said when the tower numbers changed, “It actually erases some of our history, and it didn’t need to happen.”
Muller, along with several other city council members, urged the city work with state parks.
“And so we got our staff together with their staff,” he said. “We sent letters in support of what Mike and his group were trying to accomplish.”
In response to emails and calls in mid-February, California State Parks sent over a statement regarding the lifeguard tower number changes:
“A decision has been made to revert the lifeguard tower numbers at Doheny State Beach to the historical format used in the park for many decades. The goal of the project to renumber the lifeguard towers was to increase operational efficiencies on a trial basis. Ultimately, the project did not meet our operational goals. The lifeguard tower numbers will revert to the original numbering sequence in the coming weeks.”
In late April, the tower numbers were returned to the original historic numbers and Foster returned to the spot where he hung out growing up.
“I’m really proud that it’s here and it will be here forever,” he said of his beloved Tower 7.
The nonprofit Doheny State Beach funded the change back to the original tower numbers. Foster sits on the nonprofit's board.
It is the nonprofit cooperating association of Doheny State Beach dedicated to protecting the park’s beaches, facilities, marine refuge, and historical and cultural stories.