Costly Ocean Beach fire pits might be extinguished 

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Ocean Beach bonfires could become a thing of the past if the U.S. National Park Service and community organizations cannot find a "reasonable" resolution to address the problems that come with the nighttime revelry.

Removing the "fire pits is not our preferred outcome," said Park Service spokeswoman Alexandra Picavet, "but it is reasonably one we have to have in consideration."

The Park Service, which manages Ocean Beach, plans to hold community meetings to find alternative ways to run the fire pits to address trash and costs.

The current fire program was created in 2007 following backlash from the public after the Park Service announced that it hoped to eliminate the bonfires because there were too many and the trash that revelers left behind became overwhelming.

A compromise later that year limited the number of bonfires and concentrated them in an area that was easy to see and did not disturb nearby residents. A 10 p.m. curfew also was created.

The group Burners Without Borders agreed to build and pay for 12 new pits created by artists to contain the fires. There are currently nine designated fire pits remaining.

Picavet said some of the fire pits could not withstand the weather on Ocean Beach and have been replaced with a standard circle pit. Additionally, the Park Service partnered with ocean advocacy group the Surfrider Foundation to help maintain the fire pits and clean the area. But, Picavet said, the agreement is no longer working.

In 2007, trash and debris cleanup reportedly cost $90,000 a year; the Park Service did not have an updated figure, but Picavet said the fires still require a large response from law enforcement and there is still loads of trash left behind.

Carmen Mauk, executive director of Burners Without Borders, said trash has been a problem, but things could get worse if the program is eliminated.

"People are still going to go out there and create campfires," Mauk said. "Where will they do that? They'll take it out to the sand dunes or somewhere where it will pull a lot of resources from the rest of the park and it will put them back to where we started on this."

Mauk said she would like to continue to work with the Park Service to find a solution to preserve the fire pits.

"I think it's possible," she said. "We have to put our heads together. This project was experimental. In some ways it was successful, and in some ways it's not. Let's build upon it."

The discussions won't take place for several months, however, as the Park Service is getting ready to release an environmental impact statement for its dog management plan. Once that document is released, Picavet said, any potential changes to the fire pits can move forward.

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