A proposed pilot program from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend would move forward the latest time fires would be allowed but add fire pits.
The rule changes are a reaction to ongoing problems with bonfires at the beach, including the burning of toxic materials such as wooden pallets, furniture and trash; broken glass, hot coals and nails on the beach; and illegal activity including assaults, underage drinking and drug use, Park Service officials said.
The Park Service has allowed fires on the beach since it took over its management in the 1970s, but started limiting where and when fires were permitted in 2002.
The agency has considered banning the fires outright since that time, but has yet to take that step.
Instead, fires have been limited to before 10 p.m. and in designated locations since 2007. The fire rings include artistic pits provided by Burners Without Borders.
But with the new rules, fires will only be allowed until 9 p.m., and the five existing pits will be replaced with 10 larger pits. The artistic pits will be returned to Burners Without Borders, the Park Service said.
“Burners Without Borders did a great job making those, but they weren’t able to hold up to the elements — Ocean Beach is unforgiving,” Park Service spokeswoman Alexandra Picavet said.
The beach remains open to visitors all night long but camping is not allowed, Picavet said.
The success of the pilot will be re-evaluated at its conclusion and the Park Service may take the steps of continuing the rule changes or, if there’s no abatement in the problems, make further adjustments in the rules or consider banning fires outright, park officials said.