Fourth of July Troubles Continue at Ocean Beach

By Peter Sciacca

The Fourth of July weekend has brought numerous problems to Sunset District residents who live near Ocean Beach for more than a decade - and this year was no exception, according to one longtime resident.

"There seemed be a quicker response (by park police) this year, but we still endured the same problems," said David Ferguson, who has lived adjacent to the Great Highway for 20 years. "Many of the people who eluded police just came back later in the night."

Over the weekend, Ferguson and his neighbors complained to police about repeated loud explosions and bright flashes from exploding rockets that lasted throughout the night and early morning. Revelers going to and from the beach contributed to the noise problem.

"Gunshots, rockets and other fireworks shattered the normally peaceful nature of the neighborhood," he said. "The stench of fireworks floating over the Great Highway and into the neighborhood is awful. If you step outside, inhaling the smoke gives you a sore throat. I even saw some people shoot bottle rockets at cars driving along the Great Highway this year."

Motorists and residents were not the only ones affected by activities at the beach over the weekend.

"Seniors, war veterans, children and those who had to get to work early are also among those who suffer the most every year," he said.

Among the native bird species impacted by the chaos, the bank swallow may be the hardest hit.

"Many are chased away and their nests are trampled by people trudging through their habitat to set off fireworks," Ferguson said.

As in years past, the problem doesn't end after the weekend.

"After the fourth, the beach was still littered with countless beer bottles and debris from spent fireworks," Ferguson said. "There also seems to be an increase in graffiti in the neighborhood and on beach structures, like boulders and fences, every year. It amazes me how bad it can get after just a few days. I think anyone caught with fireworks should have to spend several hours of community service picking up garbage on the beach."

Ferguson said he took his plea for better enforcement to various agencies and officials in the weeks leading up to the Fourth of July weekend. He has been in contact with Mayor Gavin Newsom, Supervisor Fiona Ma, various police agencies and state representatives.

Representatives from the Taraval Police Station and the Golden Gate Recreation Area were unavailable as of presstime.

Ferguson thinks there needs to be a formal agreement between various police agencies to better combat the problem.

"Each one has jurisdiction over only certain sections of the beach. There needs to be more follow up on hot spots and coordination between agencies," he said.