Part of Lighthouse Field State Beach, this beach just west of Lighthouse Point, is a favorite for locals. The west end of the beach contains a beautiful sea arch eroded into the Purisima Formation. If the tide is really low you might also see the base of the Old Shoe sea stack, the vertical remnants of a natural arch that has long since collapsed.
From the sidewalk above the beach you can also see a set of fairly regular evenly spaced joints in the sandstone of the Purisima Formation. These likely reflect large-scale stress on sediments of the Purisima from the San Andreas Fault system. Within the Purisima, this jointing is seen in places that are relatively more resistive to erosion. You can see them here, and westward to Almar Street, and three miles east of here, at Pleasure Point. If it was not so hard and erosion resistant, Lighthouse Point would not exist, and the surfing at Steamer Lane, created by refraction around the point, would not be so legendary.
Its Beach was the site of a shipwreck in 1876. The schooner ‘Active’ left Santa Cruz with a load of 3,000 railroad ties. About a mile offshore the wind died and the crew eventually set anchor for the night. A large swell developed, ripped the anchor lines, and the ship was washed ashore. Several attempts were made to elevate it on a scaffold and re-launch it at high tide. They all failed and eventually the $19,000 ship, insured for only $3,000, was stripped for parts and left to decay on the beach.
The Off-Leash Controversy
Its Beach would not be what it is today if development plans had not been thwarted by locals who cared about open space preservation. True to these roots, Its Beach has also become a local flashpoint between people who want to enjoy open space in different ways; some with dogs and some without. In 2002 a group of citizens and dog lovers created Friends of Lighthouse Field (FOLF), to respond to growing concerns that the update of the General Plan at Lighthouse Field might include language specifically forbidding dogs off leash.
The group has been involved with two lawsuits and lots of local political activity that brought the plight of city dwelling dog lovers and their dogs to the fore. They feel very strongly that it is unfair that only 2% of parks in the county allow dogs off leash and even this is often with restricted hours. Their efforts to protect the right of people to let their dogs run free include events such as First Dog Night and Love the Dogs You’re With, as well as letter writing campaigns and a Paws in the Park rally. FOLF also works hard to foster community responsibility and stewardship of the beach.
The City (more friendly to owners with dogs) had been trying to buy the beach from the State (less friendly to owners with dogs) but those plans are on hold due to the budget crunch. For now, dogs technically are not allowed off leash, but the ordinance is not enforced. For more about FOLF, go to the FOLF website http://folf.org.
Take the Self-Guided Mobile Tour
This piece is part of the West Cliff Drive Tour. Download the free app with many tours of the Santa Cruz area and beyond.
- Lighthouse Field Beach Rescue vs. City of Santa Cruz and City of Santa Cruz City Council. 2003.
- Lighthouse Point: Illuminating Santa Cruz. Frank A. Perry. Santa Cruz, California: Otter B Books; 2002.
- Living With the Changing California Coast. Gary B. Griggs, Kiki Patsch, Lauret E. Savoy. University of California Press; 2005.
- Personal Communication with Zee Zabatos, Friends of Lighthouse Field Board Member, 1/15/2011.
- Santa Cruz Lighthouse. Lighthousefriends. Lighthousefriends Website. http://www.lighthousefriends.com/light.asp?id=87.