Bates Beach Ambasadors
Friends of Bates Beach "Beach Watch Ambassadors" (July, 2013)


Earn Your Own Blue Hat as a Proud Member of Our Team!

How Do I Volunteer?

Who Are We?

  • Volunteers — We assume the responsibility to care for and support our assigned beach and its visitors.
  • Diplomats — We work to ensure the trust and mutual respect of visitors for the beach environment and its surroundings.
  • Committed — We work within the law to establish behavior standards so that no one person or group of people can ruin the beach experience for the others.

What Do We Do?

Our role is not to play sheriff but to observe, facilitate when possible, and report. We are citizen volunteers who have no legal authority to do anything else.

The volunteers wear special colored hat, and make a point of welcoming all the beach visitors when they arrive, distributing behavior/etiquette guidelines and a complimentary trash bag all the while watching for any inappropriate behavior.

Why Are We Doing This?

The Friends of Bates Beach recognizes that drug dealing, vandalism, and lewd behavior have no business on a beach, nor in any public place.

Due to budget cuts and other higher priorities around the south county, Santa Barbara sheriff deputies and undercover officers patrol Bates only occasionally patrol Bates. In fact, during the summer months, the Parks Department puts a security guard into a trailer up in the parking lot as a deterrent to crime above the beach. But it isn't enough.

We support the enforcement of anti-lewd behavior laws both on the beach, and anywhere else in public. Knowing that a semi-deserted stretch of beach often attracts people so inclined, it is important that the beach-going community organize to help law enforcement when such incidents occur.

The Friends of Bates Beach have volunteered in this endeavor by establishing a form of Neighborhood Watch called a Beach Watch Ambassador Program.

Does This Work at Other Beaches?

Yes! Several other beaches around the country have had Beach Ambassador programs for several years. In south Florida at Haulover Beach, at Gunnison beach in New Jersey, and at Torre Pines State Beach (aka Black's beach) in San Diego, the Ambassadors have a good working relationship with local lifeguards and law enforcement.

L: Lloyd Johnson, organizer of the Beach Watch program in San Diego, talks with lifeguards. R: Haulover Beach (Florida) Ambassadors

How Does It Work?

In practice far more time is spent on providing information and explaining the accepted standards of beach etiquette and courtesy.

We find one of our most effect tools to deter crime is simply walking around. People who want to break into cars, to sell drugs or paint graffiti on walls prefer to do it when nobody is around to watch it happen. Our very presence acts as a deterrent and sends a message to those on the beach that inappropriate behavior and crime will not be tolerated. When we see a problem, our job is to report it to a park ranger, sheriff deputy, or city/county park personnel to make sure that problem receives a prompt and effective response.

Beach Ambassadors also watch out for those occasional individuals who may spoil the beach experience for others. If someone is suspected of misbehaving, such as staring at another's child too much, or a woman complains that someone is taking closeup pictures of her without her permission, the Ambassadors make a point of talking to the person and reminding them of the Beach Ambassador program. These people usually are ashamed of being discovered and leave the beach immediately. On those rare occasions when they refuse, the Ambassadors call the local sheriff. After awhile the word gets out this is not a safe beach for this kind of activity.

Remember, it is NOT our role to enforce the law, but simply encourage people to do the right thing, and if not, to report our concerns to those in authority for their consideration and possible action. By taking good notes on what we observe, Beach Ambassadors assist law enforcement in their investigation.

Beach Watch Ambassadors Reduce User Conflict

At these other beaches where Beach Watch Ambassadors are successfully established, we often interact with any local Homeowner’s Association on mutual programs and to smooth over any disagreements that may occur about beach access. We hope to do the same thing at Bates Beach with the people who live at Rincon Point.

Beach Watch Ambassadors Help Keep the Beach Clean

We pick up trash while on our rounds, and remind people on the beach to be sure to leave their area cleaner than how they found it. Every once in awhile, we also have to remind dog owners to pick up after their pets and to keep them on a leash as required by state and county law.)

Once a year, the state of California sponsors a cleanup day, where volunteers show up to pick up trash left at the beaches, parks, lakes, and rivers/streams. Friends of Bates Beach traditionally organizes this event for the beaches in the south county. Click here to read about our annual California Beach Cleanup Day.

How Are Beach Watch Ambassador Volunteers Recruited?

Actually, it quite easy: from the regulars who come to the beach. Those who come often feel they have a stake in keeping the beach clean and free of crime. Individually they might do nothing, but when they see a group of other people working the program, volunteers are easy to recruit.

Currently, we are starting our Beach Ambassador program at North Rincon (Bates) Beach, Hope Ranch/More Mesa Beach, and at Gaviota State Beach. We hope to expand to other Santa Barbara beaches in the near future such as Carpinteria State Beach and Goleta County Beach. To do that, we need additional volunteers willing to devote some of their beach-going time to walking a foot patrol and then reporting what they see to local authorities if it seems appropriate to do so.

How Do I Volunteer?

All applicants then are required to undergo a background check and then to attend a 3-hour training session; we host these classes monthly in the city of Carpinteria. Once the required training course is completed, the Director of Friends of Bates Beach has final approval of all appointments.

Once approved, Beach Ambassadors carry a distinctive form of identification (a hat with logo and/or a name medallion) to make them easily visible on the beach should a beach-goer have a problem or need a question answered.

Clear recognition of the presence of Beach Ambassadors on the beach can, in itself, go a long way toward maintaining a friendly, family atmosphere at the beach.