Saturday, September 30, 2023

Dr. Beach: The Current Conditions at Coronado Beach Would ‘Kill’ its Ranking as 6th Best in Country

Megan Kitt / The Coronado Times

Coronado Beach earned itself a spot on this year’s list of best national beaches – and that raised some eyebrows.

The beach is currently closed due to ongoing contamination from Tijuana sewage leaks, yet it ranked sixth on the annual Dr. Beach list of premier seashores in the United States.

“Unfortunately, conditions have changed since I did my assessments,” said Dr. Stephen Leatherman, a coastal scientist and professor at Florida International University, who has been ranking the country’s coastlines as Dr. Beach since 1991. “This would have killed Coronado’s ranking otherwise.”

In 1993, Leatherman ranked Border Field State Park as the worst beach in the country because of the ongoing Tijuana sewage crisis. He said that ranking also raised some eyebrows – and prompted San Diego government officials to call him to discuss how the sewage could be mitigated.

That was thirty years ago.

“It’s not right,” Leatherman said. “This is affecting a lot of people who shouldn’t have to live with polluted beaches.”

Leatherman said that assessing that nation’s beaches each year is a herculean task, and on the day he assessed Coronado Beach, water conditions were good and the beach was open. The beach has been closed intermittently this year, compared to its neighbor to the south, Imperial Beach, which has been closed every day this year.

“I feel so sorry for what’s happening in San Diego,” Leatherman said. “Usually, Coronado Beach is so spectacular. It’s the only beach I know that shines – literally glimmers – because it has mica in the sand.”

The beach also is one of the safer in the nation, Leatherman said, because it’s just south of the inlet to the San Diego Bay, protecting it from large waves. Pair that with the historic Hotel del Coronado behind it and views of naval ships and planes in the distance, Leatherman said, and it’s a longtime favorite of his.

Projects to help mitigate the transboundary flow of sewage-polluted water are currently underway using funding from both the United States and Mexico. In a meeting last month, representatives from the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Section of the International Boundary and Water Commission said they hope to reopen beaches this summer, but did not yet have a definitive date.

“This has been going on too long,” Leatherman said. “I love San Diego, and I can only hope this new funding brings its people the clean beaches they deserve.”

Leatherman said it’s too late to amend his list, so it stands as follows:

  1. St. George Island State Park, Florida
  2. Duke Kahanamoku Beach, Oahu, Hawaii
  3. Coopers Beach, Southampton, New York
  4. Caladesi Island State Park, Dunedin/Clearwater, Florida
  5. Lighthouse Beach, Buxton, North Carolina
  6. Coronado Beach, Coronado, California
  7. Wailea Beach, Maui, Hawaii
  8. Beachwalker Park, Kiawah Island, South Carolina
  9. Poipu Beach, Kiawah Island, South Carolina
  10. Coast Guard Beach, Cape Cod, Massachusetts


Megan Kitt
Megan Kitt
Megan's work as a journalist has taken her around the world, from across the United States to Tokyo and Kampala, but her passion lies in community reporting. She believes a quality news publication strengthens a community by informing and connecting its members. She holds BA degrees in journalism, English literature and creative writing; an MA degree in creative writing; and her photography has been published internationally. While on a reporting assignment in Uganda, she founded Tuli, a fair trade fashion brand that earned her industry acclaim, most notably by earning her the title Designer to Watch at New York Fashion Week in 2022. Megan's diverse experience in travel and career taught her to approach reporting eager to understand the many experiences and perspectives that make life so interesting. When she's not working, you can find Megan wrangling her two toddlers, hiking with her husband, and binging podcasts.Have a story for The Coronado Times to cover? Send news tips or story ideas to: [email protected]