Keep Safe. Keep Healthy. Keep Moving San Diego.
Just home from a visit to the ocean after the grand reopening of the beach yesterday. It’s Tuesday, day two, and Ocean Beach is doing good so far with the guidelines.
In a city of this size with sunny days and beautiful shorelines, following the safety “rules” on the weekend will be a challenge.
It’s weighing heavy on my heart and mind. I can no longer sit back and watch my neighbors, community, social feeds, and news outlets eager to point out that surfers and beachgoers won’t succeed at safely exercising in and around the ocean.
Watching and expecting failure is disempowering offering nothing helpful toward achieving successful access to nature.
And frankly, our mental and physical health depends on it – I know for sure mine does.
I surf. It’s the lifeline that keeps me off pharmaceutical medication for PTSD.
I’m not bored, I’m not a reckless rebel, and I’m not selfish.
Surfing was introduced to me as a therapy practice and is part of my PTSD treatment plan.
I’m sharing this sensitive and personal info to increase awareness and remind others that there’s often more to the story of our neighbors than what we see on the outside. Also to underscore why successful access to the beach is so important to me.
Watch a short TODAY Show segment to learn more about surf therapy and to hear my story.
My hope is that as a community we begin to choose compassion and kindness over fear and judgment while navigating daily life with Covid19.
This pandemic is referred to as a battle with “the invisible enemy”.
Each of us is uniquely experiencing the intense feelings and grief that comes with a sustained crisis.
There is much that we can’t control.
We CAN choose compassion and kindness while making our way through this difficult passage.
The ocean is free medicine – we benefit, even thrive when we have access.
Every single one of us benefits with access to the ocean, nature trails, and preserves. Water is particularly healing… we are drawn to it for stress reduction, peace, and joy.
It’s called “Blue Mind,” a concept coined by best-selling author and marine biologist Dr. Wallace. J. Nichols. Check out this short news segment about his research on the physiological and psychological importance of having time in and near water.
It’s going to take a new mindset to keep it safe so we can keep healthy
In a sea of unknowns, one thing we do know is that people will flock to the water for relief…
Of course, they do. The ocean is a life-giver.
Have you ever been so captivated by a sunset over the sea that you paused in awe, taking in the beauty… feeling as if nature was pointing you to the light, reminding you there IS a reason to hope?
We need this sea-medicine to help us relieve the intense feelings and persevere for the long haul of living in a pandemic.
We also know that in dense cities like San Diego, crowds seeking relief from the stress of quarantine will push the limits of physical distancing safety guidelines. Not because they are selfish, or reckless at heart… they are just being humans in crisis.
Instead of getting on edge worrying about “when” the crowds will ruin it for all of us, let’s look at it from a different angle… how can we help make it work?
I believe we are more than capable of creating a plan for sustaining safe and healthy access to these important natural resources.
It’s going to take practical people-centered planning and community participation.
We each get to choose how we react and act. So how about we work together to make it better?
It just might be easier than you think…
What you’ll find as you read ahead:
- What’s missing from the current natural resource re-introduction plan? There is a gap, one that sets us up to fail.
- Solution – A community campaign that empowers citizens
- The letter I sent to Governor Newsom and Mayor Faulconer last week, April 21, 2020, about these concerns
Crowd Management Provides Support When Trauma Affects Decision-Making
Large groups of people in happy situations, like music festivals and concerts, do not self-regulate. They just don’t.
In the best of times, crowd direction and management is required to maintain safety.
To add to the normal difficulty of managing crowds, We are now in a long-term global crisis that has dramatically altered the reality of our daily lives. We’re battling “the Invisible Enemy” while dealing with incredible losses in our lives.
We’re dealing with trauma right now in our nation and the world…
Recognize it or not, our bodies and minds will respond to survive.
Fight, flight, freeze responses happen instinctually are how our brains attempt to protect us.
These protective responses can be subtle or overt including panic, frustration, rage, shutting down, numbing, and more.
The traumatized mind and body have a prime direction, survival.
Under duress, brain focus narrows. In this state, the brain’s mission is to find relief from stress, anxiety, and any pain from the crisis and trauma.
Hyper-vigilant focus increases, causing us to scan the environment to identify perceived threats to safety and survival.
Given the extraordinary nature of living in a pandemic, it’s just not realistic to expect citizens to self-regulate using standard decision-making logic.
A perfect example of this coping tactic was in March when people hit the beach in record crowds despite clear and logical instructions which caused the city to close the beaches and parks.
We are fatigued, we are stressed and our natural adrenal responses are in motion.
So as we slowly open the beaches and hope for the best, why not support the current plan using trauma-informed approaches that support people under duress?
What’s missing from the current plan is a supportive crowd control strategy based on consistent messaging and repetition of clear boundaries.
This type of human-centered planning mitigates crowds from getting out of control.
I don’t know about you but I’m ready to find a way to end the need of helicopter beach clearings, social media wars, and news outlets sensationalizing how we’re “blowing it”.
“Keep Moving San Diego” – An Empowering Community Action Plan
To succeed we require more structure than slowly opening access and holding our breath waiting to see if the humans will “behave.”
Let’s take this moment by the reins and make a plan to keep safe, keep healthy, and to keep moving while we’re out at the beach and in nature.
I propose a campaign based on neighborly values that our city can be proud of… compassion, communication, and kindness.
“Keep Moving San Diego” is a simple plan that integrates positive and consistent messaging that can be used by families, neighbors, and city leadership. A fun and upbeat crowd management approach that includes plenty of signage and foot patrols utilizing city and volunteer resources.
Our Mission & Vision: To design and mobilize a city-citizen campaign centered on crowd control and community engagement aimed at safely keeping ocean access available to San Diegans.
We see San Diego rising into leadership providing a template for all cities to duplicate as our nation moves out of lock-down quarantine into daily routines that are safe and healthy.
Our Motto: Keep Safe. Keep Healthy. Keep Moving San Diego.
The brain in crisis needs reminders and clear boundaries delivered with kindness to cultivate a sense of safety. The last thing any of us needs is additional feelings of stress, judgment, and threat in our lives. It’s that simple.
Imagine having a supportive phrase that we can agree to use to support each other while we’re stressed and attempting to survive this strange time.
“Just keep moving” – delivered with kindness and compassion is a neighborly way to redirect those of us whose attention is individually focused on survival as we drink in the relief of nature.
We CAN help each other move our attention to the “we” required to get through this situation.
We CAN be the city to lead the way by modeling a community keeping safe and keeping healthy by working together.
I wrote a letter to the mayor, below, presenting a quick outline of ideas… if you’re interested, I’d love to hear your ideas too.
Let’s do it… it’s one thing we can control!
You CAN be the Solution!
This is a choice. Thinking about it is not enough.
Are you interested or determined to help us get pointed back to a daily life that’s more healthy?
It’s time for action…
If you think this plan has merit and you’d like to get involved, let me know!
Better yet, let your representatives know that we want to succeed and we need their help!
- Let’s talk about it. Let’s collaborate… your ideas matter.
- We can refine the concept and get the community involved – we’re a diverse city, with many beliefs and points of view. That makes us stronger. We don’t have to agree on everything to help each other maintain safe access to nature in a neighborly and kind way.
- Let’s get signage and positive reminders up before the summer heat and stress leads to big crowds that get our access taken away.
- Foot patrols are critical – ideally a combination of professionals and volunteers in “Keep Moving San Diego” vests, t-shirts, or hats to help keep people in motion while at the beach. We need to mobilize hired and volunteer crowd control teams particularly for weekends, holidays, and highly trafficked locations.
- Let’s go to our city leaders and request help. We need our leadership to make practical plans for long term mental and physical wellbeing. How? By supporting a realistic trauma-informed plan that we the people can hold onto and succeed with. Just waiting for us to “mess up” is not the way.
I believe we CAN make a plan centered on safe physical proximity that includes access to nature, healthy exercise, and community involvement.
In the midst of chaos, let’s reclaim a sense of purpose while bettering our communities, our wellbeing, and our immune systems!
When we work together we win together
May we find the way to come together during this challenge.
May we choose kindness, compassion, and communication to rise up.
May we choose action, over watching and waiting for someone else to figure it out…now.
May the force be with us as we make our way back to health in our great land.
Here’s hoping to see you, safely, in the water and at the seashore for months to come.
And for those inquiring minds who’d like to read what I submitted…
My unanswered letter to the Governor and Mayor dated April 21, 2020
Mayor Faulconer and Governor Newsom,
Today I walked Sunset Cliffs Blvd in my neighborhood of Ocean Beach. What I saw made it clear to me that the citizens of San Diego are being set up for failure. Without action before the weekend, the existing strategy/tactics appear to be a certain failure for slowly reopening nature access in our city.
With all due respect to your expertise, please consider my observations and solutions.
I want more than anything to be part of a solution that is safe, healthy, and sustainable:
- People will flock to nature, it’s proven to be therapeutic.
- We are in a long-term crisis with decreased access to physical/mental health support. Our citizens need help with more than just protection from the virus. We need a comprehensive plan for managing health and wellbeing during this crisis. Without one, you comprise the safety and wellbeing of your constituents.
- Crisis/trauma influences the ability to self-regulate. Human nature drives behavior; this is not about selfishness. We are navigating with the threat of an “invisible enemy” – our survival responses engage survival response, including a more narrow field of vision when making decisions. Humans will seek out the things that make them feel better – nature does that.
- Counting on self-regulation when lifting lock-down, even a little, is a set-up for failure. Period. It’s not going to work and I saw early evidence of that this morning at the cliffs.
- This has nothing to do with selfish people – this is a crowd management issue. Many of the citizens you are responsible for are navigating daily life under extreme circumstances. The cumulative impact of staying at home with domestic violence, battling addictions, dealing with poverty and financial crisis, experiencing hunger, living alone without contact with others is significant. Solutions for the long term must be wider than just virus mitigation.
- Crowd management solutions are the city’s responsibility. People will not self-regulate particularly in this crisis circumstance. It is not complex to formulate a success-oriented tiered plan that includes oversight. If this does not happen on the weekend, opening the parks and trails will fail. The plan needs to be initiated from the top, our mayor.
- Black and white solutions (open/closed) will not work. Your job as our leaders is to identify a strategy that will work. As I walked, observed the current oversight strategy, and spoke with the officers, it is evident to me that this weekend will lead to access closure without further tactical initiatives to support success.
A few solutions that come to mind:
- “Keep Moving” Exercise only campaign – To stay healthy, maintain physical distance, and avoid gathering we have to “keep moving”. We could create a city-wide campaign that we work on together versus being policed.
- A “keep moving” student art contest could be used as an education tool.
- “Just keep moving” could be friendly tagline citizens, and neighbors can use to support each other. Times are tough and we are all on edge… let’s create a plan that sets a positive empowering tone.
- Crowd control is critical – specifically foot patrols. There are many ways we can recruit people to foot patrol politely reminding folks to “just keep moving.” We will fail without supportive oversight. Here are a few ideas that quickly come to mind:
- Tap into existing volunteer teams. CERT San Diego is one great example of hundreds of citizens interested in volunteering during crisis times. There are others.
- Maximize Police academy students sitting at parking lots. Spread them out remaining in sight of overseeing officers versus sitting in clusters under the canopies at each parking lot. Task them with reminding folks to “just keep moving” Four under a tent saying nothing is a waste of that human resource.
- Create a citizen volunteer coalition – we can mobilize the people to step into leadership as Ambassadors of the “just keep moving” campaign. There are many who’d like to be part of the solution versus feeling stuck and policed.
- Let’s figure out how to use agencies like CERT or 211 San Diego to help coordinate a vested volunteer coalition and call out to the community to step into leadership.
- We could rally the surf community, the running and hiking community, ROTC groups, and all citizens to participate. Give the people a healthy and productive way to serve.
- Make signs, flags, stickers – anything to rally the people to a collective cause. When we work together we win together.
- Let “us” be part of the solution, not just the “see I told you” cause that keeps access to nature closed. We are stressed, fearful and aching for the relief that nature provides. Please help us succeed.
And if you do not have the time or bandwidth to figure this all out PLEASE create a task force consisting of a cross-section of citizens. You have a city of talented people, many such as myself out of work at the moment. Let us help.
But please do something now!
This weekend is sure to be a failure. These are just my quick thoughts – shared only to be part of the solution versus being a finger pointer. The current approach of “open or closed” is incomplete and puts the comprehensive wellbeing of the citizens of San Diego at risk.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
Ocean Beach Resident
PS: I surf and want more than anything to be back in the water. Many of us in the community want a safety-first plan to evolve that opens access and we’re willing to step in to help. Surfers are being generalized and most of us would like to help create a safe plan that gets up back into the water. For many of us, our health and wellbeing depend on it.
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Thank you for taking the time to compose this thoughtful letter! Are you ok if we share this with credit to you?
Hi Stephanie, Thank you for taking the time to read the letter. Yes please share, it will take our voices working together to make change happen! #TogetherWeAreStronger #TogetherWeRises Let’s do this!