One of the last vestiges of the good life for California teen-agers is meeting friends at the beach during the summer. It has been a rite of passage for generations of young people searching for the California dream, or at least a good tan.
But things have changed. With the sun now declared a health hazard, sunscreen has replaced tanning oil and sunglasses carry ultraviolet ratings. And change isn't limited to when the sun is up: Last week the state Department of Parks, Beaches and Recreation announced that beginning April 1 it will impose a 10 p.m. curfew on two of Orange County's most popular state beaches, Huntington State Beach and Bolsa State Beach. Previously, a midnight curfew was in place during summer months.
The curfews are designed to curb the "partying attitude" that has prevailed during the summer, state officials said. The problem is that kids are not just having a good time--they are also getting into trouble. The later curfew gave too many hours in which to drink, carouse and vandalize.
Now that the state will be enforcing a stricter curfew, other area beaches might follow. Huntington Beach and Newport Beach officials say they fear that kids will end up on their cities' beaches once the state beaches close.
Huntington Beach has the right idea. It will leave its curfew at midnight until at least after the Easter weekend, beginning April 9, to see how things go. Newport Beach officials, meanwhile, are considering moving the city's curfew back one hour from 11 p.m.
It's a shame the beaches can't be open longer hours. Most young people would use them just to have fun. A few troublemakers are making things hard on everyone.