It's Beach

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Rating: C

To leash or not to leash is the question at Its Beach, in front of a lighthouse at Lighthouse Point on West Cliff Drive, near Santa Cruz's Municipal Wharf.

For years, dog lovers and haters have been arguing over whether pooches should be permitted to use the beach without being on leashes. In 2008, the city of Santa Cruz announced a deal to buy 2.5 acres of Its Beach for $103,000 on the condition that they know for sure that dogs will be allowed to run loose and won't be violating environmental laws. The plan, which is part of a bill by Assemblyman John Laird, would let Santa Cruz buy Its Beach and, sometime in the future, the rest of Lighthouse Field State Beach, while permitting dogs to be off-leash, which is not allowed at other state beaches.

A final decision on the deal is expected to be announced this year.

For the best sand, visit in late summer or early fall. Nearby attractions include the lighthouse's surfing museum; a butterfly refuge at Natural Bridges State Beach, just to the east on West Cliff; the Municipal Wharf to the west; and the Santa Cruz Boardwalk, with an amusement park and various rides.

 

Lighthouse Field State Beach, also known as Its Beach and Point Santa Cruz.

 

How to find it:

Take Highway 1 to Swift Street in Santa Cruz. Follow Swift to the sea, then turn right on West Cliff Drive. Follow West Cliff until you see the lighthouse. Starting from the wharf, take West Cliff Drive north to the lighthouse, which will be on the left (beach) side of the street. Park at the lighthouse and walk down to the little, pebble-strewn shore.

 

The beach:

Small with a mix of sand and rocks.

 

The crowd:

Visitors are mostly suited, but the site gets occasional use by nude sunbathers. Members of yelp.com seem to love the nudists. "My favorite beach in Santa Cruz by far," says Gretchen P., of San Francisco. " ... I got accustomed to the naked people and deadheads ... The cozy enclave feeling of this little crescent moon of a beach made me feel safe and I could sleep and read and roast for hours without being bothered." Andrew B. writes: "The best beach in Santa Cruz. It has lots of cool dogs, a few naked hippies, and a fun little beach ... to play in."

 

Problems:

Unleashed dogs may soon come romping onto the sand; cold water; wind; fog; hazardous swimming conditions; beach open to view.

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