La Jolla’s Secret Swing Gets Reinstalled

The popular part of the La Jolla coast where the secret swing hangs feels the effects of social media influence, encouraging more visits that put people at risk and cause irrevocable environmental damage.

There was a glimmer of hope when the swing was recently removed, but it was short-lived, and it is still unknown who stealthily removed it. When asked about the potential for a new swing to go up, Brenda Fake, founder of the nonprofit Friends of Coast Walk Trail, said, “I absolutely believe someone is going to put it back,” and she was right. Within the same week of the swing’s removal and just minutes after speaking with her, the swing was back up, with no clues as to who was responsible.

Over the years, the ‘secret’ swing of La Jolla has been a highly visited and photographed spot in La Jolla, but it’s also been a huge topic of concern for many reasons. Fake has noticed a steady worsening of the cliffside that she attributes to social media and the popularity of the secret swing trend. 

Fake explains the swing is an “attractive nuisance,” bringing hoards of people wanting their TikTok-worthy video, requiring visitors to climb beyond safety boundaries, and ignoring signage warning of the dangers.

Let’s get real, though–“nuisance” puts it lightly. Anyone who breaches the barrier will find themselves traversing down a steep, slippery, and unstable cliffside putting themselves at serious risk of injury or even death. Not to mention putting a strain on public resources for rescues.

Getting down to the swing is by no means easy, so it’s troubling when visitors ill equipped to navigate the rougher terrain struggle to get down and back up to safety, often without protective footwear. 

With the swing being reinstalled, it’s important to note that it does not indicate it is somehow more structurally sound or safe. The ‘new’ swing still hangs from the same canary palm tree, which poses another danger. The palm trees are under siege, rotting from the inside out and dying due to a massive weevil infestation, and it’s only a matter of time before the tree collapses.

In the past, Fake has reached out to the city for help regarding the swing and its removal. Still, at most, they approved and posted signage warning visitors to stay on the path and not attempt to traverse down the cliffside, with no specific signage regarding the swing and its dangers. Therefore, it’s up to the public to exercise common sense safety practices and understand that if they venture beyond the warning signs, they do so at their own risk.

The disregard for danger and environmental impact still persists, despite the risks involved, but why?

Over the pandemic, there was a massive uptick in people getting out to enjoy the outdoors and explore, which is great, but many popular outdoor spaces noticed harmful effects. Tourists have been showing up in droves, seeking out unique share-worthy places that would otherwise fly under the radar and blasting them to social media. 

The secret swing in La Jolla is an example of this. 

With popular apps like Instagram and TikTok, the search for more off-the-beaten-path places is highly sought after and holds the potential for monetary gain from more likes, follows, and shares. Unfortunately, this trend and culture have attracted people to the outdoors who largely overlook and ignore potential dangers and lack overall respect and awareness for the damage they are causing to sensitive areas–all for the sake of “the gram.”

Even if the intent at its core is to share a special feature against stunning landscapes so others can later experience it, it still comes at a cost that these same users either need to be made aware of or need to care more about.

Because of the increased popularity of the swing, traffic to the area has been at an all-time high, eroding that portion of the fragile coast, thus “creating an impact on the environment that will never be recovered,” Fake says. 

Fake and the community volunteers with the Friends of Coast Walk Trail work hard to keep the area maintained and safe, but the damage that’s being done counteracts their efforts. Nevertheless, they are dedicated to preserving the trail, inviting locals and visitors to enjoy the outdoors, appreciate the trail, and admire the beautiful La Jolla landscape, all while remembering to stay safe and respectful of the land.

“We need to work as a collective community to provide safety not only for the public but for the environment,” Fake said, hoping that people really ask themselves what is important here and what is at stake. Understandably, people want a unique experience, and La Jolla is a fantastic place for that, but it shouldn’t come at the expense of the environment and safety.

At the very least, social media users posting about the swing or other up-and-coming attractive nuisances should give a complete picture of what people can expect and the level of risk and danger involved. Or better yet, promote awareness and get involved in helping nonprofits like the Friends of Coast Walk Trail do what they do, so the life of our coast can be extended, safe, and accessible for as long as possible.

Learn more about the Friends of the Coast Walk Trail and support their efforts here.

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