You could say Coronado beat the odds of sorts, landing the top spot in an annual best U.S. beaches ranking that has never before included a California coastal locale as No. 1.
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Released Friday, the ranking by "Dr. Beach" professor Stephen P. Leatherman of Florida International University is compiled on the basis of some 50 criteria that include environmental quality, water safety for swimmers, weather and the texture of the sand.
The one factor that has always worked against California beaches like Coronado is their cooler ocean temperature, which Leatherman has been taking into consideration during the more than two decades he's been publishing the list.
Sure, he shaved off a few points for the chillier water, but he said there's no beating Coronado Beach's enormous width, its glittery mica and the finer, compact sand that makes it ideal for walking,
His effusive blurb says it all:
Coronado Beach is the toast of Southern California; it is a veritable oasis by the sea, measuring hundreds of yards wide. With its lush subtropical vegetation, unique Mediterranean climate, and fine sparkling sand, beachgoers flock to this beach for great ship- watching and the summer's mild surf.
In all, Coronado Beach, which ranked No. 2 on last year's survey, garnered a total of 231 points out of a possible total of 250.
"I also get into biological factors, and you don't have mosquitoes there and you don't have bugs," added Leatherman, who visits the beaches incognito, testing the water for swimming and gathering sand samples. "You get credit for bird life and sand dunes, and you have an iconic hotel, the Hotel del Coronado, that's one of the great hotels in America, even the world."
News of the ranking is sure to figure prominently in tourist brochures, hotel websites and in online marketing. Leatherman said he's heard that a No. 1 spot on the list can boost visitors to a coastal area by as much as 20 percent.
"A lot of people do pay attention to Dr. Beach's rankings or they'll see the stories about it," said Coronado Mayor Casey Tanaka. "I have to think there are a great number of people who will say, I'll have to give that beach a try, so we're certainly excited and proud to see we got the ranking this year.
"We recently put together a Coronado Tourism Improvement District, and one of the purposes is to come up with new ways to market our city and hotels. I don't think you can beat the moniker of the No. 1 beach. Coronado has been waiting for this moment anxiously."
Equally enthused is Brian Johnson, general manager of the Loews Coronado Bay, which sits on the bay, but he'll have no qualms about rhapsodizing about the No. 1 designation in the hotel's promotional material.
"It's a fantastic achievement," said Johnson, who expects to highlight the ranking on the hotel's website. "The notoriety of having that type of designation will definitely drive visitors to the island and business into the hotel. Given the stiff competition on the list, being No. 1 is quite impressive."
Environmentalists might take exception to the top ranking, given Coronado Beach's periodic problems with water quality during the rainy season, when the beach will have to be periodically closed because of its proximity to the Tijuana River.
"It's surprising it got this given the problems during the wet-weather months, but the quality of the beach is great," acknowledged Benjamin McCue of Wildcoast, a conservation group. "It's beautiful, and the amenities nearby are great and it's probably the best beach we have. It's basically that one or two weeks a year when we're impacted by pollution."
As good as the news is about Coronado's long-sought ranking as the No. 1 beach, the bad news is it will never again qualify for the top spot. Dr. Beach's rule is that the top-ranked beach must be retired from the competition.
"The U.S. has hundreds of great beaches and to get in the Top 10 list is very difficult," Leatherman said. "You have to give other beaches a chance to be in the limelight."
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