That was six decades ago, and even back then – when Holtsmark said they were lucky if they could find six people on the beach to play volleyball – the two friends talked about how the dead-end of Marine Street could be put to better use. Not only was it essentially just a place for beachgoers to illegally park, but access to the water was borderline dangerous.
Since the years have gone by and Marine Beach is “like Coney Island” in the summertime, safe access has become an even more important, according to Holtsmark. He’s experienced the issues of the old single staircase to the beach firsthand.
“It’s a terrible little stairway down,” he said. “One time, a guy got a speargun to his side, and I had to help try to carry him up those stairs to the ambulance above.”
Holtsmark, who was 16 when that happened, believes it’s time for a spot, as well-frequented as Marine Beach, to get some upgrades. Being in the construction and building business since he was 12, he decided to draw up some plans of what his ideal use of the land would be.
The project is called Marine Memorial Mall, and it includes three loading spots for cars, a parking spot for emergency vehicles, two fountain pools in the shapes of a heart and a stomach, statues of Neptune, seals, pelicans and other sea life, one waterfall, a large chess and checker board, a wading pool, elevated benches for prime ocean viewing, a handicap elevator ramp, public restrooms, an area for vending machines, an upgraded lifeguard stand and, of course, a safe staircase to the beach.
While he acknowledges that it’s a lot for one park, Holtsmark estimates that it could all be done for $4.5 million. That price tag excludes all the benches, chairs, statues plaques and murals, which would be covered by people looking to purchase dedications. Which is coincidentally how this all got started.
In an attempt to help a friend fund a bench along the La Jolla coastline to dedicate in memory of her husband, Holtsmark said he was denied three times by the San Diego Department of Parks & Recreation.
That’s when he realized that his friend’s memorial bench and his decades-old idea for Marine Street could be combined. Plans were drawn up, and he submitted the proposal for Marine Memorial Mall to both the San Diego Department of Parks & Recreation and the La Jolla Parks & Beaches. He was invited to present his idea in front of the board at their next meeting, which is at 4 p.m. on Jan. 28 at the La Jolla Recreation Center, 615 Prospect St.
“I would love to see something created out of this space that’s bothered me for so long,” Holtsmark said. “Turn an ugly dead-end, dangerous street into something nice, useful and attractive.”
Sadly, Harry Martinez won’t be able to see the space that he and Holtsmark used to talk about transforming when they were kids. After graduating from San Diego State University, he went into the military and became a captain in the United States Air Force. He flew more than 60 missions in Vietnam before he died in a crash while flying a fighter jet. He was 29.
But even though Martinez isn’t around, Holtsmark said he probably would like his idea.
“We always talked about how something should be done.”
And after six decades, something might be.