Bud Harbin came to Imperial Beach in 1941 when he was five years old.
"I can remember that Palm Avenue was a paved two lane road. Palm Avenue and 13th Street, which at the time was called Ream Field Road, were the only two paved streets in town."
Harbin and his family were active in the local PTA and in a community that established the City of Imperial Beach in 1956.
In 1980 a group of local residents went to see a successful sandcastle competition in Canada, and so Imperial Beach residents founded the Sandcastle Committee.
At the first sandcastle competition, 30,000 people attended and it cost $4,500 to put together. In its final year, lifeguards estimate nearly 400,000 people were on the beach and $90,000 was required for security costs alone.
Over the years, the Sandcastle Competition would grow to include the Sun and Sea parade, fireworks, a beer garden, the mayor's pancake breakfast, the sandcastle ball, a children's sandcastle contest and to include more than 100 vendors and booths on Seacoast Drive.
$20,000 in prize money was awarded to top sandcastle teams and people came to compete from England, Germany, Italy, Japan and other parts of the world.
The Sandcastle Competition was held to put Imperial Beach on the map, Harbin said.
"We were just this little town on the back burner," Harbin said. "It was San Ysidro, Imperial Beach and Chula Vista was just starting to get bigger," he said.
On Nov. 9, Sandcastle Committee board chair Debbie Longley , and Harbin thinks a lot of people are to blame.
"I blame the sheriff's department the most," Harbin said."I blame partly the city because why don't they get on the bandwagon?"
He said the beer garden, fireworks and Sun and Sea parade connected to the Sandcastle Competition were cancelled to meet Sheriff's Department requests.
Then Sheriff security costs doubled in 2010 from $45,000 to $90,000, a financial burden Sandcastle Committee board chair Debbie Longley said ultimately made holding the competition too expensive. The Sandcastle Competition was almost cancelled in 2011 but to cover the gap.
Though security costs rose, they only made up about 30 percent of funds necessary to host the competition, Longley said. The economy, other cost increases, a lack of volunteers and committee members also played a role in the events end, she said.
Harbin thinks the committee's board deserves some blame for not doing more to raise funds to host the competition. He believes the board, not the committee as a whole, decided to end the competition, and does not believe there is a lack of funding available to keep the competition going.
"It isn't the money's not there. It's that no one is going out there and getting it," he said.
"You've got two kinds of committee people: the kind that work their tail off and the kind that say 'we need $20,000. Bring it to us.' No one is going to bring it to you. They wouldn't get out and do the work and that's what killed the sandcastles."
Harbin also said the board made decisions then delegated responsibilities to other members of the all-volunteer committee. He believes this led to people feeling left out and hindered efforts to increase volunteers.
"For 25 years we had 40 something people on the committee and we worked together and got together great and all that," Harbin said. "Now we have five people on a board who made the decisions and wouldn't tell the rest of the committee what was going on."
"The last meeting I went to you had several people up in arms saying you aren't including us in anything. The board makes decisions and didn't tell us what the decisions were and that's why I think you didn't get the people [to volunteer]. They'd give their time and never tell us."
As for why he didn't take a bigger leadership role to assure the committee didn't fail, Harbin said he has been involved in the commmittee for 25 years and his time has passed.
"I'm 75. I don't know if I'll be around tomorrow," he said.
"I don't want the responsibility of it anymore. I did it for 25 years. I just don't understand how people could let this thing go down and die."
The City of Imperial Beach
Harbin said efforts were made a few years after the sandcastle committee was founded to get the City of Imperial Beach more involved and to eventually take over the competition. Then and now there has been no interest, he said.
Data was never collected to measure the economic impact of the Sandcastle Competition, but according to Imperial Beach lifeguards, in 2011 sandcastle weekend beach visitors made up about 40 percent of summer beach attendance in Imperial Beach.
"You'd think the city would get in there and do whatever it took to keep this thing going but they don't seem to be interested," Harbin said. "I know some of the councilmembers may be interested but the city as a whole is not interested. I mean City Hall."
When he was on the Imperial Beach City Council and made a trip to Sacramento, Harbin said people were more impressed to hear he was were from the sandcastle city than the fact that he was a councilman.
"It was 'oh hey how you doing! You do sandcastles!' But when I was a councilman I was just another person," he said.
He said the city and its redevelopment agency have found time and money to broker deals and , but more energy should have been focused on things for the people like the Sandcastle Competition.
"Why don't they spend it on the people? Not the property, the people," he said.