The decade-long effort to protect Goleta Beach Park took a major step forward when the Santa Barbara County Parks Department unveiled Goleta Beach 2.0.

The plan would move parking spaces and utility lines threatened by coastal erosion farther inland, reconfiguring the park and adding recreational amenities such as kayak rentals, better bike access and interpretive trails.

The plan was proposed in the wake of the California Coastal Commission’s dramatic 9-1 denial last year of the county’s multimillion-dollar permeable pile project. That controversial project would have trapped sand at Goleta Beach behind large wooden pilings, but in doing so, it would have interfered with down-coast movement of sand to other beaches.

The Environmental Defense Center and the Surfrider Foundation organized opposition to the pilings project and are organizing support for Goleta Beach 2.0.

For those who simply think of Goleta Beach 2.0 as the second chapter of a never-ending saga, I have some words of encouragement. If done correctly, the debate can soon be over. Goleta Beach can be dramatically enhanced, and the natural process of coastal erosion that has plagued us thus far can finally be dealt with properly.

Goleta Beach 2.0 is a dramatic shift in the way the county plans to deal with the problem of erosion, but if not done correctly, it would act as only a temporary fix. Plans for an expensive and controversial sand-trapping groin have been rejected, and the county is moving toward a much more acceptable approach.

The plan includes reconfiguring part of the park, including the western parking lot and underground sewer and utility lines, and moving them out of the erosion zone. This seems like a no-brainer, and I am happy to see that the county is going about this project in a sensible manner.

As a UCSB student who frequently uses the beach, I am also thrilled about talk of the unpermitted boulder seawall on the western end of the beach finally being removed and the beach being expanded by an acre.

The project is moving in the right direction, but if the sewer and utility lines in the critical erosion zone are not moved far enough back out of harm’s way, over time they may again be threatened. I plan to stay in Santa Barbara and would hate to see this issue resurface. The country needs to move those lines all the way back to Highway 217, where they would be safe for years to come.

Not only does the failure to move those lines back to Highway 217 pose a threat for a sewage spill on Goleta Beach if erosion continues, but it makes the entire process a temporary fix. It may require installation of a backstop seawall (called a “revetment”), which over time would displace and erode the beach. The dynamics of erosion and natural sand movement change from year to year.

Some experts have shown that we are moving into a cycle that may move more sand onto the beach over the coming years. But suppose that we have another strong El Nino winter that causes enough erosion to threaten the sewage and utility lines again. I don’t want to go to the beach and see massive boulders being dumped on the sand to protect those very lines that could have been moved to safety now.

Goleta Beach 2.0 is a sensible plan and would preserve the beach for residents for years to come — as long as it is done correctly. I urge any Santa Barbara resident who cares about the future of Goleta Beach to show up at the April 7 Planning Commission meeting and ask the county to please get this job done right the first time by moving forward with the new Goleta Beach project and moving the utility lines out of harm’s way.

The commission meeting is scheduled to begin at 9:30 a.m. (call 805.568.2000 for exact time) in the hearing room on the first floor of the County Administration Building, 123 E. Anapamu St.

— Ian Hogan is a UCSB senior majoring in environmental studies and an intern at the Environmental Defense Center.