California has more than 1,100 miles of coastline, with Santa Barbara County the proud recipient of 10 percent of Mother Nature’s finest. Although much of this rugged coast is inaccessible to the general public, we do have a couple of gems and Goleta Beach Park is at the top of the list. Because of its proximity, easy access, scenic views, wonderful ocean and park amenities, more than 1.4 million visitors visit this jewel every year.
But our county government continues to take steps that would forever change the topography of our beautiful Goleta Beach Park through the implementation of what is referred to as Goleta Beach 2.0. A couple of years ago, our county supervisors approved a radical approach called “managed retreat” that essentially eliminates all protection measures on the west end of our 29-acre park, leaving it to the mercy of future winter storms.
This beach has been serving our citizens for more than 100 years as a public recreational park. Recorded data going back to the 1940s demonstrate that during El Niño cycles, this park without protection measures can suffer significant erosion damage within a matter of hours. We need to thank prior county parks staff and supervisors — going back to the 1970s and up through 2005 — for the installation of rock buffers that ever since have stopped this cycle of damage and allowed all of us to continue enjoying this small sliver of paradise.
Now I know you’re scratching your head and thinking what is going on? But under this new policy of “managed retreat,” all of those protection rocks are to be removed, ceding the battle to the sea and the damaging consequences of future storms. Mind you, you can’t even see these rocks today because they are buried under five feet of dirt, sand and grass, ready to do their job as the last line of defense, and already bought and paid for.
But Goleta Beach 2.0 goes much further than just taking out this investment of protection:
» It would remove 43,000 square feet of existing parking spaces (Lots Six and Seven), or approximately 150 parking spaces
» It would relocate all underground utilities into a new corridor out of the “coastal process zone”
» It would remove all existing rock revetments at the western end of the park on the UC Santa Barbara side, including the farthest-most 250 linear feet that may or may not be permitted, and the 950 linear feet of emergency-permitted rocks (approved in 2002-2005) that have expired
» It would establish a 40-foot-wide buffer corridor for the utilities and east/west transportation access by constructing a compacted earthen berm along the westernmost 500 feet of the corridor
» It would evaluate the relocation of the western public restroom to an area approximately 250 feet north of the “coastal area zone”
» It would install a protective geo-textile dune and buried cobble structure along 175 feet west of the Beachside Bar-Café to protect the Goleta Sanitary District’s underground sewer ocean outfall cathodic protection vault
Where are our families going to park when more than 25 percent of the on-site parking is eliminated? Who’s going to pay the $3 million to $5 million required to implement this experiment? Where’s the public outcry for this crazy experiment call “managed retreat”?
Currently, the county Planning and Development Department is going through an Environment Impact Review process to determine what new environmental impacts might exist and how they will be mitigated, i.e. spending more money that taxpayers don’t have. And we haven’t even talked about the unknowns when crews start moving earth, not knowing what’s underneath the ground.
Friends of Goleta Beach Park want to save and protect our park, not just for today’s families but so future generations can enjoy the largest and best county park. We have submitted a formal complaint to the county Grand Jury as our county watchdog because we need more checks and balances on unwise decisions like the “managed retreat” proposal.
We’re asking the public to get involved in this process, too. Please contact your county supervisor and help us stop this madness.
Click here for more information on Friends of Goleta Beach Park.
— Michael Rattray represents Friends of Goleta Beach Park.