If Goleta Beach has been looking a little smaller lately, Santa Barbara County has been working hard to fatten it up.

On Thursday night, a committee of citizens and local government officials met in the administrative building of the Santa Barbara Airport to develop questions for a panel of scientific and technical experts. The experts will consider the issues raised at a later meeting on Jan. 22 and discuss how each should be incorporated into a final plan to end the beach’s persistent erosion problems.

The technical panel includes Professor Emeritus Art Sylvester of the UCSB Geology department and other university faculty and staff.

Most of the questions formulated by the working group concerned the possible impacts of a proposed “beach nourishment” program to add sand to the existing but diminishing beach.

Scott Bull, a representative of the Surfrider Foundation, asked how adding sand to the beach would affect invertebrates and the species diversity of the beach. Mike Kanno of the Goleta Water District asked how leaving the slough entrance to the ocean affected the wildlife habitat of the beach and slough.

Other questions addressed the demographics of park usage – a difficult point to determine, since UCSB students tend to park their cars at the beach and then go to class, despite posted signs in the beach parking lots prohibiting UCSB parking.

George Pernsteiner, a UCSB representative from the Office of the Chancellor, said signs prohibiting UCSB student parking make it difficult for UCSB faculty and staff to visit the beach legitimately, since their UCSB parking permit stickers are often confused with those of illegally parking students, thus resulting in undeserved tickets.

The committee is scheduled to visit Goleta Beach next week for a site visit with some of the science experts to view erosion and other problem areas.

“It’s actually been quite a dynamic process for the past four years,” said Coleen Lund, project manager for the Santa Barbara County Parks Department.

Goleta Beach has been eroding since the 1980s, according to a 2002 study of the beach commissioned by the Santa Barbara County Parks Department.

The Master Planning Process Working Group was formed for the purpose of involving the public in the decision-making process, said Pat Saley, a co-facilitator of the project and a UCSB graduate.

The Working Group is a committee consisting of members of the public and representatives of the Goleta Sanitary District, Water District and Goleta Valley Chamber of Commerce, as well as 2nd and 3rd District park commissioners and other city representatives.

“This is a broad cross section of the community,” Saley said. “This process is the best chance of succeeding with a community-based decision.”

Lund said that most of the erosion on Goleta Valley Park Beach was due to several El Ni