During the heavy rains of earlier this month, the ocean swallowed over $1 million of sand meant to shore up parkland and infrastructure at Goleta Beach.

Since 2000, the sand at Goleta Beach Park off of Sandspit Road has been eroding. In order to prevent further erosion, Santa Barbara Parks Director Terri Maus-Nisich said county workers placed 1,000 linear feet of rock revetment – made up of large boulders – along the beach. Six hundred feet of rock was placed in 2003, but because of continued erosion, 400 additional feet were added in late 2004. The wall will remain standing for 30 months and is a temporary solution while the city researches how to better protect the park, Maus-Nisich said.

While this revetment has temporarily halted the erosion of the beach, some criticize its installation. Bob Keats, vice chair of the I.V. chapter of the Surfrider Foundation, said the wall will have a negative effect on the environment.

“Structures designed to trap sand, such as the rock revetment, are not environmentally sound,” Keats said. “They essentially steal sand from other beaches. This may halt the erosion at Goleta Beach, but it’s only going to worsen the problem at other beaches along the coast.”

The I.V. and Santa Barbara chapters of Surfrider advocate a redesign of the park instead of the revetment. Because the park was originally built on a sandbar, Keats said, the entire infrastructure of the park is unsound and should be rebuilt in a more stable configuration.

Keats said the problem has only worsened and that a redesign is necessary if for no other reason than to accommodate the large amount of tourists that fuel the Santa Barbara County economy. Keats said that in 1998, the county conducted a research project that concluded Goleta Beach Park was filled to capacity every day during summer months.

Maus-Nisich said she does not believe the revetment will negatively impact the environment.

“We monitor the revetment quarterly and after every storm,” Maus-Nisich said. “So far, we have not seen any evidence of an environmental impact.”

Maus-Nisich said the consultants hired by the county concluded that although an improperly built revetment could damage the environment, the one at Goleta Beach is structurally sound and is therefore not an environmental hazard.

Before the revetment was put in place, a large amount of sand was hauled to the beach in order to replace sand being washed away. Keats and Maus-Nisich said they agree sand replenishment is an effective, environmentally sound solution, though it is expensive and temporary.

The sand brought to the beach last winter cost approximately $1.5 million and was washed away after two storms. Maus-Nisich said the sand could have lasted for years had it not been for the abnormally harsh storm. Keats said last winter’s sand purchase failed because it was an expensive “bandage” fix that did not solve the problem permanently.

“It’s a complicated issue that we as a community need to deal with,” Keats said. “It’s going to require a comprehensive evaluation of the situation.”