Three of Isla Vista’s beach accessways will soon receive makeovers designed to steel them for future winter storms, thanks to a recent decision by the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors.

The $366,099 project has been in the works since last spring, when the Isla Vista Recreation and Park District (IVRPD) took over responsibility for renovating the accessways at Camino del Sur, Camino Pescadero and Escondido Pass from the county. Third District Supervisor Brooks Firestone said the IVRPD could not afford to undertake the project without the aid of county funding, delaying the project until the money to finance the renovations could be found. At its Tuesday meeting, the Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the allocation of $210,000 from its Coastal Resources Enhancement Fund (CREF) to the project.

All of the access points, which currently feature wooden steps and railings, will be replaced with metal steps and steel railings, said Shoreline Preservation Fund (SPF) Grants Manager Scott Bull. He said SPF contributed a total of $80,000 to the project because its members were tired of seeing the accessways destroyed by winter storms each year.

“All the beach accessways get absolutely thrashed in the storms,” Bull said.

Firestone said the supervisors got the money for the project from the multimillion dollar CREF, which is financed by oil companies that drill in the Santa Barbara area.

“Oil companies pay a fee to the local communities where they do their business,” Firestone said. “I think [the fund] comes in to two or three million dollars annually and the county figures out how to use those funds for coastal enhancement because these are coastal wells.”

Firestone said he is not sure how long the renovations will take, but he hopes that construction will begin soon. He said he has been pushing to see the access points renovated using the CREF money, which was also allocated to a variety of other coastal enhancement projects. The renovations are the biggest undertaking in the district that received CREF funding, he said.

“Those beach access stairs – I was walking on one today and it probably should be shut down; there’s two planks missing,” Firestone said. “So we’re going to fix those up. We convinced the board that [the project is] really important, as it is, and that it’s equally important as a whole bunch of other projects that got approved [for CREF funding].”

The money SPF contributed to the project will also go to help repair storm drain systems that empty beneath the stairs to the beach, Bull said. SPF contributed the funding with the stipulation that a sign commemorating its contribution to the project be installed near the accessways. SPF supports the project, Bull said, because it will have long-term effects for UCSB students and the I.V. community.

“It is a long-lasting project in which the benefits to students and community members will be received for at least 20 years,” Bull said. “If SPF did not supply the funds, the stairs could continue to be closed each winter season.” Eric Cummings, a member of the IVRPD board of directors and co-chair of the Environmental Affairs Board (EAB) said he thinks the renovations will be worth the money.

“As EAB co-chair, we think it’s really exciting that people have access to the beaches again and have a safe way to get down there,” Cummings said. “A love of nature only comes if you can get to it, and this really is a way for I.V. to get down to the beach. The beach is one of our most important natural resources here.”