Isla Vista surfers who were looking to conquer the area’s recently incredible 10-foot waves yesterday were also able to reach the beach sooner and safer last afternoon, thanks to the opening of newly renovated coastal access stairs.

The newly renovated beach stairs located about halfway down the 6700 block of Del Playa Drive near Escondido Pass opened yesterday with a ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by Third District Supervisor Brooks Firestone. The wooden staircases were closed late in the summer of 2007 due to extreme weathering.

Additionally, the beach access stairs are one of three staircases in I.V. to receive renovations from the Santa Barbara County Public Works Dept. this fall. At the ceremony, Firestone said the access ways in I.V. were previously dangerous and that it was fortunate no one was hurt as a result of their decrepit conditions.

“We have been so lucky, because no one has fallen and broken their leg,” Brooks said.

Staircase renovation project manager Charles Ebeling said the wood on the new stairs, which was pressure treated for a marine climate, should prove resistant to weathering.

“The wood is very durable and fairly repairable,” Ebeling said.

The stairs were constructed primarily out of wood, but the bottom part of the staircase – the part closest to the ocean – is made out of stainless steel. Ebeling said stainless steel was used near the bottom of the staircase because the most extreme weathering happens there.

Chris Sneddon, the resident engineer of the project, said the Escondido Pass stairs were difficult to work on because of their proximity to the ocean. All work was done between tides, he said.

Since the last time the stairs were renovated, Ebeling said, new government guidelines were set. The construction workers had to comply with stricter standards than in the past.

Specifically, Ebeling said the government mandates an Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant grip rail that runs down the whole staircase. The grip is in place to help disabled people down the staircase. The spacing between the boards on the rail was also changed to prevent people from falling.

The estimated construction contract for the Isla Vista Beach Access Stairway Repair Project, which included work on various access ways, cost nearly $600,000, and many local agencies contributed. Funding came from the California Coastal Conservancy, the Coastal Resource Enhancement Fund, the Shoreline Preservation Fund, the County of Santa Barbara Redevelopment Agency and the Transportation Development Act’s bicycle and transportation fund.

The Camino Pescadero staircase is scheduled to open on Dec. 14, and the Camino Del Sur staircase is scheduled to open by the end of December.