The Associated Students Coastal Fund has allocated $50,000 for the construction of a stairway and path leading to the Campus Point bluffs.

The grant, which went to the Cheadle Center for Biodiversity and Ecological Restoration, will address the probem of erosion at the steep embankment leading from the Marine Biotechnology Laboratory Building toward Campus Point. By building a staircase up to and a walkway along the bluffs, the project would minimize the bikers’ and walkers’ impact walkers on the coastal environment.

Construction on the project is tentatively sched-uled to begin this summer, although the need to secure additional funding may push it back to Fall 2010.

According to LeeAnne French, a member of the Coastal Fund Board of Directors, the walkway will be six to 10 feet wide and contain several vista points designed to help deter foot traffic on the actual bluff.

“The bluffs there are very fragile, and the amount of traffic they get where people are actually on the dirt and the sand are really harmful and create a lot of erosion,” French said. “Here the concern was to make the coastal bluff a drawing point, but in such a way that it wouldn’t hurt the bluff itself and the biodiversity.”

The $50,000 awarded by the A.S. Coastal Fund is a very significant stepping stone toward the execution and completion of the restoration project, said Lisa Stratton, director of Ecosystem Management at UCSB. But, she added, it is only a piece of the puzzle.

“The funding from the Coastal Conservancy, the other half that we’re hoping to get, is still waiting for a bond sale which funds these propositions,” Stratton said. “The Coastal Fund has supplied a lot, but it is not sufficient.”

However, French said garnering remaining funding should not be a large obstacle, since the Coastal Conservancy has expressed full support for the project.

“We’re hoping that it’s going to start this summer, but a lot of it is going to depend on getting those final grant dollars together,” French said.

According to Carly Keen, an outreach and education coordinator at the Coastal Fund, the A.S. Coastal Fund is an accumulation of a lock-in fee taken from students’ tuitions each year.

“It was voted on to, each year, take $5.50 out of students’ tuition to go toward the Coastal Fund since we are part of Associated Students,” Keen said. “All of our projects that we fund involve protecting and enhancing our local UCSB coastlines.”

The planning process considered a number of ecological factors, Stratton said. Coastal stairways are often built directly on the bluffs, which perpetuate the erosion of the bluff and surrounding area.

“What you do is dig narrow pylons into something straight and harder, then lift the stairway so it doesn’t rest on the sand and is elevated very slightly,” Stratton said. “We don’t want to just slap a bunch of cement on the slope.”

French said he sees this project as a huge capital investment while also accomplishing several specific goals.

“It was really important to us that the proposal accomplished a couple of things,” French said. “One, that it provided access for the student body to the beach. And two, that it works in such a way to protect and preserve the
the adjacent shoreline.”