County planners are considering a complete overhaul of Goleta Beach, hoping to counter natural beach erosion and increase recreational facilities at the park by expanding the beachfront over an acre.
According to county authorities, “Goleta Beach 2.0” aims to remove two parking lots, relocate three major utility lines, install a new bridge, reorganize bicycle paths and create more space for kayaks and small watercraft to access the beachfront. Proponents say the plan would provide the scenic location’s roughly 1.5 million annual visitors with a far improved public beach and act as a buffer against future erosion. The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors is scheduled to hear a presentation of the plan at its next meeting, on July 6.
According to County Parks Department deputy director Erik Axelson, Goleta Beach 2.0 began as a response to progressive beach erosion along the shoreline, a natural phenomenon explained by variations in ocean temperatures which can correlate to rougher coastal weather and ultimately lead to increased shoreline erosion.
“The beach between campus point and the county park was hundreds of feet wide in 1975,” Axelson said. “Since the late 70’s early 80’s the beach has been, for the most part, subject to significant erosion.”
3rd District Supervisor Doreen Farr said the upcoming board meeting would give supervisors a chance to become acquainted with the idea. However, she said, implementation of Goleta Beach 2.0 would first need the approval of the California Coastal Commission.
“It’s a chance for the full board to hear about the plan,” Farr said. “The Board of Supervisors is not the final decision maker — it’s the Coastal Commission.”
Goleta Beach 2.0 is not the first attempt by the county to handle erosion problems at the local beach. Last summer the Commission voted 9-1 to reject a county plan to construct a permeable pile pier at Goleta Beach that would slow erosion. In response to the state’s rejection of their initial plans, the county’s parks department created Goleta Beach 2.0.
County officials say that local routes for vehicle and bicycle traffic could be significantly altered by Goleta 2.0 should it be implemented by the county. Because the park would lose parking spaces to provide more beachfront, new parking facilities would be constructed further from Goleta Beach.
However, Axelson said the county could provide transportation to and from the beach via water taxi routes on local waterways, and would address current discrepancies with a bicycle path that problematically intersects with a vehicle bridge.
“We’ll reduce the potential for conflicts or accidents,” Axelson said.
Axelson said Goleta Beach 2.0 might also include adjustments to the beach’s pier, additions that could allow whale-watching ships to operate out of Goleta Beach Park and could also provide UC Santa Barbara with a new location to teach sailing classes.
“Bottom line is, we’d be taking some things out of the park,” Axelson said. “At the same time we’d be adding a lot of additional programming into the park.”