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Continued bluff erosion on the coast closes another popular viewing area in Shell Beach

SHELL BEACH, Calif. – For the second time this month, a popular coastal viewing area has been closed in Shell Beach due to bluff erosion, which has compromised the stability of some of the cliffs along the seaside community.

This past weekend, the City of Pismo Beach placed a barricade around a bench area in Eldwayen Ocean Park. The park, located along Ocean Boulevard, is one of the most popular and visited sites in the town for locals and visitors alike.

"We've had some continued bluff erosion here that has compromised the area where one of our most popular benches is," said Jorge Garcia, Pismo Beach Assistant City Manager. "Due to that continued coastal erosion, as a result of the storm and the continual impact of the waves, unfortunately, this area is no longer safe and we are asking the public to respect the barriers and to not put themselves in a dangerous situation."

The closing comes just over two weeks after a bench area at nearby Margo Dodd Park was also restricted.

"It's very hard for me," said Gail Williams, who lives nearby. "I saw drone footage of this corner and I had no idea was undermined like it is. I just felt sad. We're losing this bluff and also near Margo Dodd Park, we're losing that one too so it's hard."

Williams said Eldwayen Ocean Park is an important place, not only to her personally, but also the entire Shell Beach community.

"This park, Eldwayen Park has meant a lot to me and my family," said Williams "My husband and I actually had our first date here watching fireworks. We brought our kids here for birthday parties and Easter egg hunts, so we're here a lot. We walk along this park. My grandkids come here and we play and it's a very meaningful park. We've had memorial services here and it's beautiful. This is kind of a  meeting spot. A lot of memories here."

On Monday, a steady stream of visitors walked through the park all day long, passing by the new barrier that lies on its furthermost point.

Those who came by were able to see a portion of the concrete walkway that is barricaded is now jutting out over the cliff, essentially suspended over air.

"The soil underneath that concrete slab is no longer there," said Garcia. "Any additional weight can result in the unfortunate loss of the bench in that area, and the last thing we want is for someone to be standing in that area, trying to take that last selfie, so we want to make sure that people are safe and respect the barriers throughout the entire community."

Now that the bench area has been determined to be compromised, Garcia said the city monitor the area for the foreseeable future and will hold off making any decision regarding its future.

"At this point, we want to make sure that the area is safe," said Garcia. "We want to see if it's going to go on its own. We don't want to endanger the lives of our employees, our contractors by going in and mitigating anything. We also want to make sure that we are abiding by all state and federal laws, so it's not as easy as going through and removing an area, especially when it's compromised. We want to make sure that it's safe, that anything that nature is going to do, that it does, and then we will go in after the fact and make any repairs as necessary."

Garcia added the City of Pismo Beach has been inspecting coastal areas throughout the community in an effort to determine the extent of damage caused by recent storms.

"Our engineering department has gone out and inspected various public facilities in order to make sure that they're safe, if there is any additional damage," said Garcia. "In total we are estimating our damage to be about $16 million throughout the community, and that's just the public facilities. That does not include private property where people have private seawalls and different coastal protection measures."

Safety inspections are ongoing, especially since the stormy weather, along with significant tidal activity is still very much in full effect.

"We will continue to inspect areas," said Garcia. "If the community sees other areas that they feel might be compromised, we ask people contact City Hall, so we can know and we can send our city staff out to evaluate it."

The two closures come at the same time Pismo Beach continues its Ocean Boulevard Improvement Project.

The $7 million project started in April 2022 to provide bluff stabilization, restore the Morro Stairs beach access, and replace the Morro storm drain outfall.

"The seawall component of it has been completed," said Garcia. That seawall did prove to be very beneficial in this most recent storm. There's no doubt with the amount of king tides and the recent wave activity, had that project not been as far along, we probably would have seen some additional coastal erosion there, so we'll be able to long term have an area where we can have coastal access and maintain the public infrastructure along Ocean Boulevard."

Work on the project is expected to be completed this summer.

Williams said she is hoping similar work in the future can help save more of Eldwayen Ocean Park, which is located adjacent to where the Ocean Street Improvement Project is taking place.

"I understand erosion and the storm," said Garcia. "I appreciate what they're doing and I know they're doing what they can. Hopefully they can extend a little farther out so we don't lose (more of the park) because this park is getting smaller and smaller."

As for the Margo Dodd Park erosion, Garcia added the city is keeping a close eye on the bluff area as nature takes it course.

"The bench is still holding on," said Garcia. "We continued to see further erosion, further indentation of that area, so it is only a matter of time. We don't know how long that will take. It could be today. It could be a month. It could be much longer than that, but that area is not safe."

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Dave Alley

Dave Alley is a reporter and anchor at News Channel 3-12. To learn more about Dave, click here.


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