Lillian Boyd and Shawn Raymundo, Dana Point Times

Capistrano Beach saw turbulent tidal action over the Fourth of July Weekend, adding to coastal erosion and damage the beach has seen in recent years. OC Parks officials say they are preparing for more expected high tides in the next week.

In November 2018, a portion of the boardwalk and steps collapsed due to high surf with further damage seen the following day. OC Public Works installed more than 1,000 tons of rocks in place of the boardwalk, and closed off a portion of the beach for a period. Since then, the agency has held a series of public workshops to gather feedback on solutions for the beach.

OC Parks completed a short-term Interim Enhancement Plan in Summer 2019. The plan included emergency repairs on a stretch of infrastructure damaged by erosion and helped restore public access to the beach.

For now, emergency work was conducted following Fourth of July due to the recent damage.

Crews worked to clean up the damage left by high tide at Capistrano Beach on Monday, July 6. Photo: Lillian Boyd

“Most of the concrete walkways were destroyed, and the regional trail has been covered in sand and rock,” said Charlene Cheng, a communications specialist for OC Parks. “We are continuing with clean-up and anticipate high tide and heavy swells to continue through the week.”

The Capo Beach parking lot will be closed until further notice, Cheng said.

The agency is also currently initiating a master plan for the long-term vision of Capistrano Beach “with resiliency, safety and accessibility in mind.” Another meeting was scheduled for Spring 2020 but was postponed indefinitely due to COVID-19.

“For the master plan, we currently are working with the California Coastal Commission and other stakeholders to further refine the design alternatives and ensure that they meet the regulatory requirements,” said Jennifer Jung, project manager for OC Parks. “Due to COVID-19 some things have been delayed.”

OC Parks held one of its public workshops in Dana Point on Feb. 26, when they presented three design proposals, or alternatives, to help protect amenities and public access at Capistrano Beach Park.

The first alternative, which OC Parks labeled as the protective strategy, proposes to mount a sculptural vertical seawall to mimic a natural environment. The amount of the wall that’s exposed will fluctuate with sand levels, according to the agency.

The vertical sea wall would be imbedded into the ground, providing a “strong foundation as the shoreline beach erodes,” according Kim Garvey of Moffatt & Nichol, a coastal engineering firm. She also explained that as sea level rise occurs, the sea wall allows for more structures to be added to protect from flooding.

The sea wall, Garvey said, is a proven structure in terms of overall life span, and it is compatible with regional measures such as beach nourishment.

Portions of the sidewalk and parking lot were seriously damaged over the Fourth of July weekend. Photo: Lillian Boyd

This specific Protective Alternative would allow for the protected beach terrace area, access to the beach and water, as well as provide the most protection for landward infrastructure and onsite amenities.

Such amenities and infrastructure include a public plaza area with seating and picnic tables, a coastal trail to connect to Doheny State Beach, a pedestrian walkway and the beach terrace. As for the price, Garvey notes, it would be one of the more costly proposals.

Under the second alternative, which would be a hybrid of the protective strategy and a retreat approach, a rock revetment would be installed. The revetment crest could be raised as needed for future sea level rise impacts, and the amount of exposed rock will also fluctuate with sand levels.

C.C. LaGrange, a senior associate for Placeworks—the lead consultant for the Master Plan—explained that the amenities for the Protect + Retreat Alternative include a half basketball court, ramp to the water, a coastal trail to Doheny and a pedestrian walkway. There’s also the potential to have a medium-sized, unprotected beach terrace area.

According to OC Parks, this proposal’s beach terrace would require imported sand, and temporary amenities such as volleyball courts, fire pits and picnic benches. The revetment would offer partial protection to landward and onsite infrastructure.

Garvey explained the rock revetment approach would also be compatible with long-term and regional strategies and require relatively low maintenance. The relative cost to implement this alternative is considered in the low range.

The third alternative is another hybrid, characterized as an Accommodate + Retreat strategy, wherein a pile-supported structure would be utilized similar to the Santa Monica Pier and San Clemente Pier.

With shoreline piled structures, Garvey said, “you have facilities that are located high above the wave action, allowing the beach to retreat.” She also said the platform elevation would be designed to accommodate sea level rise and could be compatible with future regional strategies, while the overall maintenance of the piles themselves is relatively low.

Like the previous approaches, this strategy would have a coastal trail to Doheny, a public plaza and a ramp to access the water. A potential beach terrace area would be unprotected and relatively small compared to the other two alternatives, and it could include a pedestrian walkway, volleyball court, fire pits and picnic benches.

As for the landward infrastructure, the third alternative offers no protection, but it does offer partial protection for onsite amenities, according to OC Parks. The proposal would fall under the high-cost range.

Near the outset of the workshop, OC Parks Director Stacy Blackwood explained that the three alternatives were based on the public’s feedback, stating that the workshops are meant to solicit the community’s ideas to contribute to the Master Plan.

She also noted at the February workshop that no matter what plan is chosen by OC Parks, in collaboration with the community, everything is subject to the jurisdiction of the California Coastal Commission.

“Even if we develop a really consensus plan, there’s still a process to go through with the regulatory agency on that,” she said. “There are other parties who are not here in this room who have jurisdiction and approval authority on this site.”

Blackwell also reminded those who attended that meeting will not be the last time they hear from the OC Parks, nor will it be the last opportunity they have to offer input.

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