Toni Nelson, Co-founder of Capo Cares and member of the Dana Point Financial Review Committee
Most residents have been saddened and alarmed to see the havoc nature has wreaked on Dana Point beaches over the past few years. Capo Cares has been advocating for improvements at Capistrano Beach Park for more than two years, meeting and corresponding with OC Parks personnel and Supervisor Lisa Bartlett numerous times. We are very grateful for the many items that have been addressed, including improved restrooms, basketball court resurfacing, repairs to outdoor showers and storm damaged walkways and most recently, new concrete picnic tables that have been welcomed by park-goers.
We were thankful that last year the County dredged the Harbor and deposited large amounts of sand on the beach. Unfortunately, natural wave and storm action has moved that sand elsewhere, and we can only hope it will someday come back.
Several potential mitigation measures have been discussed, including installing “rip rap” boulders or a low beach wall to protect the parking lot and other infrastructure. However, both the California Coastal Commission (CCC) and environmental groups oppose these suggestions because studies suggest that such measures can actually accelerate beach erosion by interrupting normal wave action. They recommend a policy of “managed retreat” from rising oceans. While rip rap and walls might appear to help, they are only “band aids,” which will never hold back the encroaching ocean.
Prior to any significant action being undertaken, we’d first like to see the results of the Wave Run Up Study currently being conducted for Dana Point by the Army Corps of Engineers. Once realistic projections of beach erosion are available, officials can determine the most effective way forward. Perhaps this will involve moving restrooms, parking and other infrastructure away from the shoreline and reconfiguring the park to maximize the size and accessibility of the public beach. This may also include landscaping solutions like sand berms and beach grasses to keep sand closer to shore.
With the knowledge gained from the Corps study, we are hopeful that the County and the CCC will negotiate something that makes sense both fiscally and environmentally, rather than continue spending scarce public funds on something that will only mitigate damage in the short term. While everyone wants to save our beaches, we need to be realistic and understand that as sea levels rise, there is no holding back Mother Nature.
We’re all saddened by the loss of our beautiful beaches, but let’s approach things in a common sense manner that yields the best long-term solutions.
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