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Capo Beach remains closed while county officials evaluate how to move forward

By Lillian Boyd, Dana Point Times

Capistrano Beach remains closed as OC Parks determines how to move forward after severe damage to its boardwalk, basketball court and parking lot.

Capo Beach and its parking lot have been closed due to weather damage as of Friday, Nov. 30. A portion of the boardwalk and steps collapsed due to high surf on Thursday, Nov. 29, with further damage seen the next day. OC Public Works installed more than 1,000 tons of rocks in place of the boardwalk, and officials have since advised the public not to enter the closed-off portion of the beach.

“We have done what we can to stabilize the area while we continue to evaluate next steps. Right now our focus is on public safety, and we ask visitors to stay out of closed areas for their own safety,” said Marisa O’Neil, a public information officer for OC Parks.

Officials with the South Orange County Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation have been monitoring Capo Beach for the past few years. Rick Erkeneff, the chapter’s president, says people have often asked him whether the erosion and damage at Capo Beach are a byproduct of climate change and an increase to ocean levels.

“I’ve been asked that question a lot. What we’re experiencing in Capo Beach is coastal erosion. This beach has not been historically nourished. With the extensive droughts we’ve seen, there’s a lack of water and sediment flow from the bluffs. With that lack of flow comes a lack of nourishment,” Erkeneff said.

As county officials work to determine how to proceed with the beach’s reinforcement, members of the community weigh in on the future of Capo Beach.

“The concrete is buckling. It’s been undermined, and everything would have to be torn out and the foundation would have to be reinforced,” Erkeneff said.

Toni Nelson is the co-founder of Capo Cares, a social media group and community advocacy group committed to providing a platform for the residents of Capistrano Beach. She applauds OC Parks officials for their diligence and communication with residents.

“They’ve been very responsive, receptive and cooperative. We’re all eager to have this beach back for everyone to enjoy,” Nelson said.

Nelson says she was sad to see the boardwalk go, but that in the future it would be more practical to install items that are more easily removed in the event of high tides or inclement weather. Nelson expressed concerns over whether the California Coastal Commission would prioritize parking lots over the beach, in an effort to promote beach access.

“What’s the point of beach access if there’s no room to put your towel down after you park?” Nelson said. “This beach is beloved, and we have a chance of rebuilding a really nice beach. It’s a little beach, but it’s ours. I’m passionate and I’m going to continue advocating that this beach continues to be for the community.”

It’s unclear when plans for Capo Beach will be available. High tides are expected to reach at least six feet throughout the month of January.

“As we move forward, we will have opportunities for public input. (You) will certainly know once we are at that point,” O’Neil said.

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