The Surfers Point Managed Shoreline Retreat Project will break ground Sept. 27 after 15 years of planning.

The $3.6 million project, funded mostly from a California Coastal Conservancy grant and a federal transportation initiative, will move the Surfers Point bike path and parking lot 60 to 100 feet inland and remove the parking lot damaged from previous storms.

Materials from the damaged road will be reused to fill and grade other areas of the project. Shoreline Drive will be shortened by about 1,000 feet and replaced with parking and an access road for the fairgrounds. The bike path will have lighting, and it will be relocated inland along the beachfront adjacent to the new parking area that will be constructed just north of the existing lot.

Also, the final underground storm drain improvements will be constructed to improve storm water quality. This includes removing the existing drain to the beach, improving the pump station, and installing the underground storm water clarifier to clean storm water before it discharges to the Ventura River.

Project planners said they believe the improvements will lead to a much more natural beach in the future.
“Moving back from shoreline, and restoring the coastal buffer zone, allows the beach to go with storms and tides,” said Paul Jenkin, Surfrider Foundation Ventura Chapter environmental director.

Additionally, 22 tons of cobble purchased from a cobble removal project at the Santa Paula Creek will be used to provide erosion protection. Eventually, sand dunes will form on top of the cobble to further stabilize the beach.
Planners are aiming for a Memorial Day completion date, but that all depends on the winter swells.

“As much as I would like to see the point go off, I’m hoping for a mild winter,” said Councilman Brian Brennan. “The more sand you get on the beach, the dunes build up with lesser swells and, with this, there could eventually be a better point break.”

The bike path and parking lot were constructed in 1989. By 1992, heavy erosion had so damaged the bike path that it had to be diverted back into the parking lot.  In 1995, working groups such as the Surfrider Foundation collaborated with state agencies and State Parks to create a protection plan.

“It has taken a long time to come up with a plan that everybody supports,” said Rick Raives, Ventura’s assistant public works director. “The fairgrounds losing property was an operational concern, and we also had to recognize future sea level rise.”

The fairgrounds owns the gated property as well as the beachfront parking lots at Surfers Point. By scaling back the parking lot, the fairgrounds would lose some of that property. Representatives for the fairgrounds did not return calls by deadline.

Initially, there was the threat of a permanent sea wall being built along the length of the beach, which prompted beach protection advocates to adopt the “retreat instead of armor” approach.

“We needed to design something that can be constructed to avoid future erosion issues, involving science, technology and using cobble for protection, and we came out with a state-of-the-art project already drawing international attention,” said Raives.

Beachgoers will have access to the shore and bike path during construction. Ample parking will be available at the remaining portion of the existing parking area along the beachfront, and paid parking at the Derby Club/Ventura County Fairgrounds parking area; 20-minute “surf-check” parking will be added along the south side of Shoreline Drive prior to construction.