Here's how one beach in Ventura County is trying an innovative strategy to combat erosion

Phillip Palmer Image
Saturday, February 18, 2023
Ventura County beach seeing success with erosion strategy
Surfer's Point beach in Ventura County is removing paths and parking lots from the sand in a "managed-retreat" strategy to combat erosion.

VENTURA, Calif. (KABC) -- The severe storms that hit California this season could end up costing the state in excess of $1 billion.

Coastal communities seem to move mountains in an effort to slow the beach erosion that threatens life near the ocean. But about 10 years ago, Surfer's Point in Ventura County became the site of a test for a managed-retreat strategy as the best way forward.

"It's really the nature-based solution and finding ways to work with nature so that people can still access this area," says Bill Hickman, Southern California regional manager for the Surfrider Foundation.

For years, there was debate over how to repair damage from erosion at the popular surfing spot near the mouth of the Ventura River.

A consensus was reached among local stakeholders to move a bike-and-pedestrian path and a parking lot for the county fairgrounds away from the tideline, restoring the area to a more natural beach habitat. There have been tests over the years - but nothing like the severe storms seen this year.

"It wasn't just the rain. There was also big swells that came through and robbed a lot of beaches of sand, but we saw the managed retreat project here responded really well. ... The dunes didn't get damaged at all. There was some sand loss in front of it, but that's a seasonal thing that should come back over time," explains Hickman.

Adjacent to phase one of the project is the site of phase two, which supporters hope is completed in 2023. It's an area that could become dangerous without action, but could also be an example to others who Hickman says might need to do something.

"It's a difficult conversation to have in some places to move back, but it's definitely something that we encourage folks to look at."

It's certainly possible to rebuild or reinforce what's crumbling, but that would be very expensive and might not be as effective in the long run.

"In addition to the fiscal cost, there's the cost of losing the beach when you armor the beach as well. Over time you're basically fixing the back of the beach and then you're losing access to it so these types of solutions help to keep public beach access available for everyone," says Hickman.

It is a managed shoreline retreat. Surfrider volunteers maintain the sand dunes and native vegetation, and remove garbage from storm water runoff, but a larger, more natural beach environment is now in place for recreation and protection.