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Goleta Beach
updated: Jan 20, 2005, 12:00 AM


January 20, 2005 - Goleta Beach

The Wednesday Where is it was a good one this week!  That’s because, “where is it?” is a good question. It’s a question we’ve all heard as denizens of a coastal community. And it’s a question the Santa Barbara County Parks Department has heard a lot over the last several years: “Where’s the Beach?”  More importantly, where’s Goleta Beach?

On a sunny, almost summer-like day this week, the dedicated staff of edhat.com went to Goleta Beach to take pictures and view the awesome effects the recent storms have had on the beach. There is a wire fence running along the edge of the grassy area, and the sandy beach is mostly gone. At the west end of the beach, loaders and dump trucks steadily drone on, piling sand on the shore and pushing it out into the surf to form a berm in the water. 


This process is called re-nourishment, and is the only currently approved method of retaining the beach.

Even though the beach is missing, there were lots of folks using the park on this beautiful day.  These weren’t tourists, or the beautiful people we see on the WB’s Summerland.  They were Goleta moms with their kids, playing on the swings, UCSB students catching some rays while they study, and working people taking a break and eating lunch at the park. We even saw a couple of bikinis without a beach to lie on, but settled for the grass just fine.

The fate of Goleta Beach has been a controversy since the El Nino storms of 1983.  The erosion of the beach started before that, but the storms seemed to have sped the process, and now, every winter storm takes more of the beach away and rekindles old arguments.

To understand the issue, we have to go back – way back.  Once upon a time, Goleta Slough was part of a huge wetland. For reasons that probably made sense at the time, Santa Barbara’s fore-parents decided to build there.


They built an airport. They built a sewage treatment plant, they built a university, and they built a beach.  But, how do you build on a wetland? Fill - lots and lots of fill.

But it all looked nice - the airport, the beach, the park and the University. The sewage treatment plant – eh, what can you say?  But the beach really didn’t want to be there. You see, beaches are formed by natural wave and current processes, and sandy beaches rely on silt flowing downstream from land, or from sandy ocean bottom offshore. And so, this manmade beach had to rely on manmade means to keep it around.

Okay – back to the future, as they say.  Today, the beach is the responsibility of the Santa Barbara County Parks Department. But, because the beach and the park are in danger, many groups are involved in the decision of what to do.  The groups consist of what the regulatory world calls stakeholders.  These are organizations who have a stake in Goleta Beach; government agencies, environmental groups, recreational groups, business owners, the University, etc.


The trouble is that these groups can’t agree on what to do, so they just end up arguing. The County Supervisor formed a smaller working group, made up of some of the people from these groups.  Their job is to study the issues and make recommendations to the County Parks Department as to the solution.  The trouble is that these people can’t agree and end up arguing.

Basically, there are two camps.  Camp One says, let it go back to how it was.  That solution is called “managed retreat”. The reason it has to be managed is that there is infrastructure, in the form of buildings, sewage lines, a high-pressured gas line, and utilities, running under the area. And then there is the question of “how far back?” - to the grass? to the frontage road?  to Highway 217?   to the sewage treatment plant? Hmm.

Camp Two is in favor of saving the beach by use of what are called hard protection devices. These include such solutions as, revetments (rocks piled against the bluff to prevent erosion, like at the Rincon), and groins (rock jetties running out into the ocean from shore, like at Ventura Beach).  But these aren’t natural, and will continue to disrupt the natural wave and current patterns in the area.

Both sides make a point and both sides feel strongly.  Right now, the only method approved is the re-nourishment method we talked about before.  But it’s expensive, it’s constant, and it’s a little futile. Plus – where do they get all that sand?

There’s one more thing.  Just now, we were talking about all of those stakeholders.  The last one listed was, etc..  The dedicated staff thinks etc. might be those people we saw enjoying the beach on that nice sunny day – the moms and the kids and the working people eating lunch. You know, the people who live in Goleta - the biggest stakeholders of all. County Parks has a great website.  And County Supervisor Susan Rose is probably interested in knowing what Goletians think. There is also a Park Commission Meeting on January 27th at 9:30 AM in the County Building (1221 Anacapa). Tell ‘em Ed sent you.

Well, the beach may just be a memory, but it is a strong memory for many of our subscribers. In an amazing display of correctness, 131 subscribers identified Goleta Beach. Since we didn't have that many dog biscuits or socks, we relied upon the Excel random number generator function. Je2ry got the highest number and wins the Santa Barbara Film Festival 4-ticket pack.

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