SANTA CRUZ >> As 75 people in cars, on bikes and on foot swarmed Twin Lakes State Beach on Thursday morning for the groundbreaking of a 10-month project to improve the beachfront, the scene was chaotic.
That’s what this $4.7 million investment is about, providing safe access to a short but very important piece of the 1,271-mile California coastline.
A sidewalk. Bike lanes. Organized parking spaces. Shoring up a street that is foundering as the sand erodes. All next to a picture-perfect beach location by the Santa Cruz Harbor, home to some of the city’s most popular restaurants, which by the way will stay open during construction.
Emcee for the event was county Supervisor Ryan Coonerty, whose father Neal started the project when he was supervisor.
The father’s advice to the son after his 2014 election: “Get Twin Lakes done.”
Working with homeowners in the area, finding funding and getting approvals from local, state and federal agencies, made the project complex. More than 80 individuals and agencies were involved, according to longtime county staffer Betsey Lynberg, who shepherded the project.
That took time — a lot of time.
“It’s been around 20 years,” said Terri Locke Carroll, 70, who lives around the corner and was new to the neighborhood when the discussions began.
She’s seen traffic grow fivefold, impatient people toting beach equipment walking in the street, tow trucks pulling out cars stuck in the sand.
Three feet of sand is gone due to erosion, and Locke Carroll hopes the new harbor dredge will help reverse that trend.
“I’ll be glad to shovel that first sand,” said Neal Coonerty, 70, who hopes to enjoy the finished product with grandson Kellan, who is 1. “I hope he’ll bring his grandchildren six decades from now.”
John Laird, state secretary of natural resources and a former Santa Cruz mayor, got a kick out of seeing people enjoying morning coffee at the site.
“This is a real access issue,” he said, crediting the Coonertys for their persistence.
Laird picked up a shovel for the ceremony along with the Coonertys and public works director John Presleigh. Representatives from Watsonville-based Granite Rock Co., which has the construction contract, were on hand, too.
Grace Voss of the Santa Cruz County Cycling Club, who arrived via bicycle, said the location is popular with cyclists, who exit by way of Seventh Avenue.
She looks forward to the day when the project is done and “bicyclists won’t get doored, which has happened” when people get out of their cars without looking around.
“It’s such a zoo down here,” said Joe Hall, who lives in the neighborhood. “You don’t know if someone will back into you.”
Linda Locklin, who lives nearby and is coastal access program manager for the California Coastal Commission, grinned, happy to see this small stretch added to the California Coastal Trail.
“We’ve been working on it for decades,” she said.
TWIN LAKES BEACHFRONT IMPROVEMENTS
What: $4.7 million project to improve safety and access along East Cliff Drive for Twin Lakes State Beach, Santa Cruz.
Completion date: July 2017.
Visitor alert: No parking during construction.
Construction hours: Weekdays 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Contractor: Granite Rock Co.
Designer: RRM Design Group.
Agencies involved: Santa Cruz County, Santa Cruz Port District, California State Parks and California Coastal Commission.
Funding from: California Division of Boating & Waterways, California Coastal Conservancy, Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission and Monterey Bay Air Resources District.