image- coastal fencing
Orange fencing can be sporadically seen on bluffs on the Coastside to warn pedestrians of unstable cliffs. Kyle Ludowitz/Review

Coastal erosion along the trail at Poplar Beach in Half Moon Bay is prompting the city to develop a long-term plan to ultimately move back the walkway and address the overall aesthetic of the park. 

During an April 24 meeting of the city’s Parks and Recreation Commission, alternatives were presented as part of the “Poplar Beach Gateways” plan. 

About three years ago, the city hired Nichols Consulting Engineers to study the ongoing erosion on the California Coastal Trail from Kelly Avenue to the Poplar Beach parking lot. The report found the bluffs along the trail are retreating up to 3 feet per year because of erosion. Due to people walking or riding on nondesignated parts of the trail, the erosion is taking place at two times the rate that could be expected by sea level rise alone. When soil is compacted, it changes the drainage, causing hot spots of erosion, the firm said. 

“It is a given we are going to have to relocate the trail,” said Gail Donaldson, of Gates Associates, a landscape architecture firm hired by the city to help develop the plan along with NCE. “If the trail is not moved eastward, it will disappear.” 

In 2017, the Half Moon Bay City Council approved a phased approach to Poplar Beach improvements. The plan included retaining the current Coastal Trail for five years, creating a master plan for the gateway area of Poplar Beach and work on creating a permanent access to the beach.  Additionally, the council asked for future evaluation of trail realignment. 

Now, the city is asking constituents how the trail should look after it is relocated. The width of the trail, the material used to create the trail, necessary fencing, and vista points are among the questions. 

“We want to work to have nice overlooks and vistas so people are not loving the bluffs to death,” Donaldson said. 

Several people addressed the need to control speed and traffic flow in and out of the parking lot at the beach. Other concerns were making sure there was adequate signage with safety rules and to create appropriate facilities to encourage people to recycle or throw away garbage. 

All five commissioners acknowledged the need for the plan and importance of managing the erosion at the beach. The next step is to develop a draft plan incorporating all of the input. The public will be invited to review the draft plan and give feedback sometime this spring.

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