The Tunitas Creek Beach improvement project is one step closer to getting underway. The San Mateo County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a resolution on Aug. 6 to pay the civil engineering firm CSW/ST2 to design and permit the project. 

Assistant Parks Director Nicholas Calderon told the board he hopes the designs and permits are complete by February 2021. Between now and then, CSW/ST2 will conduct site studies, prepare project alternatives, create a community engagement strategy targeting disadvantaged communities and, finally, prepare permit applications and project designs. 

“We want to get this property accessible to the public as soon as possible and in a safe and responsible manner,” Calderon said during his presentation.

The county’s contract with the CSW/ST2 runs to August 2022 and is worth nearly $1 million. 

Calderon said he plans to present a proposed design to the board next May, but the timeline could change depending on the scope of the project.

“Naturally, if there are improvements like a visitors center or a ranger residence, that’s going to change the amount of work that will have to go into the environmental review process,” he said.

Officials voted to purchase the property from the Peninsula Open Space Trust in May for $3.2 million. The county accepted a $3 million grant from the Coastal Conservancy to fund the development of visitor amenities at the site.  POST purchased the property from private owners in 2017 and transferred management to the county Parks Department.

Calderon identified eight necessary amenities for the project, including a reinforced emergency access path, restrooms, picnic tables and parking stalls. 

“At this time, there are (no restrooms) and so how people address that in different ways is leading to harm of the property.  So we want to make sure we can put an end to that,” Calderon said. 

Calderon said the project will attempt to avoid undisturbed areas and concentrate on protecting existing resources.

Reached later, Bill Henry, the director of Groundswell Coastal Ecology, said the property has been used in unsustainable ways in the past. Visitors often caused erosion when descending steep cliffs to access the beach. Henry added that creating planned access points and building a biodiverse ecosystem are two important possible improvements. Groundswell has done work at the site in the past. The organization plans to do more, in conjunction with area schools, to increase biodiversity at Tunitas in the future.

The Parks Department will continue to update the Board of Supervisors on the project’s status moving forward. 

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