Extensive parking lot and access-way repairs are coming to Malibu’s El Matador State Beach this fall, following April approval by the California Coastal Commission (CCC), but concerns have been raised that the area is “a disaster waiting to happen.”
El Matador State Beach, known for its beautiful scenery and unique rock formations, has had its access ways degrade so badly that a beach-goer raised concerns of a lack of safety and neglect by the California Department of Parks and Recreation (CDPR).
Matthew Schwartz, a recent visitor to El Matador, wrote in an August letter to the editor of The Malibu Times that he was shocked by the degradation of the access ways. He went on to describe the crumbling staircases, eroding trails and dangerous conditions that visitors have to travel through to enjoy the beach.
“I visited this beach in Malibu 10 years ago and was concerned about its conditions of access. I returned [the other day] and this is just a disaster here waiting to happen … not only is the dirt path down a gullied washed-out mess with cliff edges eroding away, there are two corroded disintegrating staircases equally a disaster, which are required to traverse to reach the beach. The wooden steps are crumbled and splintering,” Schwartz wrote.
Though Schwartz reached out to The Malibu Times as well as the CDPR in August, the department had already begun formulating solutions on the issues at El Matador several months before. The CDPR submitted a Notice of Impending Development to the CCC, according to a May staff report.
According to the CCC report, the damage caused to the trail and the stairway was due to poor drainage from the upper parking lot. Following rain, the storm drains clog, causing water to overflow into the trail resulting in the severe erosion of both the trail and the stairway.
“Concentrated flows terminate in an existing drainage pipe which regularly clogs within a short period of time during medium intensity rain events. The clogged drainage pipe results in an overtopping of the pipe inlet and redirection of flows to the upper staircase which has created a stairway erosion gulley,” according to the report.
Besides rainfall, some of the strain caused to the facilities was due to the heavy increase in foot traffic.
“The parking lot was designed over 30 years ago. For the past two to three years, we’ve seen increases of about 20-40 percent in visitors to the area. Everyone takes pictures of the beautiful scenery here and posts it on social media, which attracts more and more visitors,” CDPR Angeles District Superintendent Craig Sap told The Malibu Times.
The CDPR plans to recontour 2,400 square feet of the existing parking lot and add 1,200 square feet of a rigid permeable layer to the lot in order to allow for proper run-off and to help eliminate dirt and sand from clogging the drains from the increase in vehicle traffic.
Plans also call for closing off the current dangerous trail entry point and rerouting it to the previously approved entry point that had become disused over time.
Malibu City Manager Jim Thorsen, in an email to Schwartz, which was shared with The Malibu Times, explained that money for the project will be coming from the State Park system and not the city of Malibu, as state beaches fall under CDPR jurisdiction. Eight million dollars of the $20 million allocated to the State Park system will be headed to the Malibu area, some of which will go toward the El Matador project as well as to repairs to the Malibu Pier, the Point Dume State Beach staircase and the Adamson House.
The CDPR has been working on securing $250,000 for the El Matador repair project for the past 18 months, according to Brody. Engineering drawings are finished and environmental permits have been approved for the project. The next step is for the public works project to be put out for a work contract bid.
“This project is bigger than we could do in-house, so we’re opening the project to outside contractors. Depending on when we start the bidding process, the project can take anywhere from three months to a year to complete. We want to have this done before the spring because of the impact on the public,” Sap said.
Besides concerns of providing safe beach access, forecasts of a stronger-than-usual El Niño also hangs over the repair efforts.
“The amount of forecasted rainfall could exasperate the issue. The contractor definitely will have to plan and prepare for that,” Sap said.
Until improvements can be made to the drainage system, trail maintenance crews have been fighting an ever-losing battle with mother nature over the past two years as their work gets washed away with every instance of rainfall.