State Parks Pouring $2.7 Million into Beach Access Stairs

The stairs leading up from Point Dume State Beach have fallen into disrepair.

Malibu is known for its good surf and sunny weather, but its location by the water has taken its toll on some of the infrastructure in our local State Parks, which has led to wear and tear. 

This year, California Governor Jerry Brown allocated $7.58 million to improve Malibu sector State Parks. Aside from the State Parks budget, this allocated money is set aside specifically for special “deferred maintenance” projects that have sat in a pipeline for years, waiting to take off.

These projects include new pilings and an access stairway at the Malibu Pier, repairs to the Historic Malibu Adamson House and a beach access stairway at Point Dume.

As of Tuesday, July 28, the Angeles District is still anticipating the funding for various projects, though it is yet to be confirmed.

“As I understand, we’ve got the money in hand,” State Parks Angeles District Superintendent Craig Sap said of the funds to repair the Malibu Pier, though he had not seen official documentation.

In part two of a three-part series covering the newly funded projects taking place this year in Malibu, The Malibu Times covers the construction of a new beach access stairway in Point Dume, estimated to cost over $2.7 million.

Logistics of a new beach accessway

The new stairs are several years overdue, according to Sap, who added that a repair (rather than a replacement) would be out of the question.

“It’s been a few years [since] they’ve really hit the point of needing to be replaced — or a major repair,” Sap said. “Modern building code dictates that we have to replace them.”

The stairs, which were constructed at some point between 1972 and 1980, don’t make code for several reasons, including their angle, tread and width.

Currently, the public access stairway is a hunk of rusted-out metal. Holes, some of them several inches long, dot the treads of the stairs, which are mangled in the sea air. 

The new stairs, said Sap, will be gentler and less steep, built out of a plastic composite material known as fibergate.

“We’re going to go with primarily more sustainable material,” Sap described. “It’s called fibergate. It’s a hard plastic material.”

The cost, explained Sap, has a lot to do with the materials, but more to do with the engineering.

“Any time you have to climb up something or over something, there’s a lot of engineering that has to be done, and there’s a lot of materials,” Sap said. “Stabilizing, anchoring it into the hillside —the material there isn’t rock, it’s a sandy compressed material that needs to be engineered so it’s sustainable.”

“These are engineered estimates, it could be more, it could be less,” Sap said. “Two point seven sounds like a lot of money, but for what we’re providing, coastal access, it’s not too expensive.”

The old staircase, which delivers beachgoers to the far end of the rocky beach, will remain operational as the new one is built, closer to the center of the beach, off a trailhead that currently has signs warning “trail closed.”

Public opinion

After speaking with Sap, The Malibu Times hit the sand to ask visitors to Point Dume State Beach their opinion on the planned improvements — and their cost.

“I feel like I’m going to fall through every time I come here,” said an Oxnard man who had come to the beach to surf. 

Safety was also a concern for a group from North Hollywood, who came to the beach with their three-year-old. 

“[They should be built with] high rails on the side so children don’t fall through,” said Justin, one of the men in the group who preferred not to give his last name. “It definitely was a worry for me today.”

Adeline Dutheil, a first-time visitor from France, said the most important thing with the new staircase would be to make it less of an eyesore.

“To me, what’s more important is that it fits, it’s discreet, it respects nature,” Dutheil said.

When told the price of the new staircase, Dutheil balked.

“Are they made of gold or something?” she asked.

This sentiment was repeated by Steve Grifka, a contractor from Michigan who was visiting the beach on vacation with his family.

“You could put in 20 of those for that price,” Grifka said. 

He added that without knowing the engineering specifics and material costs he couldn’t give an exact estimate for how much he would expect the stairs to cost, only that it would be much less.

“You could put in an elevator for that price,” he joked.

Shane, another visitor who declined to give his last name, has been living and surfing in Point Dume for nearly 15 years, and said the improvements are necessary since visitor traffic to the area has increased.

“The amount of traffic that this gets — it’s not holding up. You can tell, it’s had it,” Shane said.

“When it was a little bit of an effort to go down here, people respected it more.”

That thought was echoed by a visitor from Simi Valley, who came to the beach with her two granddaughters. “There’s a reasoning for keeping it a little more secluded,” she said, “You’ll have the people who really appreciate it.”