County Parks Got Hit Hard

Written by Neil Farrell

Neil has been a journalist covering the Estero Bay Area for over 27 years. He’s won numerous journalism awards in several different categories over his career.

February 23, 2023

The Jan. 8-9 storm that caused so much destruction to neighborhoods on the North Coast, could cost the County Parks Department nearly $2.5 million in repairs to several facilities.

County Parks and Recreation Director, Tanya Richardson’s Feb. 7 report to County Supervisors identified three main parks facilities that were damaged in the storms that began with an atmospheric river on Dec. 27.

The report said Supervisors in January had approved a short list of emergency repairs that had to be made — recreation areas at Lopez Lake; facilities at Santa Margarita Lake; and several public access stairways in Cambria and Cayucos.

North Coast Access Damaged

The storms undermined some of the dozens of public access ways in Cambria and Cayucos forcing them to close until repairs can be made.

The damaged access ways are at Lampton Cliff and Wedgewood in Cambria and Mannix and El Sereno in Cayucos, according to Richardson’s report.

“The storm surge,” Richardson said, “removed under footings, railings, and staircase landings. These access way have been partially or fully closed as a result of this damage.”

These aren’t going to be easy fixes. Richardson said, “Staff is assessing consulting services needed to perform services [design, engineering, geotechnical, surveying, etc.] and the most efficient method(s) to secure services [on-call consulting services through other department(s), sole sourcing, etc.]. Staff is investigating the environmental review permitting requirements and the most efficient processes.”

The plan at this rime is simply to close the staircases until they can be fixed. The estimate right now is $900,000 to fix those mentioned in the report.

The situation is mindful of another access way, at First Street in Cayucos, that washed out in the 1990s and wasn’t repaired until just a couple of years ago.

Situated in the middle of the “Coastal Zone” making even emergency repairs to things like public access stairways can get complicated and take a long time. 

Lopez Lake Campgrounds

“On Jan. 9, 2023,” Richardson’s report said, “severe winter storms caused a road embankment of approximately 70 feet to collapse and compromised Lopez Drive near Camp French entrance. Due to the collapse, a sewer pipeline underneath the roadway was exposed and damaged. This service/emergency access road is damaged, and the campground has been forced to close until utility repairs can be completed. The bridge near Black Bear equestrian camp flooded and portions collapsed, making it inaccessible to Camp French.”

The County hired a company, Fluid Resources Management, to operate the sewer system at Lopez Lake and the company discovered another landslide that “compromised the sewage holding tanks.” FRM was able to fix that issue but had to load the sewer flow into tanker trucks and truck the sewage to a treatment plant for some 4 days.

So far the County had spent $110,000 with FRM and the current estimate to fix the road that slipped is $1.5 million and completion is expected to be around Oct. 1.

Ironically, Lopez Lake currently is fuller than it has been since before the drought started in 2017 but the public won’t be able to enjoy it much until the repairs are made.

Santa Margarita Lake

The big rains also filled Santa Margarita Lake to some 108% of capacity, which flooded the lake’s campgrounds, destroyed an electrical transformer and shutdown the recreation area until further notice.

The County hired Electricraft, Inc. to assess the damages and come up with a fix. The company also installed a generator and restored power. The current estimate to repair the electrical system is $150,000 and isn’t expected to be completed until the end of April.

Show Me the Money

So where is the County going to get the money for these fixes? According to Richardson it’ll have to come out of the general fund, subject to reimbursement from the State and Federal Disaster declarations that were made in the aftermath of the storms in December.

Governor Gavin Newsome declared a state of emergency on Jan. 4 and on Jan. 9 he specifically noted San Luis Obispo County among several others up and down the state as especially hard hit.

President Joe Biden issued a federal emergency declaration Jan. 9 opening up federal assistance “to supplement state, tribal, and local response efforts due to the emergency conditions resulting from successive and severe winter storms, flooding, and mudslide beginning on Jan. 8, 2023, and continuing.”

The County Emergency Services Director also declared a local emergency, as the bureaucratic paperwork lines up.

Under the law, Richardson must periodically update Supervisors on their progress with the emergency repairs.

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