Surfer's Point Managed Shoreline Retreat Project

The City of Ventura, California, has had ongoing erosion at Surfer's Point, a popular surfing spot adjacent to the mouth of the Ventura River. A California State Park bike path along the shoreline and an adjacent County Fairground parking lot have also experienced frequent damage from erosion. Local stakeholders collectively approved a plan to move the parking lot, pedestrian path, and bike path away from the tideline, instead of building a seawall or adding other armoring, which was projected to permanently damage the beach and surf break. Phase I of construction was completed in 2011. Since then, Surfrider Foundation volunteers have been planting and maintaining sand dunes and bioswales with native vegetation, which protect the beach and water from stormwater runoff, and protect the bike path and parking lot from the waves.

Since the mid 1980s the Surfrider Foundation has been advocating for relocating the bike path inland, to prevent the future need of a seawall and destruction of the famous surf break. In order to protect the Point at that time, the City decided to place boulders above the mean high tide line along its upper end. The project ended up exacerbating erosion further down the coast and the Fairground parking lot and bike path have continued to erode into the ocean; in some places more than 60 feet of land have been lost. When the City applied for a permanent permit for the rock revetment, the California Coastal Commission denied their request but recommended that the parties involved should work together to resolve the issue.

Surfrider continued to advocate for a planned retreat strategy. A few years later, the former chairman of the Ventura Chapter of Surfrider was elected to the Ventura City Council providing further support for a "managed retreat" option, and discussions over what should be done with Surfer's Point resumed. Another working group was created. In 2001 the group reached a consensus for a "managed retreat" project that included:

  • Relocating the bike path and public parking lot more than 60 feet further inland.
  • Removing existing rip rap
  • Restoring the area to a more natural beach habitat
  • Continuing to provide adequate parking for beach goers and the Fairground
  • Providing for on-going beach renourishment
  • Preserving public access to the area via Shoreline Drive
  • Advocating for the removal of the Matilija Dam to increase sand supplies to the beach

The initial planning and design process and environmental documentation for the project was completed in 2005. The City of Ventura initially allocated one million dollars of federal transportation funding for the design and relocation of the bike path. Phase I of the project was completed in 2011, with the opening of the new bike path. 

Adopting a managed retreat policy at Surfer's Point has been successful because it began at a grassroots level. The Ventura County Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation continuously championed this approach for two decades and highlighted the benefits of the option to the City Council and general public. The project was also successful, because it involved all major stakeholders in the planning process, and a consensus was reached that managed retreat was the best alternative. Phase II of the project, which will extend efforts further down the coast, is in the final design stages as of mid-2020.


Publication Date: 2011

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