West Coast
Fencing runs along portions of the new sand dunes at South Cardiff State Beach in Encinitas. The Cardiff State Beach Living Shoreline project opened May 22. (California State Parks photo)

Encinitas, regional officials mark completion of Cardiff dune project

‘Living shoreline’ aims to boost habitat, improve access

Fencing along part of the beach west of Coast Highway 101 in Cardiff might not be a surprise given the ongoing transportation projects underway in the area. But this particular fencing indicates something different — wildlife at work.

Representatives of regional government and environmental groups marked the opening of the Cardiff State Beach Living Shoreline project last week, a half-mile area between Restaurant Row and South Cardiff State Beach, just south of the Chart House restaurant.

The “living shoreline” sand dunes, which opened May 22, were created out of manmade and native materials, and locally sourced dune plants, which can help boost biodiversity and wildlife habitat, according to a new release announcing the project’s completion.

“Working together with our partners, we have restored a new natural resource dimension to Cardiff State Beach — a coastal dune system,” Kimberly Weinstein, San Diego Coast District superintendent for California State Parks, said in the news release. “This new landform adds rich upland habitat and beach that complements Cardiff State Beach’s world class aquatic recreation and the underwater resources of the Swami’s State Marine Conservation Area.”

Native plants are taking root and flowering in the recently completed Cardiff State Beach Living Shoreline project in Encinitas. (California State Parks photo)

Native plants are taking root and flowering in the recently completed Cardiff State Beach Living Shoreline project in Encinitas. (California State Parks photo)

The project is a collaboration led by the California State Coastal Conservancy and the city of Encinitas. The city partnered with several agencies and groups — the Nature Collective (formerly the San Elijo Lagoon Conservancy), California State Parks, UCLA, Scripps Institution of Oceanography and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

“This project is an example of state, regional and local cooperation at its finest, with agencies uniting to protect our environment, wildlife habitat, beaches and transportation infrastructure from the impacts of climate change and sea level rise,” Encinitas Mayor Catherine Blakespear said in the announcement.

Funding for the $2.5 million project mostly came from the California Coastal Conservancy, the California Ocean Protection Council, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the San Diego Association of Governments, which is also involved in the nearby BuildNCC transportation projects.

An areial view shows the recently completed dunes at the Cardiff State Beach Living Shoreline project in Encinitas, which opened May 22. (California State Parks photo)

An areial view shows the recently completed dunes at the Cardiff State Beach Living Shoreline project in Encinitas, which opened May 22. (California State Parks photo)

“Cardiff Beach’s dunes are an example of green infrastructure, an innovative new concept in shoreline resilience,” Sam Schuchat, executive officer for California State Coastal Conservancy, explained in the news release. “This project uses natural features to protect communities from sea level rise while also creating wildlife habitat.”

Sand dunes are a natural part of the Encinitas coastline that provide a number of ecological and human benefits, from wildlife habitat to protection from sea-level rise and storm-surge flooding, project officials said. Flowering native plant species and other coastal dune plants are beginning to take root, and it’s expected that the protected dunes will host endangered species such as the Snowy Plover, which depend on undisturbed sand for roosting.

In addition to the environmental benefits, the project also provides improved public access to the beach. A new pedestrian path was installed alongside the dunes and runs the full length of the site, connecting to the sidewalk at the south end of the beach.

“We encourage everyone to join the Nature Collective in ongoing coastal dune habitat events,” Bradley Nussbaum, habitat management director for the Nature Collective, said in the announcement. “This dynamic partnership will yield amazing benefits for plants and animals that depend on the shoreline and is a community-centered way to be a part of the bigger picture of nature for all.”

The Cardiff State Beach Living Shoreline project began in October 2018 using excavated sands from the San Elijo Lagoon inlet along with riprap, cobblestones and other materials.

encinitas currernt, cardiff current

Encinitas Mayor Catherine Blakespear (center) cuts the ribbon for the Cardiff State Beach Living Shoreline project's opening May 22. Encinitas City Councilman Joe Mosca (standing third to the right from Blakespear) was among the various local, regional and state officials on hand for the event. (Nature Collective photo)

Encinitas Mayor Catherine Blakespear (center) cuts the ribbon for the Cardiff State Beach Living Shoreline project’s opening May 22. Encinitas City Councilman Joe Mosca (standing third to the right from Blakespear) was among the various local, regional and state officials on hand for the event. (Nature Collective photo)

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