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Climate and Environment

Bolsa Chica And Crystal Cove In Orange County Are Fully Open After Winter Pummeling

View of a road with the beach on the right and a fence on the left, with a highway on the other side. Orange cones line the road and the pavement is caved in on the left-hand side.
The access road at Bolsa Chica State Beach was severely damaged during flooding on Jan. 24, 2023.
(Jill Replogle
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Pounding surf and flooding caused major damage at Bolsa Chica State Beach and Crystal Cove State Park this winter. The damage has been repaired and it's now all open — earlier than expected, said Kevin Pearsall, the Orange Coast Superintendent for California State Parks.

"I can't believe it. We're back to normal," he said.

But maintaining access to coastal parks as the climate changes will likely require big, expensive changes, he said.

What damages did OC beach parks suffer?

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High, pounding surf sucked away most of the sand at Moro Beach on the south end of Crystal Cove and cut off access to the lifeguard headquarters and a public restroom.

At Bolsa Chica, which gets close to 4 million visitors a year, the access road caved in several spots after high tides caused flooding in late January. Some 800 parking spots were temporarily lost and vehicle access was cut off to popular spots for surfing, fishing and biking.

How are those parks looking now?

Crystal Cove and Bolsa Chica are now fully open.

Crystal Cove's Moro Beach got a fresh load of sand — 15,000 cubic yards — dredged from the Talbert Channel in Huntington Beach.

Bolsa Chica's access road has been fully repaired and all parking lots are now open.

You can find a full list of state park closures and partial closures here.

What's in store for the future?

The extreme winter gave a glimpse of what's to come and provided data to help plan for needed adaptations, Pearsall said. Maintaining access to coastal parks as the climate changes will likely require big, expensive changes, he said.

"We're trying to really make sure that what's coming is coming and this is the most efficient path to make sure that access and recreation is available on the coastline," Pearsall said.

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At Bolsa Chica — a three-mile strip of beach with the ocean on one side and the Pacific Coast Highway and Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve on the other — that could mean elevating the parking lots to prevent floods.

Have a question about Orange County?
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