Dune: The reestablishment of native plants helps combat climate change and provides habitat for endangered animals. Courtesy photo

The Santa Monica Sand Dune Restoration Project has officially been deemed a success; now, The Bay Foundation wants to make it a permanent fixture on the beach just north of the Annenberg Beach House, while also expanding from three to eight acres of protected beach habitat in the area through a second, “phase 2” project. 

On Monday, the City of Santa Monica published a blog post, authored by Nico Predock, featuring an update on the current pilot project that, since December 2015, has sought “to restore approximately three acres of coastal strand habitat on the north end of the Santa Monica Beach.”

With the ecological nonprofit Bay Foundation’s five-year report stating the dune restoration pilot achieved its goals, it will soon be up to the California Coastal Commission to decide whether it can stay in place permanently. The permit application, still in draft form, was likely headed before the Commission sometime this summer.

“We’re pretty staggered at some of the results,” The Bay Foundation’s Chris Enyart said Tuesday. “We saw the site, year after year, continue to be covered in more and more native dune vegetation. We saw the site continue to build topography, build elevation, accumulate sand. And yeah, it’s a pretty staggering development over a short five years.” According to Enyart, some points of the project area that had previously been groomed along with the rest of the beach saw natural sand accumulation resulting in meter-high dunes.

“And this is all passive,” Enyart added. “This is all just letting these native dune species that are specially adapted to dune habitats, just letting them do their thing.”

According to Predock’s blog post, The Bay Foundation will be seeking a coastal development permit amendment and “once approved, visitors and residents will be able to enjoy the restored area in Santa Monica for years to come.”

The Bay Foundation and its partners — the City of Santa Monica, local landowners, California Department of Parks and Recreation and the Santa Monica chapter of the Audubon Society — will soon be seeking to add an additional five acres of protected dunes, about 1,000 yards south of the current project area.

“After a successful proof of concept in the pilot project, the Bay Foundation has been approved for a $300k grant from the Refugio Trustee council for a phase 2 Santa Monica Beach Dune restoration project,” Predock wrote. 

Plans for the expansion are in their earliest stages, Enyart described, and the Foundation, along with the City, will be securing funding, drawing up initial plans, drafting permit requests and holding stakeholder meetings over the next several months, with initial seeding not expected until fall of 2023, Enyart predicted. The additional protected acreage will surround an existing enclosure for snowy plover birds, currently managed by Audubon Society. It may also expand up to run alongside the bike path.

When the time comes for the next phase to begin, local residents will be welcomed to volunteer, Enyart said. 

“The community plays a monumental role in really all of our projects,” Enyart said. That begins with soliciting feedback about the community’s priorities when it comes to the project from the very beginning. 

“We also hold different community events where the public can actually register, come on out and actually help with the actual restoration itself, helping do things like seeding or planting at the site or removing non-native vegetation,” Enyart continued. 

The watershed program manager went on to expound on the benefits of the restoration projects.

“[These are] ways to help increase coastal resiliency to the effects of climate change, help recreate habitat for different, rare species of wildlife and plants, and help enhance beach experiences for visitors,” Enyart said.