CoastLlines: 50 Years of San Clemente Interfaces with RRs

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Fred swegles

By Fred Swegles

Can you imagine how our beaches would have been wiped out had the State of California implemented a 2002 plan to double the rail corridor through San Clemente?

What would we have left now? And what will be left to us if more and more railroad rocks rise forever along our beaches?

I remembered 2002 walking the Beach Trail last week as construction crews added rocks to pre-existing rock piles on the railroad between Mariposa Point and North Beach.

A few weeks ago, rail service through town had been shut down so crews could add significantly to a massive rock dike at Cotton’s Point, at the south end of San Clemente.

The September storm waves had bounced off the rocks, flooding the track bed and threatening to flood passing trains with swift slicks of water.

But then, why also throw more rocks protecting the trains in North Beach? I hiked the beach trail daily, inspecting the rock piles and saw no water drop near the rocks as I approached North Beach.

It’s not a big wave spot.

Cotton’s Point is San Clemente’s most renowned big wave reef, sending us our most intense waves generated by Southern Hemisphere storms across the Pacific.

Mariposa in North Beach gets no such thing. How many more rocks will be dumped there or someday all over our beach?

Fifty years ago, the city wanted to move the railroad inland behind San Clemente.


In 1969, the city argued to state and federal governments that the tracks posed a danger to those accessing the beach, that trains from Santa Fe brought very few passengers to San Clemente, and that Santa Fe might soon consider ” a new high-speed line. as currently operating in the East ”, the Daily Sun-Post reported.

In 1972, the town hall asked Governor Ronald Reagan to allocate $ 100,000 for a feasibility study. The newspaper said: “It has never been done. The costs of rail relocation were considered prohibitive.

In 1998, the city came up with a controversial design for a beach path – a cobbled walkway, perched on top of the railroad rocks, at the edge of the railroad tracks. An opposition group, De-Rail the Trail, disliked the urbanized design of the city, saying it would only add ugly urbanization, so don’t and try to get rid of the urbanized coastal railroads. .

The group ended up working with the city, positively redesigning the beach path in rustic, landscaped and decorated elements and the resulting dirt path.

The Orange County Transportation Authority, which acquired the old Santa Fe rail corridor as part of the Metrolink operation, now provided many services to San Clemente. The tracks had been there for so long, would be incredibly expensive to move, and any attempt to move the railroad would impact any interior road, OCTA said.


In 2002, the city learned that Caltrans and a California high-speed rail authority were planning a $ 25 billion, 700-mile state-wide bullet train to include a dual track through San Clemente. .

San Clemente, Dana Point and San Juan Capistrano have united to fight it. Try to imagine what a double track would do, ripping up the Pier Bowl area and stripping our entire beach.

San Juan Capistrano complained that the double tracking would tear and destroy downtown San Juan’s charming historic district, cultural resources and businesses.

The High Speed ​​Rail Authority abandoned the dual track concept and considered alternative domestic routes between San Juan and San Onofre, possibly including tunnels.

Then, for the 2008 election, the state proposed a reduced bond measure of $ 9.95 billion to build a high-speed train, connecting San Francisco to Los Angeles, not south. The measure has passed.

The project is at a standstill and sorely underfunded.

But what are the chances that railroad rocks will continue to be added to still unarmed sections of San Clemente Beach?


In 2001, San Clemente applied for a federal sand replenishment project between Linda Lane Beach and south of T-Street. The city has participated in extensive public forums with the Army Corps of Engineers. Residents didn’t want jetties, just repeated restocking.

The plan is to dredge sand which has been tested by the Army Corps from the seabed off the north end of Oceanside to deposit 251,000 cubic meters on the beach – to be repeated every six years or so, at need, being watched from time to time. , over a replenishment period of 50 years.

The Army corps could finally be under construction for the first replenishment of the San Clemente Coastline Project if federal funding is released this year. In July, Representative Mike Levin announced a Senate appropriation request of $ 9.3 million.

Fred Swegles grew up in San Clemente before the freeway. He has 50 years of experience reporting in the city and can be contacted at [email protected]

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