HUNTINGTON BEACH : Natural, Man-Made Woes Halt Blufftop Park Project

Improvements to the city's oceanside Blufftop Park have been put on hold because of two disasters: one natural, the other linked to the county bankruptcy, city officials said.

Heavy January rains caused erosion of the beach bluffs, undermining construction of two new trails between Golden West Street north to Bolsa Chica State Beach, Community Services Director Ron Hagan said.

Improvements would straighten the curvy trail and separate it into two pathways, one for pedestrians, the other for cyclists; replace the park's lighting system; install new safety railing along the bluff top, and add landscaping. The park parallels Pacific Coast Highway and overlooks the ocean.

Hagan said the bluff must be stabilized against further erosion before improvements are made.

"Since we have to deal with the erosion problem first, we have no choice but to put the project on hold indefinitely," Hagan said.

What's more, Hagan said, part of the money earmarked to pay for the $1.1 million in improvements is tied up in the county's frozen investment pool.

The city planned to use $800,000 in federal grant money and contribute $300,000 of city money to pay for the one-mile stretch of improvements, Hagan said.

But Hagan said the city will lose the grant money since the city's money to match the grant is in the investment pool.

The new erosion has also raised concerns for public safety, and the city will post signs along the bluff to warn people. Hagan said the existing trail will remain open.

City staff is also recommending that the City Council at Tuesday's meeting reject the nine bids submitted from contractors for construction of the park improvements.

The meeting will be Tuesday because of the Presidents Day holiday Monday.

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