Sand Dune Park has had an uphill climb

The sand dune is 270 feet long and 115 feet wide at the top, with an average slope of 27.7 degrees. Climbing it is a heart-pounding cardio workout, favored by professional and amateur athletes alike.

But the popularity of Manhattan Beach’s Sand Dune Park nearly did it in when nearby homeowners complained that fitness buffs were taking their parking spots, crowding their streets and leaving trash throughout the well-kept neighborhood.

The dune itself was taking a beating too, as nearly 8,000 people tackled it last July.

The city closed the dune the next month to figure out what to do. Many neighbors wanted it closed to adults, others wore “Free the Dune” T-shirts and pressed for continued access to the giant sand pile.

Last week, the City Council decided to reopen the dune, but as a far more exclusive fitness center. With a new set of regulations, the city is hoping to reduce the number of exercisers by about 75%.

The emotional battle over the dune has played out in council meetings, e-mails to city officials, letters to the local papers and dueling petitions. “Both sides are unhappy,” Councilman Richard Montgomery said Thursday. “It’s a win-win.”

Restoration of the dune will begin in a couple of weeks, and a fence with a gate will surround it. Interim City Manager Richard Thompson said he hopes the dune will be ready for use by the end of June.

“I think we solved the puzzle,” he said.

The new plan, which will be reviewed in six months or so, includes an online reservation system that will limit adult exercisers to 20 an hour, with a half-hour break before another 20 take their place. The dune hikers will start at 8 a.m. and finish at noon, then start again at 4 p.m. and go until 8. The cost of a reservation has not been established.

Children younger than 13 will not need reservations and will be allowed to use the dune until closing time. Their numbers will not be limited.

No one will be allowed on the sand on Sundays, a day of rest for the dune.

Sand Dune Park has grown over the decades from a little-known spot where locals worked out to a place where entire high school football teams would be bused in for training. It was not uncommon to see pro athletes like Lakers Kobe Bryant and Andrew Bynum, sometimes wearing weight vests.

Rumor has it, according to Richard Gill, director of parks and recreation, that the record is held by someone who climbed the dune more than 40 times in a day. Gill, who used the dune to train for a climb in Yosemite, said he once saw someone go up and down 34 times.

Cutting back on the number of exercisers will not only mollify some of the neighbors but will save the city on dune upkeep. Thompson said the goal is to reduce the number of times the city has to refurbish the dune to twice annually, down from eight the year it closed.