Huntington's beach going to get a bit bigger

On Saturday morning, Surf City will add a few more yards to its array of world-famous beaches.

However, they won't much resemble the sandy paradise that Jan and Dean immortalized in song — not yet, anyway.

The strip of shore, which runs alongside the Huntington Harbour Bay Club and faces a marina in the harbor, looks more suited for rugged camping than catching a wave. The hard ground is pocked with rodent holes and gravel, and an expanse of dried vegetation stretches out behind green pickleweed that has sprouted up alongside the water.

"It's not what I would call ideal," said Orange County Coastkeeper staff attorney Colin Kelly, whose group recently took charge of public access to the property. "It's not a beach that I would take a visitor to. But it's a good piece of property for transport, meaning if you want to jump in your kayak and want a place to launch it, that would be a good place to do that."

Coastkeeper, a nonprofit dedicated to fighting pollution and protecting marine habitats, plans to celebrate the reopening of public access to the beach Saturday. The land, although privately owned, is available to the public through an agreement with the state.

At 9 a.m., Coastkeeper officials plan to host a short ceremony, while a paddleboard meet-up group run by local dealer SUP-Position is expected to paddle in to symbolize the area's availability for kayaking, paddling, fishing and other activities.

In 1988, when the California Coastal Commission approved a development permit for property owner Ben Ahadpour, it mandated in exchange that he offer public access to the beach — also known as an easement — if anyone requested it in the next 21 years. The California State Coastal Conservancy asked Coastkeeper in 2009 to take over public access.

Ahadpour, who also owns the Bay Club at 4121 Warner Ave. and its neighboring marina along with his family, did little with the beach over the last two decades beyond cleaning it. The 21-year time period had nearly run out when Coastkeeper took over the land; otherwise, the possibility of public access would have been lost.

Ahadpour, who hosts weddings and other private events in the Bay Club, said he had no objection to the easement.

"I've never had a problem with the public using it," he said. "The only reason it wasn't is because no one accepted the offer."

A management plan drafted in April 2010 by Coastkeeper, the Coastal Commission and Coastal Conservancy gave Coastkeeper the responsibility of adding sand and vegetation, but the parties rejected that plan as too expensive. In addition, the parties considered the beach to have been adequately restored already, according to Linda Locklin, a coastal access program manager for the Coastal Commission.

Ahadpour said he essentially left the beach alone after that plan was discussed because of uncertainty over whether he or Coastkeeper would maintain the grounds.

Now that the beach will become a launching site, Ahadpour plans to meet with an architect and Coastal Commission staff Thursday to discuss possible improvements.

"We'll talk about it when we meet with them and see where we go from there," he said.

The latest management plan, which was drafted recently and is awaiting signatures from the parties involved, declares that Coastkeeper is responsible for maintenance and liability of the easement. However, it does not give the nonprofit authority to make changes on the grounds themselves.

In addition to the beach, the easement area includes a stretch of boardwalk around the marina. As part of the arrangement, a metal gate separating the beach from the parking lot will be removed and the public will have access to 10 parking spaces next to the beach.

Twitter: @MichaelMillerHB

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