SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Pounding surf and a grey sky served as the backdrop to Monday's ribbon cutting ceremony celebrating the new boardwalk at Arroyo Burro Beach, also known as Hendry's.
"It's so much better than the other one," said Kathryn Fohrman, who drove up from Los Angeles with her daughter and two beagles. "The gravel was always a mess and everything was just hard to walk on. Now, it's a beautiful walkway. It's easier for the dogs and for their dog moms."
The wide, 2,100 square foot elevated boardwalk is constructed from recycled wood and replaces the former narrow, dirt path that was often overgrown by a border hedge and crowded with surfers, beach goers and people walking their dogs to and from the parking lot and the beach.
Aaron Cook, a ranger assigned to Arroyo Burro Beach, said he had seen the problems first hand and helped push for the boardwalk design, rather than a revamped pathway.
"I go up north a lot and had seen some boardwalks such as in Cambria," Cook said. "Nice work they have. We're in Santa Barbara. We should emulate excellence."
The project was four years in the making and stands as a landmark collaboration between the city and county and will help usher more than 1.3 million visitors each year from their cars to and from the popular local beach.
"It's great!" exclaimed Guillermo Gonzalez, who, along with colleague Susan Van Atta, helped design the boardwalk. "I love this place so I'm really happy to make it a beautiful and wonderful place."
"We like to make it more than just an access," said Van Atta. "We like to make it a place that people can be."
Highlights include viewing decks for expansive views of the ocean as people head toward the beach and kelp stair rails at the end of the parking lot near the dog wash.
"Flowing seaweed," said David Shelton. "Giant kelp, giant brown kelp."
Shelton is the Santa Barbara ironwork artist behind the ocean-infused stairway whose steel and iron work can be seen at the Santa Barbara Municipal Airport, Milpas roundabout, Ortega Street Bridge and the nearby Whale Watch.
"Make it fun," Shelton said.
Santa Barbara City Councilwoman Cathy Murillo stood by as Santa Barbara County Supervisor Janet Wolf clipped the red ribbon with oversized scissors.
"We've done the bathrooms, now we've done this," Wolf said. "Our next step is to build a ranger station."
The boardwalk project cost $567,000 dollars and was funded with Development Impact Fees and Utility savings, according to Jill Van Wie, Capital Projects Division Manager.