Bay Area/ San Francisco/ Parks & Nature
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Published on June 17, 2024
San Francisco's Battle Against Sands: 30,000 Cubic Yards to be Redistributed at Ocean BeachSource: San Francisco Recreation and Park Department

Starting today, the San Francisco Public Works has kicked off its somewhat Sisyphean routine of battling the elements by undertaking its annual sand maintenance at Ocean Beach. In what is a quintessential San Franciscan display of environmental management, about 30,000 cubic yards of the sandy stuff is set to be scooped up and redistributed closer to the frothy Pacific. This endeavor aims to curb the relentless encroachment of sand onto the adjacent Great Highway.

The tussle with nature will require temporarily closing southbound lanes on Great Highway between Sloat Boulevard and Lincoln Way—so you'll need to avoid the area or reroute accordingly. Those who prefer to walk or bike along the beach are being nudged to use the northbound lanes, at least while crews operate their heavy machinery, Monday through Friday from 7 AM to 4 PM. It's a small torment for drivers, sure, but it's expected to mostly straighten out the migratory sand and ensure the Great Highway doesn’t turn into the Great Sandway.

The sand-shuffling effort isn't merely for aesthetics or the convenience of motorists. There's also a ticking clock element here because the work has to get done while the local Western snowy plovers are off vacationing elsewhere for the breeding season. These protected birds, who typically lounge about Ocean Beach for much of the year, create a narrow window for the city to move the sand without infringing on their habitat. According to KRON, "Monitors with the federal Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA) have confirmed that the plovers have left Ocean Beach and that it is safe to begin relocating the sand".

Those cheesy postcards love to say "The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco." And in true local fashion, while bundling up against the June chill, you can also expect to watch big-boy toys like front-end loaders and backhoes rumble along the waterfront, reshaping our coastal geography. It's a significant project, aimed at somewhat reducing the likelihood of sand building up during our seriously windy weather. While traffic disruptions are a given, the silver lining is that the maintenance helps preserve both our infrastructure and avian friends—not too shabby for a city nestled against the forces of the Pacific.

Editor's Note: A previous version of this article misstated that the task was managed by the Recreation and Parks Department. It is handled by the Public Works Department.