APTOS, Calif. (KRON) — An iconic landmark on Santa Cruz County’s coast will be torn down next week and a “farewell ceremony” will be held on Saturday, state officials confirmed. Seacliff State Beach’s pier was pummeled beyond repair by January’s atmospheric-river rainstorms and monster ocean swells.

“Seacliff State Beach has been beloved for generations,” said California State Parks District Superintendent Chris Spohrer. “State Parks looks forward to working with the community, scientists, and environmental stewards to build resilience to sea-level rise and extreme event impacts so that more generations can continue to fall in love with Seacliff State Beach.”

News of the pier’s imminent demolition triggered a sense of loss for Aptos locals.

Half of the pier collapsed during 2023’s “parade of storms,” and the remaining half is on the verge of collapsing. (Image courtesy California State Parks)
The pier at Seacliff State Beach is seen in 2018. (Photo by Autumn Fry)

“I feel like it’s going to leave that park naked. It’s like cutting down an old growth redwood tree,” Aptos resident Brad Kava said.

For decades, the pier provided a place to fish, go for a walk, soak in ocean views, snap photographs, and spot ocean wildlife. “The pier gives you a different perspective to see the ocean and wildlife. I’ve seen dolphins and whales. One time we saw a whole school of baby sharks,” Kava said.

On January 5, when 35-five-foot-high waves slammed into the pier and the “Cement Ship,” half of the pier collapsed into the ocean. Strong ocean currents carried pier pilings for miles to beaches farther south.

Parks officials wrote, “The damage to the public-serving infrastructure is extensive and has impacted the ability for State Parks to provide the standard recreational opportunities visitors have experienced in the past. The most extensive damage within the state beach is at the pier, campground, and seawall.”

President Joe Biden and Governor Gavin Newsom toured storm damages along the beaches last month and pledged state and federal funding for cleanup efforts.

Many longtime Santa Cruz County residents have fond childhood memories of walking across the pier to the SS Palo Alto, nicknamed the “Cement Ship.”

President Joe Biden is joined by California Governor Gavin Newsom as he tours storm damages at the pier at Seacliff State Beach in Aptos, Calif., on Jan. 19, 2023. (Jessica Christian /San Francisco Chronicle via AP)

The ship was also thrashed by storm-generated winter swells and it’s now considered a reef for sea life. Despite its nickname, the ship was built out of concrete in 1917 at a U.S. Naval shipyard in Oakland. Wartime steel shortages required the use of cement for construction.

The ship was docked in Oakland until 1929, when she made a maiden voyage and settled on the bottom of the ocean at Seacliff State Beach. It appears that the ship will remain as a reef on the ocean floor after the pier is destroyed.

Severe Weather California
Powerful waves hammer the “Cement Ship” on Thursday, Jan. 5, 2023, in Capitola, Calif. (Shmuel Thaler / The Santa Cruz Sentinel via AP)

Rising sea levels and climate change will weigh heavily over how plans are drawn for rebuilding the coastline. “The historic storms that impacted California’s communities this winter and damaged Seacliff State Beach are evidence of a new reality,” parks officials wrote.

California State Parks officials released the following key updates for Seacliff State Beach Thursday:

The Pier

Recent storms destroyed over half of the pier and severely damaged the remaining structure. Parks officials and structural engineers assessed the integrity of the remaining pier structure. “The final assessment determined that damage to the pier is extensive, and the remaining structure is in a state of imminent collapse and should be removed as soon as possible. Demolition will take place this month,” parks officials wrote. Crews will begin demolishing the pier next week.

The Campground

The campground at Seacliff State Beach is a popular beachfront camping destination unlike anywhere else on the Central Coast, park officials said. January’s storms destroyed nearly all of the campground’s seawall and much of the fill material. Underground utilities were lost to the sea, as was the parking lot. Landslides from the bluffs on the inland side of the campground also continue to crumble. As State Parks navigates the cleanup and hazard-mitigation effort, staff will continue to focus on options to restore limited public access.

Storm debris in the campground area will be removed this month. The campground will stay closed through the remainder of 2023.

Farewell ceremony and future of Seacliff

The public is encouraged to attend a farewell planned in conjunction with the Seacliff State Beach cleanup on Saturday from noon to 2 p.m. Volunteers can meet for a cleanup effort in the upper parking lot at noon. The farewell will be held on the pavement in front of the pier at the conclusion of the cleanup.

The local community, including community members, local businesses, community organizations, and the co-management partner Friends of Santa Cruz State Parks, “stepped up in amazing ways to support Seacliff State Beach,” park officials wrote. Following the imminent cleanup and safety work, a public process will be established for the recovery effort at Seacliff State Beach.