Gogona Avenue stairs open for public use

Public works employees complete the top portion of the wooden handrail. Though more work needs to be done on the Gogona Avenue beach access stair project, the stairs themselves (consisting of both concrete and galvanized steel segments) are now usable.

After a summer of redesigns, permitting delays and scheduling conflicts with subcontractors, the new beach access stairway on Gogona Avenue is open for use.

The entire project is still unfinished, Public Works Director Dan Grassick said. A viewing bench is waiting to be installed, and the city doesn’t have a time frame on that portion.

But the good news is that Gogona has a functional beach access once again — complete with new cedar handrails — and neither visitors nor residents need to use the access point at Gulcana Avenue to reach the beach.

The original plan was to replace a set of wooden stairs that were both a safety hazard and a “maintenance nightmare” for the city, Grassick said. Had all things come to pass as planned, the new concrete-and-steel stairs would have been finished between June and July.

But once the old steps were removed and the public works crew discovered that the land beneath the old stairs was different than expected, the new stairs changed from a “replacement” project that would have cost $19,000 to a “redesign” project that cost $27,000.

“We had no idea what we were going to find until we pulled the steps out,” Grassick said. “And when we pulled the steps out, we were committed.”

The redesign triggered additional permitting requirements from the state Parks and Recreation Department, a delay that all by itself pushed back the completion date by about a month.

Meanwhile, the subcontractors responsible for providing the steel and concrete elements had moved on to other clients. When that happen in the construction business, “you’re going to be hard-pressed to get them back on schedule,” he said.

As the stair project kept getting drawn out, some residents and second-homeowners in the neighborhood became upset with the city because they had no idea when the project would be completed.

A handful of residents on Pacific Street called for more communication and better communication from the city when snags like this occur.

However, not everyone in the area was concerned about the hold-up.

“Actually, it didn’t bother me,” said Nancy Peters, a resident on Gogona.

During the summer, she did notice that people would park their cars on Gogona, expecting a beach access to be there, and would just leave their cars while they made a beeline for the Gulcana access 270 feet south.

Similarly, a Gogona resident north of Peters, who asked that her name not be used, said she didn’t really care, either.

“There are so many other accesses,” she said, adding that at least the access on Gulcana, which doesn’t have a staircase, allows people to roll their bikes onto the beach.

She said she thinks the new Gogona stairs provide more safety.

She noticed that the bottom two steps of the old wooden staircase would often get broken or “washed out,” so users would set a stump down to act as a substitute step.

“I could just see someone taking a tumble,” she said.

Grassick said this was point of replacing the old stairs.

“I think the locals will enjoy the new stairs a tad more than the former set,” Grassic said in an email. They will be sturdier, have a more comfortable rise and run, and will have no loose treads, he added.

“Plus the bottom steps end right on the beach.”

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