The conservancy board awarded the grant at its Oct. 3 meeting in Fort Bragg, said Tim Duff, project manager with the conservancy. The San Luis Obispo County Planning Commission approval of the park improvements has been appealed to the Board of Supervisors, which will hear it Nov. 5.
Two local residents, Sean Shealy and Brian LoConte, have appealed the project on a variety of environmental issues. The project could be further appealed to the California Coastal Commission.
If the appeal is denied, the county parks department would construct the project over a 90-day period next summer.
The $1.5 million project calls for a new half-mile segment of the California Coastal Trail from Cave Landing Road to Shell Beach, an improved parking lot, new restrooms, beach access path and stairway.
The 55-acre park includes a popular clothing-optional beach. Planners estimate that more than 100 people visit the park each day during nice weather.
This project is a high priority for the Coastal Conservancy because it will provide a critical link in the California Coastal Trail by connecting existing trail segments in Avila, Shell and Pismo beaches, Duff wrote in a staff report.
The trail will be 12 feet wide and will include a 30-foot bridge across a natural drainage. The parking lot will be able to accommodate 70 cars and will have unloading space for vans and buses.
The county acquired the park in 2008 and has been working with the Coastal Conservancy, California Department Fish and Wildlife, and the San Luis Obispo Council of Governments to provide funding. The annual cost to maintain the park is estimated to be $40,000.