Landslides threaten San Clemente

UNSTABLE SLOPE: Grading and excavating efforts attempt to stabilize the slope. (The Capistrano Dispatch)

Carly Altman | Writer

January 30, 2024

San Clemente is well-known for its beautiful coastline, as many of its beaches are encompassed by towering, breathtaking cliffs. However, these cliffs have repeatedly been susceptible to slope failures and landslides, posing a threat to San Clemente’s coastline, rail service, pedestrian trails, and homes. Just this past weekend, a major landslide occurred above Mariposa Bridge.

On Wednesday, January 24, parts of a cliff gave way, demolishing Mariposa Bridge and pushing boulders, rocks, and debris onto the train tracks that run alongside the bridge. This landslide has shut down and destroyed part of the popular pedestrian trail that was connected by the bridge, as well as halting train service between Los Angeles and San Diego. The suspension of train operation has drastically impacted commuters and regular passengers, now left without a means of transportation between the regions.

MARIPOSA BRIDGE suffers damage from the landslide. (NBC Los Angeles)

“I’m really disappointed that the landslide destroyed part of the beach trail,” explained senior Brooklyn Mcalpin. “It’s one of my personal favorites to run on, as it is right along the coast.”

Despite work to stabilize the slope, including excavating and grading efforts, the hillside is still moving and extremely unstable. With a period of heavy rain expected to begin this Thursday, recovery crews fear what this may mean for the stabilization of the region. Heavy rain has repeatedly impacted the stability of San Clemente’s cliffs, worsening the already unstable conditions. 

This situation is unfortunately not uncommon; this is the fifth time in the past three years that train services have been impacted by landslides in San Clemente. Aside from halting train service, several landslides have had significantly severe and dangerous repercussions. Within 2023, landslides left homes teetering on the edge of cliffs, as well as threatened the historic Casa Romantica Cultural Center. With the irregularity of weather, alongside the worsening coastal erosion that plagues Southern California, landslides will continue to pose a growing threat to the region.

“It’s really important for people to be educated on landslides and other natural threats,” explained junior Jenna Gellatly. “They pose a major risk to our safety and to our city’s landscape.”

As changes in the climate continue to negatively impact not only California but also the rest of the world, natural disasters such as landslides will only become more common. For the safety and protection of San Clemente’s nature, homes, and civilians, it is increasingly important for landslides and other potential natural threats to be placed at the forefront of our radar. Ultimately, it is crucial to work towards developing a long term solution to prevent further crises. These disastrous events will not be able to be prevented without an effort to bring environmental change. 

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