Seacliff State Beach pier to be demolished; public farewell set for Saturday

The damaged pier at Seacliff State Beach in early January.
(Kevin Painchaud / Lookout Santa Cruz)

The pier that has connected the SS Palo Alto — aka the Cement Ship — to the shore at Seacliff State Beach will be demolished later this month after January’s storms rendered it unsalvageable, according to California State Parks. A public farewell will be held Saturday at the Aptos landmark.

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The Seacliff State Beach pier that has led to the iconic Cement Ship for nearly 100 years has seen its last days and will be demolished. Crews will begin demolition work on the Aptos site next week.

California State Parks District Superintendent Chris Spohrer told Lookout on Thursday that the department consulted its marine engineering unit to assess the damage and concluded that there was no realistic way to repair the pier: “It was a hazard, and basically failing imminently.”

He added that the torrent of atmospheric rivers that hit Santa Cruz County in January affected nearly every component of the pier. From missing pilings to broken decking, just about every part of the structure is failing.

Built in 1930 to allow access to the SS Palo Alto — aka the Cement Ship — the pier used to attract crowds from all over the coast for its many recreational features, including restaurants, a pool, a casino and plenty of partying. Since then, the pier has remained a popular vantage point for the Rio Del Mar coastline and a draw for fishing.

State Parks will hold a public farewell and Seacliff State Beach cleanup Saturday from noon to 2 p.m.

“We’re dealing with an iconic structure that’s a highly visible part of the community,” said Spohrer. “I think there’s gonna be a lot of sadness about the fact that this particular structure is so damaged that it has to come down.”

What will soon be the former site of the pier does have a future, however, but whether that is an exhibit, a rebuilt pier or another way to commemorate the structure is yet to be determined. In any event, the public will have a say in it. Spohrer said State Parks has committed to a process that includes public engagement to plan for all of the Seacliff amenities including the damaged campground, day-use area and, of course, the pier.

Now, Spohrer said, State Parks is figuring out a thoughtful way to interpret the long-standing structure and highlight its cultural significance.

The popular campground on the northwest side of Seacliff State Beach will remain closed through the end of the year, State Parks announced Thursday, noting that the state’s reservation system would contact anyone with a reservation there and issue a refund.