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Safe Trestles : The Long Trail

Competition Finalist for: Safe Trestles

A Light Touch

The path floats just above the landscape.

We know and respect the site, appreciate its natural beauty, and understand its ecological sensitivity. Our design proposal is responsive to these concerns and solves event and daily operational considerations and technical grading requirements.

Our approach is straight forward incorporating ADA access and providing a safe at-grade crossing. The path follows the topography by tracing desire lines. Existing use patterns are utilized for a minimal footprint of path infrastructure. This strategy encourages ecological restoration, reduces runoff, improves water quality, and provides additional habitat.

The form of the path is inspired by the anatomy of a wave and the beauty of the ocean. Outlooks provide opportunity for views and interpretation. Materials are selected that will stand up the physical conditions of the site and have minimal embedded energy.

As a world class surf destination beneficiaries of the project include the world’s best competitive surfers, local surfers, joggers, nature enthusiasts, spectators, cyclists, and day hikers.

follow desire paths
Materials are selected with low embedded energy. Overlooks and platforms are designed as pause points where interpretation and seating are incorporated. Accessibility is achieved by modifying the existing paving and adding parking which meets ADA Standards. The pathway is maximum of 5% for the entire run. Safety is achieved by controlling crossing at a single point at-grade crossing. Restrooms and drinking fountains are located at the beach trail head.

The strategy is to site the path utilizing the existing path and desire lines of the users. This objective minimizes further site disturbance, and allows restoration of the ecologies. In addition, this will prohibit people from using current path. This controls access points allowing the damaged landscape to restore.

respect the users
As a world class surf destination users include the world’s best competitive surfers, local surfers, joggers, nature enthusiasts, spectators, cyclists, and day hikers. The path alignment and slope respects these users current use patterns, desire lines, and access.

An at grade crossing is provided in the foot print of the existing desire path while access is controlled along the railroad tracks where current pathways exist. Channelization fencing via a cable rail system similar to one used at Beach Trail extends beyond the dry season access points in combination with rock rip rap to discourage crossings. A gate arm assembly notifies pedestrians of an oncoming train. All required regulations and standards will be met in the design of this crossing.

universal access
Universal access is achieved by providing four handicap spaces at the trail head, a consistent slope of 4.9% on the floating boardwalk trail and 2% maximum at the safe rail crossing.

slope : existing path
The existing path from the trail head to the crossing has sections which are steeper than what is allowed for universal access. In addition, the average slope is steeper than what is permitted as a pathway without landings and handrails.

slope : proposed path
Slopes are the primary and most significant factor informing the layout of the path and location of ADA parking.

The point of departure determines the run of the path to an at-grade track crossing at 16’. This effort disproved many ideas and leads us to our design solution.

Our approach is to place the trail head at elevation 54’ creating an elevated boardwalk that bridges over corn dog hill and gracefully follows the slope down to the at grade rail crossing. Our elevated boardwalk is 4.9% slope and at its maximum is 8’ above existing grade.

Ecological restoration is a key benefit of this design approach. By lifting the path above the grade we are able to greatly reduce runoff and erosion and allow habitat and native plantings to be restored. In addition, by controlling access and channelizing users restoration is achievable by limiting off trail pedestrian use. Water quality during events when parking is allowed is enhanced by means of bio filtration features.

education and interpretation
Education and interpretation are key elements of this design. Interpretation fosters preservation, understanding, and respect. New forms of media should be used in combination with pictorial representations. Topics of education and interpretation include: ecological systems, surfing wall of fame, the politics of surfing trestles, wave dynamics, and Juaneño / Acagchemem people.

circulation : event
Circulation during an event includes the addition of vehicles to the trail head area. This design proposes to move bicycle circulation to the beach side of the drive lane. Drop off and service routes are maintained.

circulation : daily
Circulation during daily use is the most common. This design utilizes current user desire lines and improves then for safety while enhancing ecological benefits and interpretative opportunities.

material and structure
The structural design strategically locates supports in the least invasive way. Variations in span length achieve clear distances of between 20 and 40 feet. Single reinforced concrete piles function as pylons upon which the bridge spans are supported. Two parallel structural steel center beams span between supports with intermediate transverse link beams at each handrail stanchion. The transverse structural steel beams are chamfered at their ends to produce a visually thin profile. Cladding panels enclose the perimeter edge condition to provide a clean look to the bridge edge and handrail attachment.

Materials are selected which can be sourced and assembled locally. The simplicity of the design allows for easy erection and long-term maintenance, requiring few, if any, specialist skills or tools.

The deck is composed of plank material sourced for its durability, maintenance, and sustainability. A variety of materials were evaluated on these terms and FSC certified sustainably harvested redwood was selected. Handrail assemblies consist of structural steel stanchions spaced at regular intervals with a FSC certified sustainably harvested hardwood handrails, selected for its quality of ‘feel’ to the hand. Internal to the wood handrail a steel bar to stiffens the handrail and provides improved structural continuity across the stanchions. Stainless steel cables run parallel to the handrail to complete the handrail assembly.


San Clemente, California
United States


Competition Category Entered

Competition Details

  • Name: Safe Trestles
  • Host: Architecture for Humanity
  • Type: Public
  • Registration Deadline: April 17, 2010
  • Submission Deadline: April 17, 2010
  • Entry Fee: $20
  • Award: up to 5 Finalists: each awarded Phase 2 design stipend of $5,000.00+
  • Contact: alix o
  • Status: Winners Annouced

The competition entry ID for this project is 6678.

Project Details

NAME: Safe Trestles : The Long Trail
PROJECT LEAD: Ken Smith Landscape Architect
LOCATION: San Clemente, California, United States
START DATE: March 02, 2010
SIZE: 1000000 sq. ft
PROJECT TYPE: Landscapes/Parks/Outdoor Spaces
LANDSCAPE ARCHITECT: Ken Smith Landscape Architect
CIVIL ENGINEER: Fuscoe Engineers
SITE: Green Shield Ecology
BENEFICIARIES: As a world class surf destination beneficiaries of the project include the world’s best competitive surfers, local surfers, joggers, nature enthusiasts, spectators, cyclists, and day hikers.


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About Our Partners


San Onofre Foundation is a charitable organization whose mission is to provide education, protection, and preservation for the California State Parks at San Onofre and San Clemente State Beaches.

The Surfrider Foundation is a non-profit environmental organization dedicated to the protection and enjoyment of the world's oceans, waves and beaches for all people, through conservation, activism, research and education.

Architecture for Humanity is a charitable organization that seeks architectural solutions to humanitarian crisis and brings design services to communities in need. We believe that where resources and expertise are scarce, innovative, sustainable and collaborative design can make a difference.

Rebuild is the San Diego chapter of Architecture for Humanity, providing solutions to problems that face communities on a local and global level through participation in design competitions, initiating their own projects, and working together with other humanitarian and non-profit organizations.


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