Esther Kang

After years of hurdles, ‘Pathway to Sea’ in Manhattan Beach is finally complete

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98-year-old Evelyn Frey stands on the cul de sac of Pathway to Sea, which she has lobbied for since 2007. Photos by Esther Kang

98-year-old Evelyn Frey stands on the cul de sac of Pathway to Sea, which she has lobbied for since 2007. Photos by Esther Kang

For 98-year-old Manhattan Beach resident Evelyn Frey, one of her hometown legacies will be a very significant slab of concrete.

On Friday morning, about 30 people gathered on the beach in El Porto with a reason to celebrate: nearly seven years since she first proposed the idea, Frey’s Pathway to Sea materialized at last.

The new handicap-friendly walkway is a 70-foot-long and 7-foot-wide cul de sac extending from the bike path on 42nd Street in El Porto. It reaches about halfway across the sand toward the ocean, extending about 150 feet from the high tide line.

Evelyn Frey at the Pathway to Sea ribbon-cutting ceremony Friday. Photos by Esther Kang

Evelyn Frey at the Pathway to Sea ribbon-cutting ceremony Friday. Photos by Esther Kang

“Everyone who sees it says we’ll add onto it,” Frey said after the ribbon-cutting ceremony. “What they do in the future is not up to me. It’s been a long haul but I think it was worthwhile.”

Frey, who lives two blocks from the ocean, is energetic and walks without a cane. But trudging through the deep sand to reach the water posed a challenge for the lifelong Manhattan Beach resident. She believed she couldn’t be the only one in this predicament, so in 2007 she proposed the idea of a beach walkway to the city.

In the following seven years, Frey faced a number of hurdles. She had purchased and donated a portable pathway called MobyMat, which some San Diego beaches use. But the County’s Department of Beaches and Harbor adamantly opposed the idea, citing liability issues. So Frey donated the MobyMat to the Wounded Warrior Battalion West at Camp Pendleton for its ocean therapy program serving veterans with PTSD. In Manhattan Beach, the plan called for a concrete pathway, which the City Council approved in April 2012.

This past January, city staff submitted a Memorandum of Understanding to be approved by the County, and in the following month the Council approved $50,000 from Measure R, a ballot measure passed by voters in 2008 to fund transportation projects and capital improvement. Construction was completed over Memorial Day weekend.

Manhattan Beach Councilman Wayne Powell and Mayor Amy Howorth congratulate Evelyn Frey on her perseverence

Manhattan Beach Councilman Wayne Powell and Mayor Amy Howorth congratulate Evelyn Frey on her perseverence

About 30 people, including local club presidents, council members, friends and family members, celebrated the new walkway with Frey Friday

About 30 people, including local club presidents, council members, friends and family members, celebrated the new walkway with Frey Friday

The scene of the ribbon-cutting ceremony

The scene of the ribbon-cutting ceremony

Evelyn Frey with the Manhattan Beach City Council

Evelyn Frey with the Manhattan Beach City Council

“We’re so proud of you — you’re an example to us,” Neptunian Women’s Club president Elaine Trotter told Frey during the ceremony. “There was something to be done, and you went to it.”

With her son Tim, close friends, fellow residents and city council members looking on, Frey leaned in.

“But I’m not running for office,” she quipped, launching everyone into laughter.