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Road repairs expected to keep Hearst Castle closed until early 2022

hearst castle road repairs.JPG
Posted at 5:30 PM, Jun 29, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-29 22:37:56-04

Hearst Castle is expected to reopen in early 2022.

The historic landmark in San Simeon closed on March 15, 2020, due to the pandemic. Now more than a year later, it’s still closed as State Parks tackles emergency repairs to the road that leads to the castle.

A 2.25-mile stretch of the windy, narrow road that leads to the hilltop is in need of some major repair. This comes after January’s storm dumped around 20 inches of rain on the castle coupled with 100 mile per hour winds.

“We started to identify some different issues that we had not seen before and ultimately identified that potentially we had culvert failure,” said Dan Falat, California State Parks SLO Coast District Superintendent.

Falat says there are 27 culverts along the road dating back to the 1920s or 1950s that need repair or replacement.

“The way it was first found is we identified some sinkholes in and around some of the culverts,” Falat explained.

Over the past few months, they’ve used ground-penetrating radar on the stretch of road, surveyed the drainages and culverts, and even put cameras in to collect data.

The road has since been deemed unsafe for the 16 buses that make more than 22,000 trips up and down the seven-mile-long road each year.

“We want to be 100% positive that when visitors return to the castle that they can do so in a safe manner on the buses that they take,” Falat said.

The castle is a big draw for visitors all over the globe with up to 850,000 guests annually.

The Cambria Chamber of Commerce gets questions about it daily.

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January's storm also caused damage to the interior of Hearst Castle.

“Of course, Hearst Castle is one of our destinations. One of our most important destinations and I would say at least 25-to-50% of the people are in fact coming to see Hearst Castle and coming in the doors they ask about it,” said Mary Ann Carson, Cambria Chamber of Commerce Executive Director.

State Parks says the goal is to begin the construction phase of repairs within the next couple of weeks.

But looking down the road at completion…

“Right now our estimates we believe are about six to nine months,” Falat said.

State Parks says if it were not for the culvert failures, the castle would probably be open today.

The agency has secured $550,000 for a study on the rest of the seven-mile road.