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California’s Hearst Castle to reopen after pandemic, damage

AP – California’s famous Hearst Castle will reopen to the public in May after a two-year closure due to the pandemic and severe rainstorm damage that prompted a USD13.7 million renovation.

The steep, curvy access road to the palatial home that media mogul William Randolph Hearst built on ranch land overlooking the Pacific was damaged by atmospheric rivers – storms fuelled by long and wide plumes of moistures pulled in from the Pacific – in 2021.

The San Luis Obispo County castle designed by architect Julia Morgan includes a 115-room main house, as well as guesthouses, pools and cultivated gardens, according to the California State Parks. Construction dates back to 1919.

The access road, which rises 503 metres over eight kilometers, was “reconstructed and re-engineered” over 10 months, according to state officials. The project included replacing and enlarging clay pipe culverts from the 1920s that had been damaged by the rainstorms. Some historic stone retaining walls were also restored by hand.

The castle sees about 850,000 visitors annually, meaning about 22,000 bus trips traverse the access road each year. Some travel as often as every 10 minutes in the summer tourism season.

“Hearst Castle is a state treasure and we are thrilled to reopen this wonder to the public to enjoy in a safe and responsible manner,” California State Parks Director Armando Quintero said in a news release. “We are confident that these once-in-a-lifetime repairs and improvements to the road facility will serve countless generations to come.”

The castle will reopen May 11.

Smoke from a wildfire billows from a ridge line behind the famed facade of Hearst Castle in San Simeon, California on August 20, 2016. PHOTO: AP