Access to State Park Road off of South Bay Boulevard has been closed since March.
In March, the coronavirus pandemic resulted in the temporary closure of California State Park campgrounds. By July, 87 of the 105 were open in some capacity; Morro Bay’s was not on the list.
The Morro Bay Golf Course, a county facility located in the park, is open to all county residents with social distancing encouraged, but the campground and the Museum of Natural history are closed.
“When that [closures] came down, we had discussions with headquarters all the way around,” said California State Parks District Superintendent Dan Falat said. “We came to the conclusion that we are not authorized to open under those parameters because in order for us to open, we have to be open to all members of the State of California.
“One of the original plans was that the entire park would be closed, but we ended up talking with the City and working with County and County Public Health and looked at the impacts holistically.”
The County, itself, has camping options available for local residents at Lopez Lake, Santa Margarita Lake, Coastal Dunes RV Park and Oceano Memorial Park. While perhaps not inclined to camp so close to home, locals have questioned why State Park Road, which cuts through the park between South Bay Boulevard and Main Street, remains closed.
“By closing it down, it allows folks from the community opportunities for recreation. We wanted to offer those opportunities for folks to get out and recreate, but still be able to maintain the social distancing,” Falat said. “We don’t have a whole lot of accessible places, and that road, being very flat and wide with two lanes, allowed folks to go hike and bike and utilize the park in ways that they may not have been able to given all the constraints and all the concerns surrounding the pandemic.”
Between both the upper and lower portions of the road, folks can get in about 2-miles worth of exercise. There are currently no plans to keep the road closed permanently.
Another reason for the road closure was to alleviate traffic congestion from people unaware that the campground is closed having to maneuver turning around after coming upon a roadblock.
“We have a lot of a lot of traffic not just from the local community, there is a lot of tourist traffic,” Falat said. “We want to create a traffic pattern.”
Possibly of news to locals, the cut-through on State Park Road is not any shorter.
“We’ve even looked at that holistically,” Falat said. “What’s the fastest route to get to the center of Morro Bay? Surprisingly enough, it is actually is faster to go around then cut through the park.”
State Parks, the County, County Public Health and the City of Morro Bay meet routinely to discuss the situation. The opening of the entire park is still on the table.
“Right now we are closed, through September 15, and we will reevaluate that as we have throughout this entire incident.” Falat said. “The good thing is that we’ve allowed portions of it to be open. That was one consideration early on. There are needs and uses for the residents as well as the visitors that are here, and I think, collectively between all agencies that are in the recreational business, we’ve done a good job of balancing that whole thing.”
Throughout 2019, the135 campsites and two group camp areas in Morro Bay State Park were booked 116,857 times.