The Oceano sand dune area is recognized by scientists, conservationists, government and the public as the finest, most extensive coastal dunes remaining in California. The beach and dunes offer critical habitat for endangered shorebirds and other rare plant and animal species. Unfortunately, off-highway vehicle (OHV) activity has been allowed to degrade this beautiful area for decades.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Oceano Dunes was closed in March to all vehicle activity. Since the closure, the dunes and beach have transformed into a vibrant, safe and clean environment for beachgoers of all kinds. At its earliest opportunity, California State Parks intends to reopen the park to vehicle use, which will re-impose immediate threats to wildlife, sensitive habitats and community health and safety.
People for the Dunes campaign advances a new, inclusive vision of recreation and conservation at Oceano Dunes without OHVs that will secure environmental justice for surrounding communities, ensure better protection for wildlife and the natural environment, boost the local economy and respect the area’s cultural heritage.
California State Parks has drafted a Public Works Plan, a Habitat Conservation Plan and an Environmental Impact Report. All documents must be reviewed and approved by state and/or federal agencies before they can be implemented. Until State Parks receives these approvals, the park should remain closed to OHV activity to prevent continued violations of the Endangered Species Act, the California Coastal Act and the Local Coastal Program. Aside from these statutory reasons, the COVID-19 situation demands that the beach and dunes remain closed to vehicular recreationists, most of whom come from outside the local region. During the closure, all parties should develop solutions that advance real conservation of natural resources and environmental justice for the local communities.
I implore all Commissioners to adopt recommendations that will preserve the natural resources of this extraordinary area and allow access for all.