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Coastal Commission votes to phase out OHV at Oceano Dunes in 3 years

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Posted at 9:30 AM, Mar 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-19 12:32:35-04

UPDATE (9:03 p.m.) - The California Coastal Commission voted unanimously tonight to phase out OHV at Oceano Dunes in three years.

Ten voting commissioners were part of tonight's discussion. They originally had wanted to phase out OHV over the next five years, but at the meeting, it was amended to three years.

Nighttime vehicular use will be prohibited except in camping sections in the park unless restricted by other prohibitions. Pier Avenue will also be closed July 1, 2022 instead of July 1, 2021.


ORIGINAL STORY: The biggest changes to the Oceano Dunes in 100 years could soon be announced.

The California Coastal Commission hearing on the future of the Oceano Dunes started at 9 a.m. on Thursday, continuing into the evening.

Two million people visit the Oceano Dunes annually.

This year, the Coastal Development Permit is up for evaluation but this time, Coastal Commission staff want the popular spot closed to off-highway vehicles for good.

Staff says OHV use is unlawful in environmentally sensitive habitat areas under the California Coastal Act and it's not consistent with local coastal programs.

"It's having significant detrimental impacts on beach and dune habitats as well as significant impacts on air quality and public health underserved in adjacent communities and sacred tribal areas," said Kevin Kahn, Coastal Commission Central Coast District Supervisor.

The Coastal Commission says State Parks did not follow commission suggestions in its public works plan to phase out OHV over five years, discontinue nighttime OHV riding, and discontinue vehicle crossing of Arroyo Grande Creek.

"So it no longer makes sense to defer to State Parks without the Commission taking action under the CDP renewal process," Kahn said.

State Parks wants to maintain OHV use and expand near Oso Flaco Lake, making infrastructure upgrades near there and the Phillips 66 property.

The agency says discontinuing OHV use would disrupt State Parks' mission.

"The PWP is designed to help us work together to balance protection of public resources for future generations," said Armando Quintero, California State Parks Director.

Quintero said OHV use is compatible with the Coastal Act and LCPs.

State Parks says the habitat conservations, particulate matter reduction, and biodiversity management plans are also used for guidance on conservation, operations, and development projects.

Meanwhile, more than 180 elected officials, organizations, and community members on both sides shared their thoughts.

"We feel that most of the park can remain open and meet the air quality requirements," said Gary Willey, Executive Director of the San Luis Obispo County Air Pollution Control District.

"Today, we see the destruction of our sacred lands, we find that our lands are being turned into a toxic waste dump," said Fred Collins, Northern Chumash Tribal Council Tribal Chair.

Others pointed to environmental impacts.

"Causes significant health risks for local residents and tramples on Mother Nature," said a member of Concerned Citizens for Clean Air.

Some argued against the overstepping of powers.

"The CCC's proposed action exceeds its authority," said Karen Suty of Friends of Oceano Dunes. "It's arbitrary and capricious and fails to proceed in a manner required by law, is not supported by substantial evidence and prejudicially abuses its discretion."

Testimony was passionate.

"Please do not believe that State Parks will comply in five years. It did not in 40 years. What makes you think now that it will comply with this big and long transitional plan that has no milestones in reduction and no accountability," said a representative for the Oceano Beach Community Association.

While others pointed to what the decision means to the community.

"Our lives are being held in your hands. Your decisions will have long and lasting negative effects on us. How will you sleep at night knowing that you have destroyed our way of life?," questioned a representative of Beach.Drive.Ride.

"This beach belongs to the people of Oceano and Guadalupe and they have every right to enjoy the quiet enjoyment of it," said a local resident.

For more background on the Coastal Commission staff report, click here.