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A quiet space

Can we keep Oso Flaco Lake as a peaceful place?

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     When despair for the world grows in me
     and I wake in the night at the least sound
     in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,
     I go and lie down where the wood drake
     rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
     I come into the peace of wild things
     who do not tax their lives with forethought
     or grief. I come into the presence of still water.
     And I feel above me the day-blind stars
     waiting with their light. For a time
     I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

This poem, "The Peace of Wild Things," by Wendell Berry, captures perfectly my experience at a most special place in our county, Oso Flaco Lake. Oso Flaco is home to myriad wild things, among them several hundred species of birds—some reside here year-round; others come to breed or overwinter; and many pass through on migratory journeys, sometimes of thousands of miles.

Migratory birds need quiet, safe places where they can rest and feed in preparation for the next stage of their journey. Coastal wetlands are vital stopovers for migrants, yet California has lost at least 90 percent of its coastal wetlands to development. Now, State Parks plans to transform Oso Flaco with a 200-plus-space campground, staging areas for OHVs, and new lanes in the vehicle dunes. This will bring crowds, noise, litter, and pollution, depriving Oso Flaco's wild things of a clean, secure habitat. It will deprive visitors like me of serenity and calm.

Simply, it will destroy Oso Flaco.

People who require quiet, uncrowded places for the restoration of their souls may be in the minority, but we deserve recreational spaces as much as anyone else. Few places suitable for us are left: reservoirs, campgrounds, and beaches teem with folks enjoying the hubbub of crowds, undeterred by the noise and emissions of automobiles, ATVs, speedboats, and jet skis.

I humbly ask folks to leave us a share of recreational space that is good both for our souls and for the lives of a thousand wild creatures. You may have to sacrifice a portion of space—in this case, some acres of dunes available for cruising—but please be mindful of the fact that we have had to sacrifice many spaces that others enjoy.

Oso Flaco is very small compared to the hundreds of acres in our county devoted to busier pursuits. Let us keep this tiny gem.

An overview of the planned development is available on the state's Off-Highway Motor Vehicle Recreation website under the Oceano Dunes SVRA tab.

Opportunities for public comment are outlined at oceanodunespwp.com/en/meetings. Public comment on the plan closes on Jan. 24. Δ

Johanna Rubba writes to New Times from Grover Beach. Send comments through the editor at clanham@newtimesslo.com or write a response for publication and email it to letters@newtimesslo.com.

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