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Arroyo Grande to help fund study of Oceano Dunes

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Arroyo Grande plans to contribute a small amount of funding to another effort to assess the economic impacts of off-roading in the Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area (SVRA).

On June 7, Arroyo Grande City Council voted 4-1 to allocate $5,000 worth of unexpended consultant services funds to the Oceano Dunes Economic Impact Assessment, a project that Visit SLO CAL and the South County Chambers of Commerce launched earlier this year, just as the California Coastal Commission voted to ban off-roading in the dunes.

ANOTHER LOOK Visit SLO CAL and the South County Chamber of Commerce are partnering up to conduct another economic impact report on the Oceano Dunes. - FILE PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
  • File Photo By Steve E. Miller
  • ANOTHER LOOK Visit SLO CAL and the South County Chamber of Commerce are partnering up to conduct another economic impact report on the Oceano Dunes.

The study, according to Visit SLO CAL President and CEO Chuck Davison, will be conducted by a hired third party that will assess the Oceano Dunes District and the "indirect and induced" profits it brings to neighboring communities, San Luis Obispo County, and the California State Parks system. It will also attempt to identify feasible strategies to mitigate losses amid the elimination of vehicle access in the park, and potential opportunities to repurpose the park in ways that could be beneficial to the economies of surrounding communities.

"What we do know is change is in fact coming. What that looks like we're all a bit unclear on, but change is coming," Davison said at the meeting. "And so the focus of this study is really on how we mitigate that change as a successful outcome for our communities."

Councilmember Kristen Barneich, who voted against Arroyo Grande's contribution to the effort, said she feared that supporting a study headed by two organizations that previously supported at least some off-roading access in the dunes could appear biased. She also noted that community members have written off numerous similar studies as unreliable.

Visit SLO CAL, Davison responded, is doing everything it can to ensure this study will provide an accurate look at the situation.

"To your point, previous studies have been done around the dunes—those studies have been done in silos and have not been widely accepted by the community," he said. "We are working right now to build a coalition of those on all sides of this issue, to help inform the outcome and really achieve community-wide buy in, in advance of beginning that work."

Councilmember Lan George said that while Visit SLO CAL and the South County Chambers may have publicly supported off-roading in the dunes, she trusts their commitments to doing whatever necessary to help the Central Coast thrive economically.

"I see that we need to plan for the future and no matter the outcome of the Coastal Commission's decision of the lawsuits that are pending, knowledge is power. So the more information we have the better suited we'll be to pivot," George said. Δ

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