The recent offer by the State of California to purchase Oceano Dunes property owned by San Luis Obispo County has sparked significant discussion and emotion in recent weeks. Supervisor Katcho Achadjian has stepped up to the plate again. He has organized town hall meetings and a Dunes Task Force to gather thoughts and ideas on the matter before it goes to the Board of Supervisors. I believe Task Force members made a very serious effort to learn as much as possible and gave voice to issues and concerns related to the disposition of the property.
Discussions revealed the deep divide that exists over matters of access, regulations, uses, control, past failures, history, habitats, and area economics. I realize that the perfect solution for some is to completely close the beach to all vehicles, forever. That solution is a lot like asking everyone who now lives in a beachfront property on the Strand to give up his or her house and tear it down so that nature can take its course, which is a perfectly imperfect solution. However, I believe that in every set of problems lies opportunity for creative solutions.
Certainly this is the time for creative thought and energy in light of the cash offer on the table. In our last Task Force meeting, I suggested that we support the sale of the property. Further, that the county use the funds to construct an entrance the county would own and control, south of the creek outlet, connecting Silver Spur Road, up and over the dunes, landing at the head end of the designated riding area. Entry to Silver Spur would be off Hwy. 1 at 22nd Street in Oceano on improved roadway. The idea of a direct access across the dunes was not included in a recently conducted Alternate Access Study.
Assuming we own the entrance and infrastructure, we should charge a fee to use it. My proposal would restrict the campers and OHV riders from the Pier Avenue and Grand Avenue entrances. Day-use vehicle circulation would still be permitted between Pier and Grand Avenue. With this plan, NO vehicles would ever go south across the mouth of the creek again. Snowy plover protection would be increased at the mouth of the creek. High-speed volumes of traffic on the beach would be eliminated. Walking and safe access for pedestrians and children would return to the area from Pier Avenue south to the creek. Noise and emergency vehicles would no longer affect the quiet enjoyment of beachfront property owners. Revenues generated could be used to offset the many impacts to Oceano, in addition to funding creek habitat improvement and creek flood channel maintenance.
This approach would require many stakeholders to agree and work together for a long-term plan. Yes, Pier Avenue businesses could be affected. The business mix would no doubt change over time. I see opportunity to assist existing OHV business owners with relocation assistance to other commercial-zoned areas. As an end result, the OHV activity would not conflict with ordinary visitors and visitor-serving businesses. Maybe it will occur to us that the crush of campers on the beach could be reduced or eliminated by development of new RV camping facilities with sanitary hookups along Silver Spur Road. Holding tank discharge on the beaches could be eliminated.
Yes, it would take time to get all of this done. The opportunity is before us. How can we not come together?
Norm Getty is a retired Oceano resident and recently served as a member of the Dunes Task Force.