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OHV driving ban temporarily lifted while Superior Court weighs lawsuit

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California State Parks settled on an agreement with Friends of Oceano Dunes on Dec. 17 to temporarily prevent the closures of the Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area (SVRA) and the entrance to Pier Avenue. Officials also agreed to pause the ban on crossing Arroyo Grande Creek. This agreement will stay in place until a San Luis Obispo Superior Court judge rules on Friends' lawsuit against the California Coastal Commission.

"State Parks has stopped canceling camping reservations in the park. It is important to note that if Arroyo Grande Creek reaches 12 inches in depth or more, vehicle access and camping will be restricted, and reservations will again be subject to cancellation under those conditions," said State Parks Information Officer Adeline Yee. "Camping reservations between Dec. 24 and 28 that did not receive a cancellation notice are still valid and will be honored."

Yee added that Arroyo Grande Creek is currently nonexistent with the exception of high tide periods when it connects to the ocean at a depth of a few inches.

LIMITED SPACE Off-roaders can resume riding the Oceano Dunes until the Superior Court passes judgment on the lawsuit against the California Coastal Commission or until Arroyo Grande Creek receives 12 or more inches of water. - FILE PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
  • FILE PHOTO BY STEVE E. MILLER
  • LIMITED SPACE Off-roaders can resume riding the Oceano Dunes until the Superior Court passes judgment on the lawsuit against the California Coastal Commission or until Arroyo Grande Creek receives 12 or more inches of water.

Originally, a March 2021 permit change by the Coastal Commission required the SVRA to close by 2024, and the Pier Avenue entrance to shutter by July 1, 2022. The permit update also included a host of other interim restrictions like a prohibition against crossing the Arroyo Grande Creek even if a trickle of water is present. Friends then filed a lawsuit to overturn the Coastal Commission's decision.

"Early this week, [State] Parks began canceling camping reservations based on minimal amounts of water in Arroyo Grande Creek. This effectively closed OHV [off-highway vehicles] and camping at the park," Friends' press release stated. "Friends had been negotiating with Parks and the Commission to 'stay' the March 2021 permit conditions during the litigation."

Friends President Jim Suty told New Times that his organization settled on an agreement to ensure continued access for families to camp and engage in off-roading in the state-legislated SVRA.

The week of Dec. 17 was eventful for Friends because it also marked a Superior Court decision to deny its challenge of another Coastal Commission decision approving a dust control permit at the dunes.

Karl Tupper, SLO County Air Pollution Control District's senior air quality scientist said that the court's dismissal of the case means that the dust controls installed in 2020—including the 48-acre expansion of dune land for dust mitigation—were properly authorized by the Coastal Commission. On Dec. 17, the Coastal Commission also approved the State Park's dust control projects for 2022.

"We can only speculate about what the consequences would have been had the court ruled in favor of Friends [about the mandate]," Tupper said. "But it's likely the commission would have had to redo the hearing on the project and possibly have had to pay Friends' attorney's fees." Δ

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