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CA Coastal Commission gives State Parks more time to fix Oceano Dunes

Greta Mart/KCBX
The Coastal Commission, at far end, listened to hours of public testimony Thursday about Oceano Dunes.

Off-highway vehicle riding across the sand dunes and beach at Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area on the Central Coast will continue as is, at least for now. The California Coastal Commission has voted to continue the conversation for another year, with eight of the ten commissioners in favor of sending a letter to California State Parks, asking that several issues within the park be addressed by that agency between now and summer of 2020.

“This commission’s mandate is to uphold the Coastal Act, and the Coastal Act’s primary responsibility...is resource protection,” said Commissioner Rice, who recently joined the commission. “That said...I have a willingness to go along with a motion that would recommend holding off on adopting the staff’s recommendations today.”

According to the Coastal Commission staff’s recommendations, the status quo at Oceano Dunes is “clearly not sustainable” and the off-highway vehicle—or OHV—park can no longer keep operating as it has in the past, and that’s it time for some pretty major changes due to a slew of ongoing issues like damage to endangered habitat and species, environmental justice and air quality.

The Coastal Commission could have gone with staff’s recommendation, directing State Parks to eventually start phasing out OHV use at the park over the long-term. Instead, the majority of commissioners said they wanted to give State Parks the chance to work with the Commission to try to solve the biggest issues.

“I respect deeply and understand the perspectives of everyone on either side of this issue, the California coast is a gem, and to experience it in different ways is something we should all respect,” said Commission Padilla. “But I do want to say that I really am worried that we are just kicking the can down the road, and we’re ignoring the elephant in the room and we have to solve this problem.”

Padillo pointed out that some of California’s laws and agencies are in conflict with one another. The California Coastal Act mandates protection of the coastline, while State Parks is tasked with providing recreation.

After nearly a day-long session of public comment, the commission voted to require State Parks to provide the commission in-person quarterly updates, and start working on the many issues raised by commission staff.

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