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Oso Flaco Lake project open for comments
Dunes Center
Oso Flaco Lake near Guadalupe


The California Coastal Commission and State Parks want to hear from residents on plans to expand recreational activities at Oso Flaco Lake near Guadalupe.

Oso Flaco Lake is a little-known part of Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area. The area has a natural lake with a wooden footbridge, a path to the dunes, and numerous birds and other species.

“It happens to be the number one bird watching area in the entire San Luis Obispo county," Kara Woodruff, co-founder of Friends of Oso Flaco Lake said. "They’ve counted over 300 different bird species."

The area is also popular for fishing and hiking. Woodruff said that a plan by the State Parks department to add more trails, camp sites and parking would disrupt the natural environment.

“It’s a dramatic change to Oso Flaco,” said Woodruff.

Alexandra Stehl is with the State Parks Department and said the project is a way to bring low-cost camping and outdoor experiences to the Central Coast.

“Improvements include enhancing coastal access, low-cost overnight accommodations, potentially, and increasing day use parking, and improved recreational activity,” Stehl said.

She said the proposed plan includes conservation and that the area will remain free of motorized recreation.

“The goal for that area is to keep non-motorized enjoyment of park facilities,” Stehl said.

The proposed plan has two phases. Phase one adds primitive campsites, parking and trails for pedestrians and bikes. It also converts agricultural land for use as an educational space. Phase two includes cabins, tent camping and RV sites, maintenance facilities and, potentially, an access route to the dunes riding area. Stehl said this phase requires extra approvals and amendments because of the scope of the project.

Woodruff, with Friends of Oso Flaco Lake, said the proposed changes are inconsistent with the California Coastal Act that protects natural habitats.

“Oso Flaco Lake is great the way it is. There is nothing that compels us to change it in any way,” Woodruff said. A draft of the Oso Flaco Lake Improvement Plan will be presented to the Coastal Commission for review on March 18.

Public comments are encouraged and must be received at the email address by March 2.

Beth Thornton is a freelance reporter for KCBX, and a contributor to Issues & Ideas. She was a 2021 Data Fellow with the USC Annenberg Center for Health Journalism.
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