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Conceptual plan presented for beach access on Hollister Ranch

Hollister Ranch Coastal Access Plan (HRCAP)
Hollister Ranch includes six beaches on the Gaviota Coast

In 2019, Governor Gavin Newson signed legislation requiring an updated plan to allow public access to the beaches on privately-owned Hollister Ranch on the Gaviota Coast. If successful, the plan will resolve 40 years of disputes between state agencies and Hollister Ranch homeowners. The committee tasked with finding a solution, held a virtual meeting on June 16, 2021.

All California beaches are public up to the ambulatory mean high tideline – a measurement used to define where land and water intersect – but Hollister Ranch is a privately-owned subdivision with homes and a working cattle ranch. The public can’t access the 8.5 miles of shoreline by land except at low tide or with special permission.

The Hollister Ranch Coastal Access Program committee has been gathering information from community members and studying the local area in search of an equitable solution.

The committee includes representatives from the California Coastal Commission, Coastal Conservancy, Department of Parks and Recreation, and the State Lands Commission.

On June 16, 2021, the committee presented a conceptual plan to the public over Zoom. Trish Chapman from the Coastal Conservancy described the natural landscape as rugged with a single winding road in and out. She said negotiating use of the private road with the Hollister Ranch Owners Association is a necessary first step.

Chapman talked about options for access by shuttle, bicycle, car, and walking trails. Each one is rated for safety, inclusivity, and environmental impact.

“We also want to acknowledge the great cultural importance of this landscape to the Chumash people, and we want to make sure that access to these beaches is done equitably,” Chapman said.

The concept presented at the meeting has two phases.

Phase 1 allows a maximum of 100 people per day and includes mostly guided access.

Phase 2 increases visitor capacity, if warranted, and includes new infrastructure like restrooms and trail access.

Linda Locklin from the California Coastal Commission said the phased management approach allows for careful assessment along the way.

“We need to evaluate how each of the components are working in order to protect the resources that are out there and provide a quality experience for the visitors,” Locklin said.

Locklin said 110 community members participated in the Zoom meeting and had mixed reactions to the proposed ideas.

“That’s to be expected," she said. "We take all public input as it comes in and add that to the information.” 

The next public meeting is in October.

To find out more, visit the California Coastal Commission web site. Send questions or comments to HRCAP.stakeholders@gmail.com

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, and has contributed to KQED's statewide radio show The California Report.
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