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Oceano Dunes reopening to 'street legal' vehicles Oct. 30

Angel Russell
State Parks says social distancing and group sizes will be monitored at the Oceano Dunes.

The state off-roading park at Oceano Dunes in San Luis Obispo County will partially reopen next week as part of a three-phase plan. The dunes have been closed to vehicles and camping access since mid-March.

Vehicles will return to Oceano Dunes starting Friday, Oct 30. California State Parks says this will be part one of a three-part reopening. Phase 1 means the park will open for day-use visitors, but only includes access for street legal vehicles—off-road vehicles and camping will remain temporarily prohibited until phase 2.

“The first step is absolutely refreshing that the reopening of the Oceano Dunes is on its way,” Steve Dayton, owner of Steve’s ATV Rentals in Oceano said.

Dayton said while he’s excited there is a plan to reopen the dunes, rental shops are left in limbo wondering when they can reopen their doors.

“With phase 2 people will be allowed to bring their own off-highway vehicles and ride out on the beach," Dayton said. "But, the ATV rentals are actually going to have to wait until phase 3.”

Dates for when the state park will move into the last two phases have not been released. So for now, Dayton said the hardest part is telling his employees to hang tight.

“It’s absolutely excruciating," Dayton said. "We have quite a number of employees here that have been with us 15 plus years. So they are really impacted, too.”

But many locals and visitors alike who aren’t OHV fans have been loving the closure. Director of the California Department of Parks and Recreation Armando Quintero released a statement saying “Public safety during COVID-19, the protection of natural resources and providing recreational opportunities at Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area and Pismo State Beach are priorities for California State Parks.”

Lea and Danny Hensley of Off-Riders United say many OHV supporters feel this plan is not supportive enough, and they are skeptical of when the park will ever fully reopen.

"It's just extremely disappointing," Lea Hensley said.

“There have been so many dates handed out that we are going to reopen on this date, and as it gets there its yanked out from under us," Danny Hensley said. "Now, to reopen an off-road park with no off-roading being allowed and no camping—that’s a hard one to really get excited about.”

State Parks said COVID-19 social distancing and group sizes will be monitored at the Oceano Dunes, and if unsafe conditions develop, access may be restricted again.

Angel Russell is a former KCBX News reporter who started her career in journalism as a reporter and producer for KREX on Colorado's Western Slope; she later moved to the Central Coast to work for KSBY as weekend anchor and weekday reporter. She holds a BA in journalism from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, and playing guitar and piano.
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