Coastal Commission unanimously votes to eliminate off-highway vehicles at Oceano Dunes

Mar 18, 2021

Update March 18 10:00p.m.

The California Coastal Commission unanimously voted to end the use of off-highway vehicles (OHV) at Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area during a 12-hour meeting Thursday, March 18.

This 10-0 decision will discontinue use of off-highway vehicles at the park by 2024 and comes after almost 40 years of consideration by the commission.

Coastal Commission Chair Steve Padilla said he is happy to finally reach a resolution.

“Time is of the essence, so I’m going to support the recommendation of the staff because it is where this commission needs to act,” Padilla said. “My feelings on this question are on the public record going back to 2019, and they were pretty loud.”

Commissioners adopted several amendments to the original staff proposal including moving up the timeline for phasing-out off-roading from five to three years; ending recreational riding at night, but allowing vehicles to drive at night in camping areas; and extending the closure of Pier Avenue entrance by one year to July 1, 2022.

The original commission staff proposal included a five-year phase-out timeline, plans for low-cost vehicular access and camping on the beach between West Grand Avenue and Pier Avenue as well as closing the Pier Avenue entrance in Oceano.

Coastal Commission District Supervisor Kevin Kahn said these changes are crucial to reduce environmental impact and preserve the park for future use.

“Staff recommends that all OHV use be eliminated at the park,” Kahn said. “It is having significant detrimental impacts on beaches and dune habitats, as well as significant impacts on air quality and public health, underserved and adjacent communities and sacred tribal areas.”

The Commission rejected the opposing Draft Public Works Plan from the California State Parks Department that would maintain the use of OHVs at the park.

The Director of the California State Parks System, Armando Quintero, said the department has a mission to protect the environment for future generations and ensure equal access to the park.

But he said the Coastal Commission’s suggestions would restrict these goals.

“Access at the expense of protection can lead to irredeemable environmental opportunity loss. Protection at the expense of access can lead to parks that are not for everyone,” Quintero said.

To learn more about the Coastal Commission staff report, visit its website.

Original story published March 18 5:06 p.m.

The California Coastal Commission met March 18 to consider a staff recommendation to phase out off-highway recreational vehicles (OHV) at the Oceano Dunes State Park over the next five years.

The proposal also includes plans for low-cost vehicular access and camping on the beach between West Grand Avenue and Pier Avenue as well as closing the Pier Avenue entrance in Oceano.

Coastal Commission District Supervisor Kevin Kahn said these changes are crucial to reduce environmental impact and preserve the park for future use.

“Staff recommends that all OHV use be eliminated at the park,” Kahn said. “It is having significant detrimental impacts on beaches and dune habitats, as well as significant impacts on air quality and public health, underserved and adjacent communities and sacred tribal areas.”

The California State Parks Department presented an opposing Public Works Plan draft that would maintain the use of OHVs at the park.

The Director of the California State Parks System, Armando Quintero, said the department has a mission to protect the environment for future generations and ensure equal access to the park.

But he said the Coastal Commission’s suggestions would restrict these goals.

“Access at the expense of protection can lead to irredeemable environmental opportunity loss. Protection at the expense of access can lead to parks that are not for everyone,” Quintero said.

Commissioners heard a Coastal Commission staff report, California State parks presentation and testimonies – both for and against staff recommendations – from elected officials, tribal representatives, other organizations and community members.

Central Coast Congressman Salud Carbajal and local tribal leaders support the phase out of OHVs on historical and culturally sensitive land.

35th District Representative Jordan Cunningham and the OHV Recreation Division oppose it, citing the negative economic impact of reducing recreation and tourism opportunities.

This story is still developing and will continue to be updated.