Nipomo Mesa residents dressed in red, and off-road vehicle enthusiasts wore blue on Wednesday, squaring off at a meeting of the California Coastal Commission about Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area in San Luis Obispo County.
Dozens of people spoke, either endorsing efforts to curb dust blowing from the dunes, or protesting moves that will close more areas of the dunes to off-roading.
The Commission voted unanimously to approve a California State Parks plan that will enclose 20 acres in fencing to allow for re-vegetation, among other measures.
Grover Beach business owner Ginger Shank told the Commission that closing Oceano Dunes to off-road vehicles will not fix the problem, that poor air quality is a result of the dunes themselves.
"I'm shocked at the people that bought their homes two years ago or five years ago, that when you purchased your home you didn't look across the valley and see one of the largest dune complexes in the state - that is created by wind," Shank said. "This is a very unique area and homes shouldn't be built in this area, in my opinion."
Louie Souza said he drove four hours from Turlock to attend the meeting. He said the dunes hold an important place in his family life and that since the 1950s, the area open to off-road vehicles has effectively been cut in half.
"Maybe part of the management is opening it back up a little bit, so we are aren't all in one place," Souza said. "The theory that we kick up the sand doesn't hold substance to me. The sands been blowing at Oceano Dunes for centuries. It's blowing there right now. It'll blow there tomorrow, if they close the dunes to us off riders today."
Yvonne Williams is a Nipomo Mesa resident. She and her neighbors think better management includes limiting the number of daily visitors to the park.
"I personally, and many of my neighbors, have never called for a closure of the park," Williams said. "We've never asked for that. What we've asked for is proper management of the park, to make sure that the most emissive areas - and they know where they are - are being addressed."
The county’s air pollution control district board could consider more closures at its March 28 meeting.
The most recent State Parks-commissioned economic analysis of Oceano Dunes estimated the park's total economic impact at $171 million dollars.