SLO County has new plan to clean up Pirate's Cove

Oct 26, 2020

San Luis Obispo County has issued a permit to the county parks and recreation department to clean up and restore Pirate’s Cove, a popular beach and hiking area on county-owned land in Avila Beach.

Past renovation plans for Pirate’s Cove have failed, and this new proposal would have to survive any appeals before work can begin.

In 2013, there was a major plan to close Pirate’s Coves at night and to turn it into a public park, but that was ultimately denied by the California Coastal Commission after facing local opposition.

Now, SLO County Parks Director Nick Franco says county staff has come up with a minor plan to improve the area.

“What we’ve brought back now is a project to bring into the parks system not as a full-fledged park," Franco said. "But as a natural area in which we manage.”

Franco said the county has no intention of drastically changing the space, but the popular clothes-optional beach has been deteriorating, with graffiti, trash, and criminal activity, and that this proposal is a ‘bare-bones’ plan to revitalize its natural state.

“If you look at it now, the parking lot has all the ruts in it, it's uneven," Franco said. "It’s just not a friendly place to come and park.”

The project would include flattening the parking lot with dirt and boulders, adding ADA parking, putting in trash and recycle bins, removing graffiti, placing bike racks, and adding an additional ranger to patrol.

This is an idea some—like Pismo Beach resident Paul Jarvis—support.

“The last time I was here it really kind of bothered me seeing all the graffiti," Jarvis said. "I think that we have a wonderful resource here and if we can improve it, and make it a safer place for families, I’m all for it.”

But Choctaw Indian Jacobe Woods said the area should not be touched.

“It’s been sacred native land for a thousand years," Woods said. "I’m opposed to any restoration that makes it look like humans were here.”

Woods is part of a group called Pirate’s Cove Guard. He said they help clean up trash and talk to visitors about respecting the sacred land.

“Nobody is going to listen to a sign, you don’t have enough police to police the number of ways you can get in here and party anyways," Woods said. "You are just going to create an administrative nightmare.”

If the permit makes it through the appeals process, Franco said the county will seek bids and pursue funding and grant options and will bring it back to the board of supervisors in January for approval to begin work.