SAVE THE OCEANO DUNES SVRA!
Oceano Dunes is closed, and we need to act now to save the Oceano Dunes SVRA! The closure of Oceano Dunes SVRA (ODSVRA, aka Pismo) is about as sad as it gets, and off-roaders everywhere should be extremely concerned. This year has been a nonstop battle, fighting against a growing list of government environmental agencies calling for the systematic closure of the ODSVRA. The Friends of Oceano Dunes (FoOD) have been working feverishly just to keep up with the bureaucratic sleight of hand and growing list of threats to OHV recreation and camping at the park. What is happening with Oceano Dunes is an entirely new type of battle we are facing against a politically corrupt machine that is supposed to be working for the OHV community.
In March 2020, Governor Newsom ordered the closure of all of California’s state parks and state vehicular recreation areas (SVRAs) to “slow the spread” of COVID-19. During these first months of closure, we saw numerous days of high-dust particulate matter at the local monitoring stations, all with zero OHV activity on the beach. This is interesting, because until the COVID-19 closure, the California Coastal Commission (CCC) and Air Pollution Control District’s (APCD) narrative has been entirely focused on dust emissions created from OHV recreation since 2017. These two agencies forced state parks to implement dust-control measures that included vegetating historically non-vegetated dunes and the installation of miles of wind-fencing, all in an attempt to stop a natural process. But, the recent dust data showing increased dust particulates at the monitoring stations appears to have blown a hole in their narrative.
Nonetheless, San Luis Obispo County (SLO-APCD) manipulated the science and refuted the possibility that there is no correlation between the increase in dust with the decrease in camping and OHV activity. The APCD now claims, “The dunes will take decades to heal and return to its natural state before we see any signs of actual results from the mitigation projects and beach closure.” The APCD is needlessly killing this state park and its $200,000,000 annual benefit to the local economy. Never mind the alarming recent articles by Cal Coast News, which outlined very serious allegations of corruption at both the SLO APCD and California Coastal Commission.
With the dust narrative losing steam, these agencies began closely monitoring the seasonal snowy plover bird closure, hoping and praying the birds would begin nesting in the open riding areas. Well, surprise, surprise, the plovers began to nest in our closed riding areas. There is a major problem with this, though. Oceano Dunes is a state-legislated SVRA. The Oceano Dunes was paid for by the OHV Trust Fund and is not a bird sanctuary or a private beach. It is an SVRA. Our OHV trust fund pays for 100 percent of the endless environmental projects,which occur at the park, not general-fund tax dollars! OHV dollars fund the most successful snowy plover breeding program in California and the entire West Coast.
Fast-forward to July 3, 2020, the CCC issued a cease-and-desist order to state parks, calling for the entire SVRA to remain closed through October 2020. The California Coastal Commission’s real goal is to remove vehicles from this beach, and they are using the snowy plover to do just that. What is most concerning is that Director of State Parks Lisa Mangat signed the CCC’s cease-and-desist order, complying with the total closure of Oceano Dunes SVRA. State parks have but one job—to fight for and protect all types of state parks, including the SVRAs. Parks are supposed to preserve and increase our recreational opportunities, including OHV, not decrease them. They are supposed to fight! Instead, they have just allowed two more government agencies to call the shots at the ODSVRA. Clearly, state parks have now completely lost control of what is happening at our park. You may ask, “How in the world could state parks have let this happen without putting up a fight?” Well, this is just the most recent of many failures by state parks. This is the latest of a larger political problem the off-road community is facing today in California.
Right now, we are in a fight for our way of life, and it will not be an easy one. Those who have dedicated their lives to the fight to save Oceano Dunes have been fighting successfully for many years. Sadly, much of this time they have been fighting this alone, with little outside help and support. What we need right now is a commitment from all of California’s OHV organizations, off-road clubs and the entire OHV community to join us in this fight. We can absolutely win this fight to save Oceano Dunes, but it is up to each and every one of us to do our part. We desperately need involvement from everyone.
Please take a few minutes to write and call Governor Newsom, https://govapps.gov.ca.gov/gov40mail/ , Secretary of Natural Resources Wade Crowfoot, Director of State Parks Lisa Mangat and your elected representatives. Tell them what OHV recreation and Oceano Dunes mean to you and your family. When it comes time to vote, ask your candidates, regardless of political party, “Where do you stand on off-road recreation? What is your stance on protecting OHV on public lands and state parks? Have you ever personally had the pleasure to experience OHV recreation? Will you fight for our right to recreate?”
You may have asked yourself, “How could Oceano Dunes possibly affect my local riding area when I’ve never even been there?” I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but this dangerous precedent of Oceano Dunes being lost will be making its way to your local riding area next. It is time we take a stand and defend our right to recreate! It is time we stand up and fight for what is ours! It is time we fight for our families and our way of life!
Save the Oceano Dunes SVRA!
See UTV Action’s guide to the top dune riding areas here: https://utvactionmag.com/top-10-dune-systems-guide-to-the-best-places-to-sling-sand/