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California State Parks planners considering a second Oceano Dunes entrance

Posted at 7:46 PM, Jul 30, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-30 22:46:51-04

The Oceano Dunes brings in millions of visitors and $243 million a year to the local economy.

"There’s a lot of tradition. People have been coming out for years and years, it’s a very valued place," said Dena Bellman, California State Parks District Planner. 

"I fuel up at Oceano or down at Grand (Avenue). I get lunch and breakfast and go to Surfside for donuts," said Dustin Haning, a Nipomo resident who says he visits the dunes about three times a week.

The recreational spot also comes with some controversy in the form of blowing sand and dust. The San Luis Obispo County Air Pollution Control District says the conditions pose a health hazard.

"Even healthy people, during some of the peak times, shouldn’t be out there," said Gary Willey, San Luis Obispo County’s Air Pollution Control Officer.

Off-roaders say they’re not to blame. But to their dismay, plants and fencing have been added in an attempt to keep down the sand. Now, California State Parks planners are hoping to do more.

"What can we do to mitigate whatever negative issues are happening but also be creative about it and see what new opportunities we can offer?" Bellman said.

The idea is to develop a new campsite off the beach and a separate dunes entrance on the south side of the park near Oso Flaco Lake.

"It wouldn’t take over the Oso Flaco area, but it would be maybe adjacent to that," Bellman said.

State Parks owns agricultural land near Oso Flaco so years down the line, farmers that are renting nearby land could be booted in order to build a second dunes entrance.

More plants may also be planted on a section of what is now Pismo Beach Campground.

"By doing that and moving some of the camping inland, we can put up our vegetation to keep that sand from moving," Willey added.

Some say the more off-road access, the better.

"I’m excited to see some expansion instead of shrinking going on out there," said Sean Hayes, who frequents the Oceano Dunes.

Others are concerned the move will pull tourist dollars away from Oceano.

"Most of the businesses would be pulled into Santa Maria, Nipomo, and Guadalupe would get the best benefit from them all," Haning said.

State Parks officials say the public works process may take up to a year before each project will need to individually go through their own planning and development process.