State Parks explains why straw bales have been placed throughout Oceano Dunes

Posted at 5:46 PM, Aug 03, 2018

The Air Pollution Control District has called the blowing sand and dust in the Nipomo Mesa area a health hazard. Some claim the off-road recreation at the Oceano Dunes makes it worse while others say it’s the nature of the area.

"There’s open sand all around the park that blows dust, agriculture that blows dust and construction that blows dust," said Dustin Haning, a Nipomo resident who is a part of several dunes riders groups.

Either way, State Parks and the Air Pollution Control District have a goal of reducing the dust floating into nearby communities.

The wind fencing and vegetation came first, and now park users are seeing bales of straw arranged in a way to reduce the movement of sand.

"We’re going to use them for a short period of time for that purpose and then, when we finally get some rains, we’re going to break them up and install locally collected native dunes species into those areas and restore those areas and create native habitats," said Ronnie Glick, Senior Environmental Scientist for California State Parks.

In total, about 65 acres of the dunes are fenced off.

"We’re extremely upset about it. They are taking away our public land and our OHV park," Haning said.

He claims fencing off areas of the dunes has a greater impact than some may realize.

"When they do the straw bales or the wind fencing, it makes the wind spin and creates a witch’s eye, which is a dune that is formed the wrong way, and also knife edges on the dunes. They’re un-rideable for new riders and extremely dangerous for experienced riders," Haning said.

State Parks planners say they understand the frustration of land being taken away, which is why they have a project moving through the public works process to try to mitigate those concerns. The project would create a third entrance to the dunes and another campground.

A local group called "Friends of Oceano Dunes" is hosting a fundraiser called "BBQ by the Beach" to raise funds to fight against more closures. The group did not answer our request for comment.