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Large crowds expected at Oceano Dunes off-road battle before Calif. Coastal Commission

Posted at 9:01 PM, Jul 10, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-11 00:02:40-04

The future of off-road riding at the Oceano Dunes will take center stage at a California Coastal Commission meeting in San Luis Obispo Thursday morning.

Those on both sides of the issue are expected to be out in full force at the meeting at the Embassy Suites starting at 9 a.m.

Off-road riding is a major attraction at the dunes but whether it should continue has spurred mixed emotions from protecting the environment to protecting the economy. Driving on these dunes is why many choose to visit the Central Coast and this translates into revenue, but having hundreds of thousands of people drive on these beaches can take a toll on the environment.

In addition to those concerns, safety is a hot button topic as each year there are injuries and deaths at the dunes by those on off-road vehicles. Four people have died in crashes at the dunes so far in 2019. A teenager was injured this week in a crash.

Teenager injured in crash at Oceano Dunes on Tuesday. Photo courtesy Henry Arthur


A recent 65-page staff report concluded something needs to change.

“The bottom line in staff’s view is that the Park and the CDP cannot continue to operate as it has in the past, and that the range of coastal resource issues and constraints affecting ODSVRA together suggest that it is time to start thinking about ways to transition the Park away from high-intensity OHV use to other less intensive forms of public access and recreation,” according to the documents.

To read the full report, click here.

In 2018, the Coastal Commission closed 150 acres of the dunes to mitigate dust pollution for those who live on the Nipomo Mesa and to protect the endangered western snowy plover as this is where they nest.

As of June 2019, there were 1,100 acres open to the public, according to California State Parks. If the plan gets approved, in total, 450 acres would be closed to the public.

The San Luis Obispo Police Department sent out a tweet Wednesday about potential traffic delays near the hotel around the time of the meeting.


Last week, Central Coast Assemblyman Jordan Cunningham waded into the issue. He encouraged the California Coastal Commission to reject further limiting off-road vehicle access to the Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area.

“The Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area itself generates more than $150 million in annual economic activity from outside visitors,” Cunningham said in a letter addressed to the Commission. “It is a major contributor to South San Luis Obispo County’s tourism industry. Hundreds of businesses rely upon these visitors to generate revenue and employ local residents.”