State Parks: Unknown when Oceano Dunes will reopen for camping, vehicle access

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Posted at 6:50 PM, May 20, 2020

As many businesses start reopening on the Central Coast, one of the biggest questions has been, when will there be full access to the Oceano Dunes?

As the beach remains open for walking or lounging with your family, the gates to drive on the beach will continue to stay locked for now, according to California State Parks.

Local business owners say a prolonged closure will have rippling effects on the economy.

"In the next 110 to 120 days, we will make 75 percent of the revenues of our entire annual year. It's these next 3.5 months that take us to Memorial Day in 2021," said Steve Dayton, CEO of Steve's ATV Rentals.

Dayton has owned an ATV business in the Five Cities area since 2001.

He says his employees all had to go on unemployment while they wait for the dunes to reopen to vehicle access.

"This idea that's like, 'Well, we'll slow up and open in September, October,' that's too late. None of those vacationers are coming back. They are moving on with their lives and they'll worry about vacationing the following year," Dayton said.

Sky River RV has been able to stay open during the pandemic, but they say the dunes closure on top of COVID-19 has resulted in hundreds of dollars in losses every day.

"I think I'd like to see area leaders focus less on closing the dunes currently and on protecting revenue streams for businesses like ourselves," said Angel Valenzuela, General Manager of Operations at Sky River RV.

The situation isn't completely up to local leaders, however.

California State Parks is working alongside counties when it comes to reopening in a phased approach, telling KSBY in a statement,

At this time, Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area (SVRA) and Pismo State Beach remain closed to vehicular access. The SVRA and PSB are open for local residents that can walk or bike in, provided that they always maintain a physical distance of 6 feet or more from others. Congregating is not allowed.

Additionally, State Parks continues to cancel camping reservations and it is unknown at this time when campgrounds will reopen this year. Campgrounds were closed on March 17 to support state and local efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19.

As the state continues implementation of the four-stage framework to reopen California, California State Parks is working with locals on a phased and regionally-driven approach to increase access to state park units only where compliance with state and local public health ordinances can be achieved.

The department is advising the public that just because the stay-at-home order may be modified, it does not mean things are going back to normal. It is critical that Californians continue to stay close to home, practice physical distancing, avoid congregating with others outside their immediate household and abide to new visitor guidelines State Parks has implemented across the state park system to mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The reopening of these public outdoor spaces will be made with little advance notice and visitors should expect a different state park experience than they are used to. With 280 park units in the state park system, visitors are advised to visit the webpage of their local outdoor destination before leaving home to find out if it is open, what new visitor guidelines are in effect and if parking is available. Guided tours and indoor facilities like museums and visitor centers remain closed until further notice to prevent overcrowding and maintain physical distancing.

Visitors can stay connected and view the latest guidelines and updates at

Kevin Pearce, Chief Ranger of the Oceano Dunes, says that even once the dunes do reopen to vehicle access, it will likely stay closed for camping as they continue to evaluate health and safety needs, before fully reopening.

An economic impact reportpublished for the 2016 to 2017 year found that the Oceano Dunes has a more than $200 million impact on the community with people staying in area hotels and supporting area businesses.