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SLO County Parks considers parking permits to address overnight camping at Pirate’s Cove

Posted at 6:01 PM, Jun 06, 2019

Cave Landing, more popularly known as Pirate’s Cove, features challenging hikes and panoramic ocean views, but many people say they’re seeing more trash and people camping out in their cars.

It’s a hidden gem tucked away in Avila Beach though some people aren’t exactly finding treasure at Pirate’s Cove, rather trash.

“It’s not safe. You can find needles, other various trash,” said Steve Lowery, hiker.

He says conditions are worse than before.

“A lot of domestic violence I notice and various other issues that kind of take the beauty away,” Lowery said.

Other people are noticing car campers.

“There is a car over at the top right before you can walk down the stairs to pirate’s cove where someone looks like they have been living out of their car. Their car’s been abandoned and filled with trash,” said Stephanie Carmassi, Grover Beach resident.

Camping is only allowed in designated areas and there are no signs here that say it’s allowed.

“No, you cannot camp at Pirate’s Cove,” said Nick Franco, San Luis Obispo County Parks and Recreation Director.

Franco says the Pirate’s Cove parking lot is always open. You can drive there anytime day or night, but you can’t stay forever.

“If they are parking for the purpose of camping and camping means you are sleeping, that is your place of overnight accommodations essentially, then that would be prohibited,” Franco said.

The sheriff’s office says deputies make routine patrols looking for illegal activity like trash and campfires.

However, a federal ruling passed last September makes it unconstitutional for law enforcement to cite or arrest a homeless person for sleeping on public property if there is no other available shelter.

Still, some would like to see more enforcement.

“Just make it more inviting,” said Lowery.

SLO County Parks officials say the gray area between parking and car camping is challenging, but they are looking into parking permits.

“It’s in really bad condition, so how do we fix that while being sensitive to the cultural resources that are there and allow for legitimate parking,” said Franco.

Meanwhile, locals are asking you to pick up your trash, regardless if you are visiting for the first time or the hundredth time.

“Let’s not use this as a garbage can so if you are just visiting, you are stopping in quickly, take your trash with you so that we can continue to make this a beautiful place to live in,” said Carmassi.

Earlier Thursday morning, deputies were seen making rounds, though it is unclear if any citations were given out.
The SLO County Sheriff’s Office says it investigates any complaints made.