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Mixed reaction to State's phased re-opening plan of Oceano Dunes

Posted at 11:31 PM, Oct 20, 2020

California State Parks unveiled its three tiered plan for reopening the Oceano Dunes Oct. 20.

It’s a plan that was a long time coming and many advocates for full beach access are now saying it was not worth the wait

"I feel this is just a political slap in the face and there's no reason for it," Danny Hensley of Off-Roaders United said.

"It's almost as if they're beating everybody down and trying to make us feel that we should be lucky to get this little bit that they're saving for us," Leah Hensley of Off-Roaders United said.

Under Phase One, that's set to begin Oct. 30, State Parks says only street-legal vehicles, bikes and pedestrians are allowed on the sand from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Camping on the dunes will not be allowed and state parks says when that does reopen, it will be at a reduced and limited capacity of only 100 sites.

State Parks will restart the booking process at zero reservations. Reservation cancellations and refunds will be automatic.

Steve Dayton of Steve's ATV Rentals says Tuesday's announcement was exciting.

"All of my employees are calling and wondering when we can get back to work and get the beach open again," Dayton said.

Dayton will have to wait until Phase Two before his off-highway vehicles or OHV's will be back on the sand.

"We're just not quite sure what to expect, even though from the looks of the people coming into Pismo, I think as soon as the gates open we're going to be busy again. We're going to have to be real careful with our money to get through the winter," Dayton said.

"We've realized diverse economy is really important for our local businesses to become resilient and so we need tourism, we need tech, we need manufacturing, we need all those different businesses to be able to weather the storm like COVID and when one of those big employers closes," Jocelyn Brennan, President and CEO, South County Chambers of Commerce, said.

Brennan says they are looking forward to Phase 2 of this reopening plan.

"Our position has always been as a chamber and as a South County community that there can be a compromise: we can have the OHV park, we can have the dunes, we can also have public health, and the economic benefits and tourism dollars that that brings. We don't think it's an all or nothing situation, we do think there can be some sort of compromise," Brennan said.

The Director of California State Parks said in a statement Tuesday:

Public safety during COVID-19, the protection of natural resources and providing recreational opportunities at Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation area and Pismo State Beach are priorities for California State Parks. We thank the public for their patience as this is the first time in the history of the department where safety measures such as vehicular access closures, full closures and cancellation of reservations have been implemented at such a large scale in response to a pandemic.

State parks says visitation and physical distancing will be monitored at the Oceano Dunes and if unsafe conditions develop, access may be restricted again.

This Friday, the county's air pollution control district will be discussing a plan for diminishing pollution from the Oceano Dunes at 9 a.m.

We reached out the Dunes Alliance, a group that advocates for only governmental and emergency vehicles to be allowed to operate on the dunes and did not hear back.