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What does the OHV closure of the Oceano Dunes mean to the community?

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Posted at 5:32 PM, Mar 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-20 01:29:04-04

Off-roading will be banned at the Oceano Dunes within three years.

After a 12-hour zoom meeting, the California Coastal Commission decided the fate of off-roading at the Oceano Dunes with a ban to go into effect on March 18, 2024.

An amendment was made making it three years from now instead of five as recommended in the staff report.

“I think at the end of the day we did the right thing to protect those coastal resources and frankly, to comply with the law,” said Steve Padilla, California Coastal Commission Chairman.

The permit adopted Thursday also bans riding at night effective immediately but cars can still drive in the camping area.

Also, the Pier Avenue entrance closure will be delayed by one year making that July 2022.

Wayne Foster, Owner of BJ’s ATV Rentals, says the decision to close the dunes to OHV will decimate the livelihoods of so many.

“We're done,” Foster said. “We're liquidating. I mean, we're done. It means nothing else unless they can appeal it.”

Foster has owned the business since 2013.

“The smiles on the kids’ faces we get. The parents who have never done this before. Out of the country. I'm 62-years-old and I love coming to work every day. I work weekends. I work holidays. It's the best job I've ever had,” Foster explained.

Their doors have been closed since March 28 of last year due to COVID and he says in that time, they’ve lost roughly $2 million.

With it being a year into the pandemic and the looming closures of Diablo Canyon and Phillips 66, many say this closure is going to further devastate the economy.

“There is a significant impact that will occur without the riding area being there and I don't believe it can be replaced by just people walking on the beach,” said Lynn Compton, SLO County District 4 Supervisor.

Others disagree.

“I think people are going to be pleasantly surprised that this is going to turn out to be beneficial to the local economy,” said Jeff Miller, Senior Conservation Advocate for the Center for Biological Diversity.

The beach between Grand and Pier Avenues will be open to street-legal vehicles and motorized campers, among other changes outlined in the adopted staff report.

Several people on the Nipomo Mesa said they couldn’t be more thrilled by the decision.

“We see this as a reprieve for endangered wildlife and coastal dunes habitat and it's going to finally allow the non-motorized public to fully enjoy our beach and dunes,” Miller said.

Friends of Oceano Dunes have posted on Facebook that they are reviewing all legal remedies against Thursday’s decision.

We reached out to State Parks for comment and they said:

"State Parks is disappointed with the decision by the Coastal Commission to phase out off-highway vehicle riding at Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area. At this time, the park will continue to operate under current operational guidelines while State Parks reviews the new conditions.

State Parks remains committed to protect the natural and cultural resources found in Oceano Dunes for future generations, and to ensure that ALL Californians have equal access to the park and its diverse recreational opportunities."