A big showdown is coming to Pismo Beach, aka Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area (SVRA). On March 18, the California Coastal Commission is expected to vote on whether to allow off-road vehicles to continue using the beach and dunes there. There are two separate actions going on at Pismo Beach. First, State Parks released a Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) aimed at getting an Incidental Take Permit to satisfy both State and Federal Fish and Wildlife over ten endangered species. Second, State Parks has released their Public Works Plan (PWP) to satisfy the California Coastal Commission (CCC), who has to give State Parks a permit to allow continued off-roading there. Both of these plans have been released for public comment. The PWP for the CCC is what is urgent now. On March 18 there will be a virtual meeting with the Coastal Commission at which all of us can comment. CCC staff have published that they recommend phasing out vehicles from the beach and dunes. The commissioners can vote how they see fit and I encourage all of you to let them know that they should keep Oceano Dunes open for off-road vehicles. You can write them before the meeting or speak during the meeting. Tell them what the area means to you, your family and friends. Open this link for details: https://documents.coastal.ca.gov/assets/oceano-dunes/Oceano-FAQ.pdf.
If you go to Superstition or Plaster City OHV areas, you know there are bombing ranges nearby. There have been problems over the years with people going where they are not supposed to. Some years back, a vehicle was driving in the bombing range and a plane dropped a practice bomb. The bomb hit within 200 feet of the bullseye, and skipped. Even though it was a “only” a practice bomb, at the speed the plane was flying the bomb skipped a couple thousand feet and ended up embedded in the fender of the vehicle. The worst area for bombing range intrusions is by the Dip, the staging area off Huff Road about a half mile north of Wheeler Road. If you go on the north side of the dip, you may see signs that say bombing range. Then again, you might not see any signs, as they are not very good in that area. The Navy is working on a project to place better signs along that border and possibly a smooth wire fence.
The BLM, which manages the sand dunes, is working on getting a new ranger station on the north side by Highway 78 and Gecko Road. The current station consists of two mobile buildings placed together and is not adequate for the staff to manage the area. The BLM is performing an environmental assessment on the project, which has been published for public comment, and hopefully will get the green light. The best way to keep an off-road vehicle area open is through sound management and having a new ranger station will allow the BLM to manage the dunes more effectively. Keeping law enforcement on staff has been a long-standing challenge for the El Centro BLM. Their pay scale has been lower than other BLM offices and people come in and often leave for another office within a year. Turnover is difficult in law enforcement because new personnel often act tougher than need be. Seasoned officers usually are easier to interact with. The BLM told me that recently their pay scale was raised to the level of other offices and that they have hired some locals in law enforcement.
We have started working on a project to allow what is called “combined use” along two roads by Ocotillo Wells. Combined use is a designation that allows off-road vehicles to use paved roads for short distances to allow trail connections or access to services. We are interested in making the north side of Split Mountain Road and a portion of S22 combined use. Now that County supervisor Joel Anderson is in office, designating Split Mountain Road should be straightforward. OHV Commissioner Tom Lemmon is involved also and should be able to help this move forward. This will help park users get supplies from the Ocotillo Wells RV Park store and allow local residents to more easily access the park.
Last month I wrote about the bill our lobby coalition is sponsoring, AB 232, that has to do with recognizing other state off-road registrations when their state recognizes ours. I said that Arizona, Nevada and Utah currently do not recognize California off-road registrations. I was reminded by Bryan Henry of the American Sand Association that Nevada does recognize our registrations, but Idaho does not. Thank you Bryan.