Oceano Dunes District generates $243 million a year for SLO County

March 6, 2018

An economic impact report prepared by a South Lake Tahoe-based consulting firm found that, between July 2016 and Sept. 2017, the Oceano Dunes District within California’s state parks system generated a total of $243 million for the San Luis Obispo County economy. [Cal Coast Times]

The study conducted by SMG Consulting found visitors to the Oceano Dunes area from outside of SLO County spent an estimated $158 million directly on travel expenditures, with $45 million being spent on accommodations. The travel expenditures generated a total of 3,300 jobs, according to the study.

Whereas previous economic impact reports only factored in the dunes riding area, the 2016-2017 study included the entire Oceano Dunes District, which also includes Pismo State Beach. Attractions within Pismo State Beach include the Monarch Butterfly Grove, Pismo Lakes, Pismo Nature Preserve and the new Oceano Dunes District Visitor Center.

Factoring in the expanded area of the study, the total economic impact of the Oceano Dunes increased by $171 million from 2010-2011, when a similar study was conducted. The estimated jobs generated by the economic impact of the dunes rose by 1,987 from 2010-2011.

Over the course of the 2016-2017 study, more than 2.2 million people visited the Oceano Dunes District. Among the visitors who were surveyed as part of the study, 85 percent came from outside SLO County, and 73 percent were out-of-county visitors who stayed overnight at the dunes.

The survey found that 96 percent of visitors to the Oceano Dunes live in California and 95 percent live within 320 miles of the state park. By region, 39 percent of participants in the survey came from the Central Valley, 21 percent from the Central Coast, 18 percent from Southern California and 17 percent from the Bay Area.

An approximate even split of men and women participated in the survey, with 51 percent of respondents being male and 49 percent female. The average age of respondents was 42.2, and the median age was 40.6. Participants in the survey had an average household income of $115,000.

On average, Oceano Dunes visitors traveled in parties of 11.4 people and stayed at the state park for 3.1 nights.

Visitors’ three favorite activities at the Oceano Dunes are ATV riding, enjoying a beach bonfire and enjoying sunsets, according to the study. The three most popular offsite activities are shopping, sightseeing and visiting another beach or recreation area in the region.

California State Parks published the economic impact report at a time it is again facing pressure to close some or all of the Oceano Dunes riding area to mitigate dust flows that are allegedly polluting parts of the Nipomo Mesa.


1200 square foot single family homes in Grover Beach are selling for anywhere between $420k-450k right now. So, I’m just a simple gal, so I went to a random “how much can I afford calculator” and plugged in some numbers. According to the calculations, if a person has no debt and can put 10k down for a house that costs $450k, the income before taxes would need to be a minimum of 8,000 a month.

So, let’s list the places a working class person can work and earn this money:

1) some PG & E jobs

2) a nurse working full time in a hospital with extra shifts each month (probably working 48 hours a week)

3) a prison guard at CDC working there for many years

4) a Lawyer, a doctor

5) A board of supervisor person

6) a successful small business owner

7) an engineer

8) a couple of teachers

There aren’t many jobs here that support the cost of living. So why on earth would we want to limit even MORE jobs?? PG & E is leaving. I just don’t get it.


Boring in Happy Happy City! Absolutely. Senile City. There’s nothing here but a Denny’s and crooked politicians. Not even a bowling alley because that’s much too wild! And I agree; what tourism?


And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why you can drive vehicles on the beach.


I say the State should temporarily close the dunes for just one summer. Let SLO County squirm a little bit, then return to the bargaining table and discuss reopening the dunes only if the air quality restrictions are lifted. I’d be curious if during that temporary closure, if the air quality measurements wouldn’t remain exactly the same. Then Larry Allen would have to go searching for yet another cash cow.


Not a bad idea since they couldn’t extort money from the dunes like they are trying to do to PG&E and Diablo


I think I’m finding a theme here!

Let’s not permit the upgrade to the Morro Bay Power Plant, now it’s closed.

Let’s fight Permitting Diablo Canyon Power Plant, now it’s going to be closed.

Let’s fight the permitting of the Oceano Dunes Recreational Area until it to is closed.

Let’s raise fee’s and taxes for all county residents until only the rich can comfortably live here!!!


Now your understanding how the progressives operate.


You have finally figure it out, but it’s not only for the rich but also include anyone on assistance. The rich (government employees) will still need people to do what they need done and as long as they are on assistance the rich have assured their compliance.


Sigh, they will get rid of this, like they got rid of Diablo Canyon, leaving them no choice but to raise taxes on the residents. I am sure our elected officials are eyeing prob 13 in slavering anticipation pf its demise…


Maybe they should put a couple of wine tasting places and brewery’s on the Dunes? It seems that almost everything in SLO revolves around beer and wine. Oh, I forgot they now will be able to get their marijuana at Grover Beach. How in the world can the tourist industry and politicians overlook this?


I agree that everything “to-do” in SLO seems to revolve around alcohol. It seems that there are more bars in the downtown SLO area today than most gold rush era boom-towns had. But seriously, the only thing that’s legal to do in SLO anymore is either shop, hike, or drink. As far as tourist destinations go, SLO is an INCREDIBLY boring place to visit. The only way to make this rich Liberal retirement community seem interesting, is to get shit-faced.

Reality Check

Just looking at the old photos of the area and the “pavilion” in Pismo Beach and the other early “resorts” in Grover City and Oceano, I believe for at least 100 years, the dunes, driving on the beach and of course the clams were great attractions for visitors. It has long been obvious to me that visitors to the dunes also shop at the outlets, grocery stores, restaurants, gas stations, etc. I didn’t realize the amount was as high as this study shows. I base this on my observation of vehicles loaded with off road “toys”; to say nothing of the sand on the tires and undercarriage. The whole nonsensical claims of vehicles on the beach causing more sand to blow are so lame! Anywhere in the area, blowing sand swirls onshore. The wind is natural and the wind rather than the vehicles cause the stirring of the sands. We’re loosing Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant because of unrealistic hysteria that threw so many road blocks in the way. Let’s support the continued use of the beach and dunes for recreation and vehicle travel and recreation.


So torn on this topic. I see the Mothers Against Everything are all about closing the beach down while the other side just wants to get together and have fun in the dunes. The “particulate matter” argument is foolish talk in my opinion while the sounds of ambulances filling the weekend air can be annoying as well. Did the south county flourish before the big off roading boon? Of course it did. Can they survive once this huge infusion of valley cash dries up…..only time will tell but, I suspect all will be fine.