Coastal Commission wants to ban off-road vehicles from the Oceano Dunes

June 26, 2019


The California Coastal Commission is considering settling the decades-long dispute over usage of the Oceano Dunes by the outright banning off-road vehicle riding on the South County beach.

On July 11, the Coastal Commission plans to discuss staff’s proposal at a meeting in San Luis Obispo. Coastal Commission staff has determined off-highway vehicle (OHV) use at the Oceano Dunes is untenable in the long-term, and the state park must transition to usages that are less intensive, according to a recently released report.

“The bottom line in staff’s view is that the park and coastal development permit cannot continue to operate as it has in the past,” the report says. “Put simply, in staff’s view a park that is fully consistent with on-the-ground realities, and with coastal resource protection requirements, does not include OHV use.”

The report cites a variety of environmental, as well as “tribal concerns,” as justification for removing vehicles from the beach.

In the short-term, there could be immediate reductions in the amount of off-road vehicle use and camping at the Oceano Dunes. Coastal Commission staff is recommending commissioners amend the Oceano Dunes operating permit to ban night riding, fence off more area, reduce the amount of RVs by 30 percent and implement other measures aimed at eventually eliminating off-road vehicle traffic on the dunes.

The Coastal Commission staff is supportive of continuing to allow reduced street-legal vehicle camping on a portion of the dunes.

“Street-legal vehicle camping on a limited portion of the beach may be able to provide a unique, lower-cost, overnight coastal camping opportunity that ties into the history of the park and continues its rich camping tradition, but with a significantly reduced impact on sensitive coastal resources and surrounding communities,” the report says.

Friends of Oceano Dunes, which has battled in and out of court to keep the park accessible to off-road vehicles, is vowing to fight the Coastal Commission’s plan.

“The Coastal Commission is about to ruin your holidays at the Oceano Dunes. Summer vacations will be taking a big hit too!” Friends of Oceano Dunes stated in a Facebook post.

In a video accompanying the Facebook post, Friends of Oceano Dunes President Jim Suty called on members of the organization to attend the July 11 meeting and speak out against the move toward banning vehicles from the park.

“It’s time for us to roll up our sleeves and fight,”  Suty said. “It’s death by a thousand fence posts, and we’re going to lose the park over time unless something drastically changes.”

In addition, business stakeholders formed a group to address the economic impact of the Coastal Commission’s plan and to advocate for continued use of the off-road vehicle park, according to a statement from the South County Chambers of Commerce.

An economic impact report completed last year by a consulting firm found that, between July 2016 and Sept. 2017, the Oceano Dunes park area generated a total of $243 million for the San Luis Obispo County economy. The study, conducted by South Lake Tahoe-based SMG Consulting, found most visitors to the Oceano Dunes area travel from outside of SLO County. These visitors spent an estimated $158 million directly on travel expenditures, with the visits generating a total of 3,300 jobs.


Well, the OHV crowd from the Valley can fight this, but eventually, the Oceano Dunes will be closed to OHVs. The Valley crew will have to go ride in Dumont or Glamis. SLO county will adapt with other ways to make up the loss of the OHV tourism. This is just inevitable change. The new people moving into the golf communities on the Mesa don’t want riding in the dunes, you can thank the developers and your elected county board of supervisors for ending the OHV tourism in the Oceano Dunes.


There they go again trying to just run over the common Joe… don’t they understand that money drives the engine of government? We need to rise up and tell them to pound sand!


Hmmmm, generated $230 million in revenue ( if this figure is true?) money talks, our SLO Goverment is broke, get use to wearing masks south of the dunes…


Has the state figured out a way to stop the wind from creating dust ?.


Sure, they will just fine it for everyday it blows and creates dust. Not sure where they will send the notice but be sure the taxpayers will ultimately pay the fine. Have to keep the government beast growing.


Don’t 4×4 Tread On Beach!


Darn! I’m going to miss all of those lifted trucks with trailers clogging up the highway.


You would miss them if your livelihood depended on them…


We need to take our State back!


Who’s “we” and, from whom? Will there be violence?


My guess merc is that “we” are folks who grew up in California and who have invested generations in this state. Taking it back — or at least defending it — from folks who “discovered” it anew and seek to correct unpleasantness in it for everyone, in their eyes. Those who “discover” it generally:

a) have zip long time experience or historical context of the place, such as the dunes, what they looked like 150, 75, years ago compared to today, what the Mesa was like, etc.

b) think zip of and even have contempt for, in the case of the dunes, folks and families who make their livings off tourism and agriculture, but only think “what can we do to make it so I can enjoy this pretty place more?”

c) sadly, fail to recognize the above … whereas some of the “we” think, “wow, I’d never move to a strange new place and do that, I’d respect the locals … ”

Will there be violence? That is just an odd question.


I grew up here—made my living on agriculture until I retired. I do indeed remember what the dunes looked like 60 years ago. It was a treat to go out there, or to Oso Flaco, or even Vandenberg, and drive on the beach, usually on July 4. It was always fun to help people dig out of the sand who had gotten stuck. Of course, in those days we didn’t have a bunch of drunks from Bakersfield driving way too fast on their ATV’s.

Like I said, I am absolutely not in favor of closing the dunes. It does indeed provide the businesses on Grand Ave. a good living. But there needs to be compromise.

I’m sorry that things maybe haven’t worked out so well for you that you have to constantly criticize the actions of the local government. I’ve had friends in that too, and I can tell you they have been longtime residents who cared about the area. In my opinion, the central coast has only grown stronger during my lifetime. In fact, I believe the local economy has never been stronger—I’m positive the ag community has never done better.


Its a very small part of the California coastline and people have fun driving on the sand…why would the powers that be want to take that away?….is there no longer room for compromise in California?…give and take?…or is it just one sided rule?….is that where we are now?…we rule and you will obey?…no more straws…no more bags…no more smoking…no more having fun…no more no more no more no more……?


This has been a long time coming, and state parks telling the APCD to get lost probably sped it up. That was really dumb of parks. In the future, people will look back at this use and marvel humans could be so self-centered as to have thought it a good thing and have been so in denial about its problems, just as we today look at Pismo, Morro Strand, Atascadero Beach, the MB Sandspit and other sandy places not so long ago dominated by motor vehicles and give thanks that era’s over. As for claimed monetary benefits to the county, you can’t believe a word of that — tourism accountants are all liars. They assume things like each person spending $500 or so per day, and we all know that just isn’t real. Plugging the dunes for ecotourism would have as large or larger economic benefit. Times change, sometimes even for the majority’s benefit.


Atascadero Beach ?


North Morro Bay. When E.G. Lewis developed Atascadero he offered beach lots for the summer. Google before you spew ignorance.


Plugging the dunes for ecotourism would have as large or larger economic benefit.

Yeah, because we all know that hippies are rolling in money and would just lavish it on our local economy ROFL