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Off-roaders, environmentalists face off at popular California state park

Tony Barboza, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

Fatal accidents involving off-highway vehicles at the park are not uncommon, with four so far this year. A shooting at a campsite in May wounded five people.

Some riders say that fencing off areas of the park have made it more crowded, and therefore more dangerous.

State parks officials, however, insist they have things under control.

The off-highway-vehicle community that frequents the park has an undeserved reputation "as being rednecks and wild and relentless, without regard for anything else," said Kevin Pearce, the park's chief ranger. "But you spend a little time here and you learn it's not crazy, it's just different."

The Coastal Commission has raised the possibility of a compromise, writing in a report that street-legal vehicles could be allowed to continue on a portion of the beach "to provide a unique, lower-cost, overnight coastal camping opportunity."

Common ground may be hard to find. In past public meetings, attendees have divided themselves into visible camps, with off-road opponents donning green shirts and supporters wearing blue ones.

Replogle said it was clear to her that off-roaders were "not willing to give up an inch" of riding area.


And in a Facebook video last month, Friends of Oceano Dunes President Jim Suty of San Jose cautioned his members that any compromise that closed more area to vehicles would still amount to a loss.

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

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