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Wednesday, May 29, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Greens Fight State Over Dune Drivers

SAN LUIS OBISPO (CN) - Another legal shot has been fired in a perennial war between environmentalists and off-road vehicle enthusiasts, this one at attempt to protect Oceano Dunes, California's largest dune system south of San Francisco, and the only state park where vehicles may be driven on the beach.

The Mesa Community Alliance sued the California Department of Parks and Recreation, San Luis Obispo County and its Board of Supervisors, in Superior Court, seeking declaratory judgment, an injunction prohibiting public nuisance and trespass, and restoration and revegetation of the dunes.

The Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes cover 34.4 square miles and is the second-largest coastal dune system in California.

The lawsuit focuses upon the 3,600-acre off-road vehicle area, which included 5½ miles of beach and 1,500 acres of sand dunes for drivers. Park visitors use the same area for more traditional enjoyments, such as swimming, surfing, fishing, horseback riding and bird watching, according to the California State Parks website for the San Luis Obispo Coast.

The Mesa Community Alliance is a nonprofit dedicated to preserving the Nipomo Mesa. It claims the Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area is being illegally operated and managed by the Off-Highway Division of the California Department of Parks and Recreation. More than 1 million visitors use the park each year-much of it is owned by San Luis Obispo County, but managed by its co-defendant state Department of Parks and Recreation.

The alliance claims that residents of the Nipomo Mesa are "adversely affected" by the state's mismanagement of the Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area (ODSVRA).

"Studies conducted and/or commissioned by the San Luis Obispo Air Pollution Control District, ('APCD') have conclusively established that the operation of off-road vehicles on the open sheets of sand within the park, including the La Grande Tract [which is owned by the county], cause significant air pollution on the Nipomo Mesa and to some extent, in Oceano. APCD adopted a rule requiring DPR [the Department of Parks and Recreation] to design and implement measures to address this significant air pollution that results from the operation of off-road vehicles under the DPR's jurisdiction, however, to date, DPR has refused to implement any such effective measures. Accordingly, the DPR's operation of the ODSVRA has been illegal."

The alliance claims the air pollutions has "significant adverse health effects" upon visitors and neighbors of the dunes. It seeks a permanent injunction "prohibiting DPR from allowing off-road activities and recreation at ODSVRA unless and until the DPR designs and implements effective mitigation measures to abate the particulate matter (PM) air pollution that is caused by the operation of the ODSVRA."

The alliance is represented by Babak Naficy.

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