OCEANO, Calif. – The California Coastal Commission voted Thursday to phase out off-roading at the Oceano Dunes.
The decision was made after a 12-hour meeting Thursday.
The commission voted to phase out off-highway vehicle use at the dunes over the next three years.
Many were shocked by the decision, while some were thrilled and said the decision was overdue.
One reason cited was environmental concerns, including damage to the dunes habitat and adverse air quality.
“The OHV [off-highway vehicles] use was causing major air quality issues to the areas surrounding the community," said Bird Conservation President Andrea Jones.
But some businesses, like BJ's ATV, said they will suffer the consequences. The company rents trucks, off-road vehicles and more to people visiting the dunes.
"Nothing surprises me," said owner Wayne Foster. "They don’t care, the coastal commissioners themselves don’t care about jobs, employees, owners, values. They only care about sand and birds.
A 181-page Coastal Commission staff report originally recommended the state park phase out off-highway vehicles (OHV) within a five-year period.
"What surprised me was the three years over the five. That’s cruel,” Foster said.
The California Department of Parks and Recreation released a separate Public Works Plan (PWP) earlier this year that would not only continue OHV use at the park, but add other amenities as well, such create a new entrance to the riding area, new OHV trails, a staging area, OHV safety education, and a campground that accommodates RVs and toy haulers.
The California Coastal Commission hearing began at 9 a.m. The final vote was made around 9 p.m. Thursday.
Foster said the community and camaraderie is part of the reason he enjoys what he does.
"It's a fun business. I make friends from all over the world. This is the only place they can bring their kids out here and have fun," he said.
Jones and other conservationists say they were even surprised by the speed of which the decision was made.
"By the outcome, this was not what we expected or we didn't expect it this quickly as it happened last night."
Environmentalists say they are happy the debate is over... for now.