Thursday, August 22, 2019     Volume: 20, Issue: 25
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Santa Maria Sun / Canary

The following article was posted on March 12th, 2019, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 20, Issue 2 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 20, Issue 2

Bird's eye

My fair-weathered feathered friends are looking forward to their trips north along the Pacific Flyway. They can hit the Central Coast with a glance toward the ocean and settle into coastal marshes and sand-framed freshwater lakes with abandon!

The only freshwater lake in the dunes complex that anyone really cares about. Oso Flaco Lake. And if there’s one thing that unique body of water is good at, it’s stirring up controversy. As environmentalists will tell you, this “pristine” body of water was saved from loud, noisy, gas guzzling, exhaust-spewing motor vehicles decades ago. Saviors!

Only, Oso Flaco and its smaller sister, Little Oso Flaco Lake, are considered to be impaired waterbodies, due to high concentrations of legacy pesticides DDT and dieldrin. All that DDT that’s accumulated in the lake was saved for the birds. Hoorah! Tweet! Tweet!

Of course, there are other pesticides in your favorite freshwater/sandy attraction, too, due to the fact that it’s at the tail end of a drainage that runs through miles and miles of agricultural land—and that ag land butts right up against Oso Flaco’s doorstep. But never mind that. The real villain is the California Department of Recreation and Parks!

You see, the Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area (SVRA) that Oso Flaco is actually part of, is thinking that it may, someday, far in the future, put a campground and southern entrance to the dunes riding area right next to that lake. Not only that, the proposal includes converting 120 acres of agricultural land that is also part of the SVRA and converting it to said developed campsite. Gasp!

I’m not sure that State Parks could have picked a more controversial spot to do what it wants to do. It’s like they decided: The environmental community already hates us, so let’s propose something that will really give them an aneurism!

The Sierra Club’s Santa Lucia Chapter Director Andrew Christie called Oso Flaco the worst possible spot in the entire Oceano Dunes SVRA to put a campground and staging area. I don’t know, Andrew, it seems like no matter what State Parks proposes, the ant hill of angst that perpetually runneth over when it comes to off-roading on the coast is bound to explode into a million public comments, Facebook rants, and accusations that the State Parks system doesn’t give a shit what the public thinks.

Well, except for that proposal to improve the Monarch Butterfly Grove, because who doesn’t like looking at butterflies? They’re so pretty.

See, the thing that’s easy to forget is that State Parks is charged with a mission that includes recreational opportunities and preservation. That’s code for: Nobody likes us. Everybody hates us. Guess we’ll go eat DDT-infested worms.

Oso Flaco is a unique area. There are dozens of endangered and threatened species who call that place home, pesticides or not. Hundreds of vehicles, a campground filled with people, and increased daily recreational use will disturb the relative peace that exists there now. But, environmentalists have asked for State Parks to find a southern entrance to the SVRA, one that takes the pressure off Pier Avenue in Oceano and prevents vehicles from driving across Arroyo Grande Creek when it’s discharging enough water to reach the Pacific. If that happens, maybe prolific letter writer Lucia Casalinuovo will finally have something nice to say about the state park.

Let’s not be like the Lompoc City Council. They’re in a conundrum, too. Because the homeless residents who have been sleeping in their vehicles on Aviation Drive and Cordoba Avenue are getting kicked out of their parking spots. Councilmember Victor Vega is worried that they will just go elsewhere in the city. Duh!

Where else are they supposed to go?

“They’re going to end up in the Walmart shopping center,” Vega lamented at the March 5 City Council meeting (Walmart is the classiest game in town). “And affect our business district because we don’t have a safe parking program.”

Lompoc also doesn’t have enough shelter beds to house all of the people who don’t have a roof over their heads, so the city isn’t allowed to just criminalize people for sleeping in their cars thanks to a humanitarian decision made by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals last summer.

Lompoc Police Sgt. Kevin Martin is recommending that the city use a notification process similar to what it used to clear out the Santa Ynez Riverbed homeless encampment in September. How does the city know that these folks who are now sleeping in vehicles aren’t the result of that “clean-up” effort?

They don’t. But I can tell you, kicking people out of one area of town isn’t going to make them go away. 

The Canary is sick of moving nests. Send comments to the canary@santamariasun.com.




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