Friday, June 5, 2020     Volume: 21, Issue: 14

Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on January 7th, 2020, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 20, Issue 45 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 20, Issue 45

Lompoc urges more public access at Surf Beach, Ocean Beach Park

By Zac Ezzone

A few months after the city of Lompoc announced that Vandenberg Air Force Base and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agreed to end a policy that often resulted in Surf Beach closing, the city is pushing for more changes at nearby beaches.

After securing a victory with the end of full closures at Surf Beach, Lompoc is seeking other public access improvements on the coast.

In one letter addressed to officials with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and Gov. Gavin Newsom, the city is requesting that fishing be allowed to take place on a half-mile stretch of Surf Beach.

In a second letter addressed to Santa Barbara County officials, the city is requesting that the county fund and build a ramp at Ocean Beach Park that allows people to access the Santa Ynez River estuary with non-motorized boats, like kayaks and canoes. The county park is located about a mile north of Surf Beach.

Both of these changes would improve public access to the coast, which has been restricted for years, City Manager Jim Throop said. 

“We have the need to have [coastal] access for our residents to get to the recreational opportunities that other residents have,” Throop said.

Since 2000, Vandenberg officials have implemented policies that restrict public access at Surf Beach to protect the federally endangered Western snowy plover, which lives and breeds on the beach. 

For decades, Vandenberg officials have blocked off sections of the beach and recorded violations every time a person enters these restricted areas. After recording 50 violations during the plover’s breeding season—March through September—the beach would fully close for the reminder of the season. 

In early 2019, city officials approached the California Coastal Commission to push back on this policy. In July, numerous local, state, and federal agencies met at Surf Beach to try and find solutions that balance the city’s request for improved public access while still protecting the plovers. 

It was at this meeting that the idea of ending the violation policy was discussed. The California Coastal Commission officially approved this decision in December. 

Following this July meeting, City Council requested that the city draft two letters seeking assistance from the county and the state for further public access improvements. The city reviewed the letters at the council’s Jan. 7 meeting. 

Throop said both letters request improvements that were in place previously. 

Fishing was allowed at Surf Beach until the state created the Vandenberg State Marine Reserve in 2007. This is one of 48 such reserves throughout the state where the damage or removal of marine resources, such as fish, is prohibited. The city is asking for the state to make a minor change that allows fishing to take place on a half-mile stretch of the reserve, which is made up of roughly 33 square miles.

“However small, the modification would allow for families to once again fish for subsistence, and/or provide a low-cost/no-cost recreational alternative for the residents of Lompoc and the surrounding area,” the city’s letter states.

In its second letter—the one regarding Ocean Beach Park—the city states that previously there was a boat ramp leading to the estuary, although city staff have been unable to track down photos or files showing its location. 

Throop said state officials have told the city that non-motorized boats are already allowed in the estuary; it’s just a matter of reaching the water over the rocks and plants in the way. In its letter, the city asks the county to appropriate money in this budget cycle or the next to fund the construction of a small ramp that allows people to safely enter the estuary with their non-motorized boats. 

Throop said the end of Vandenberg’s violation policy as well as these two improvements would greatly benefit Lompoc residents and tourists visiting the area.

“Having the beach open again was a huge accomplishment for the city. … I hope everything else is successful,” Throop said.

—Zac Ezzone

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