Santa Maria Sun / News
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 13, Issue 20
Trespassing violations shutter Lompoc's Surf Beach until October
BY JEREMY THOMAS
The lone public access gate to Surf Beach west of Lompoc stood chained and padlocked July 21, the result of a temporary closure enforced by Vandenberg Air Force Base officials.
Authorities said the closure came after Vandenberg reached a cap of 50 trespassing violations into the habitat of the endangered snowy plover, in concordance with a 10-year beach management agreement between the base and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Beachgoers are forbidden from entering fenced-off areas during nesting season, from March 1 to Sept. 30. The beach will reopen on Oct. 1.
“We have a high interest in keeping the beach open for use by both our airmen and the local community, while also complying with federal regulations,” Vandenberg spokesman Austin Fallin said in an e-mail to the Sun. “We are working to find solutions to the trespassing violations issue so we may prevent beach closure in the future.”
Fallin added that besides trespassing, base officials found evidence of damaged fences and a broken gate at the beach.
According to Jeff Phillips, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service deputy assistant field supervisor for the South Coast, the closure marks the second and earliest time one has been issued at Surf Beach, which is the beach closest to the Lompoc Valley.
“It’s a tense situation,” Phillips said. “It changes going to the beach from a five or 10-minute drive to 45 minutes or an hour, so there’s a lot of concern about protecting [people’s] access to the beach. We certainly understand that. We don’t like to see this situation arise and we’re certainly motivated to look for ways to make sure it doesn’t happen again next year.”
Phillips said there’s a possibility the base could work out a docent program with the city of Lompoc or nonprofit organizations, which has proven effective in other areas where beach access coincides with snowy plover nesting sites.
Wall Beach and Minuteman Beach, which are also on Vandenberg property and only available to those with base access, have a 10-violation limit and will remain open.
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