Coastal Commission Disappoints

Yesterday the California Coastal Commission failed to deny the California Department of Parks & Recreation’s (DPR) proposal to charge $8.00 to park at eight locations along the Sonoma County coast.

How was that even possible?

  1. The State Constitution ensures free public access to the coast.
  2. Proposition 20, passed in 1972 by California voters—the law that brought the Coastal Commission into existence—requires them to maximize free public access to the Coast.
  3. Coastal Commission staff presented a lengthy and detailed report recommending denial of DPR’s inadequate proposal.
  4. The Commission sat through more than six hours of unanimous public opposition. I was there. I spoke.

The result?

They did not follow the law.

They did not follow their staff recommendation.

They disregarded the people’s unanimous and fervent opposition to this proposal to limit access to our coast.

They voted, 11-1, to kick the can down the road. There will be more meetings. At some unspecified future date, they’ll bring back this proposal in modified form. If they think we’ll allow them to charge us to visit the beaches that already belong to us, they are seriously underestimating the vigor and tenacity of Sonoma County citizens.

Shame on the Coastal Commission for not following the law and not listening to the people.

Shame on the Governor of California for refusing to adequately fund the parks.

Yesterday was sad day for our so-called “democracy.”

This fight is not over.

Steve Lopez wrote a good article about this meeting for the Los Angeles Times: here.

Parking Fees and Social Justice

Tomorrow the California Coastal Commission will take public input on the California State Parks proposal to charge $8.00 to park at several coastal access points in Sonoma County.

State Parks took the commissioners on a bus tour to the sites in question. I expect that State Parks will point out that Sonoma County charges parking fees in County parks, coastal and otherwise.

County Park Fees 4:12:16

Sign at a County Park Entrance Station


But to me, it is beside the point.

The point is that charging fees for parking at coastal access points is socially unjust. It is the wrong way to fund coastal access, particularly for the State which ought be funding parking facilities on the coast through general funds.

Citizens in Sonoma County fought hard to keep our California coastline accessible to the public. We have placed key properties in the care of the California’s State Park system to safeguard the hard-won free public access.

Charging $8.00 to park in a world where the hourly minimum wage is $10 puts an unjust financial burden on exactly the people whose outdoor recreational options other than state parks are limited.

Bodega Head 4:12:16

Bodega Head Parking Lot April 12, 2016

For people working at minimum wate, parking the car will cost about what they earn in a hour. If you make more income than minimum wage, please consider what it is like for them.

Suppose you make twice minimum wage, $20/hour. Would you like to pay $16 to park your car and use the pit toilets common in these facilities?

Shell Beach Sign 4:12:16

Shell Beach 4/12/16

Or suppose you make four times minimum wage, $40/hour (about $80,000 annually). Would you like to pay $32.00 to park your car at Goat Rock?

Goat Rock Parking

Goat Rock Parking Lot 4/12/16

I would not like to pay that much.

The Commission is meeting in Santa Rosa tomorrow to take public input. My hunch is that they’ve already made up their minds and will vote to impose fees to park at these locations.

But that won’t stop me from speaking out. State Parks coastal parking lots should be funded out of general funds. All California coastal access parking lots should be free—statewide, from Oregon to Mexico.

Details about the meeting are in the previous post.

The latest word I’ve heard is that public input will start at about 3:00 PM. Still it’s a good idea to arrive by 1:00 just in case.

The Fight for Access to the California Coast

The fight for access to the California coast will never be finished. Peter Douglas, the author of the California Coastal Act and the first executive director of the California Coastal Commission said it best:

“The coast is never saved, it is always being saved.  Our work, your work is a labor of love that is never finished.” —Peter Douglas

California State Parks wants to start collecting fees at Sonoma Coast State Beaches that have up to now always been free. Over the decades these beaches were saved from developers by the people like you and me. We put our public beaches into the State Parks for safekeeping.

Now California State Parks want to charge us $8.00 per visit to visit the beaches that belong to us! Included in this proposal are popular Sonoma Coast access points including Bodega Head, Goat Rock, Shell Beach, Stump Beach, and lesser known new acquisitions like Willowcreek’s new Freezeout Road Trailhead.

This regressive tax would hurt exactly members of our community who most need the benefits of our coast and can least afford to pay for it.

I, for one, plan to be there. Many others are expected to come. Please join us.

The California Coastal Commission will meet this Wednesday, April 13 at the Santa Rosa Veteran’s Hall (Link to Map)

The meeting is scheduled to begin at 9:00 AM. This topic is item 17 on the agenda. It is anticipated that they’ll get to this matter after lunch at about 1:00. Best to check here for the latest information about timing.

I will attend this meeting to express my thoughts and feelings in opposition to the proposal.

Here is a four-minute video by Sashwa Burrous. Seeing it may motivate you to join the many others who will be there to oppose the State Parks proposal.

FREE – Our Coast from Sashwa Burrous on Vimeo.

I hope to see you at the Santa Rosa Vets Building on Wednesday.

Jenner Clean Up

It was time to go out to the mouth of the Russian River again to pick up litter. I hadn’t been out there at New Year’s when I went out with Richard James, aka the Coastodian.

Russian River Mouth 4:7:16

What a pleasure it was to be out at the mouth again.

The first thing I noticed was a number of driftwood shelters on Jenner’s North Beach.

Driftwood Wigwam on Jenner Beach

Whoever builds and uses these shelters must be picking up litter. It was much harder than usual to find trash to collect. This meant that there was time to observe the animals. Quite a few seals swam in the mouth.

Harbor Seals Practicing 4:7:16

Many more Harbor Seals rested on the beach across the mouth. Pups in the group seemed more active than the grown ups and were going in and out of the ocean practicing their swimming.

Harbor Seal Pup & Friends 4:7:16

Pup on left about to enter the water. Note at right the molting adult.

It looked like there were very large Harbor Seals—or were they Sea Lions? I wasn’t sure—until this head popped up….

Sea Lion 4:7:16

….and started barking the way Sea Lions do.

He seemed to be barking at a couple of surfers who appeared on the scene to surf the waves just outside the mouth of the river.

Surfing in a sea lion dining room, the nerve.

Riding the Wave 4:7:16

After spending about an hour picking up the beach and watching the seals and surfers, I paddled around Penny Island to pick up litter. I was pretty sure I’d be able to find trash there. Sure enough, within a short time the canoe carried a boatload of garbage that does not belong in the estuary.

Canoe Loaded 4:7:16

Suki from Watertreks saw what I was up to.  She asked me to leave the garbage out so that it can be inventoried. I guess there’s a study going on. Here’s today’s haul.

The Haul 4:7:16

Barbie kite and doll house door. How did those get into the river? The blue oilcan bottle at left had several quarts of oil inside.


The California State Parks Foundation is sponsoring an Earth Day work party for the Sonoma Coast State Park on Saturday, April 16. Part of the day will be picking up the same beach I visited today. If you’re interested in joining, click this link to sign up as a volunteer.

After the Estero Tryst

After watching the River Otters mating, I pedaled off westward bound along the Sir Francis Drake Highway toward the Point Reyes Lighthouse. It’s a windswept landscape of dunes and pasture land, as green as Ireland this spring.

Power and telephone lines run along the highway and make perches for birds who have to make do with very few trees and bushes. At regular intervals, about every 500 meters, hawks sat atop the poles. They were not used to having humans take enough interest in them to photograph them. Several flew off when I stopped to have a look at them. This guy flew off soon after posing for the camera. Not sure what kind of hawk he is. Perhaps a Cooper’s Hawk?Cooper Hawk? 4:5:16

Most of this land supports dairy operations permitted by the seashore in what otherwise might be a wildlife refuge. The Parks service wish to retain some of the uses to which these lands once were put. But not all of it is. One field had a herd of Roosevelt Elk.

Elk 4:5:16

Three of a group of about 20 elk

Ravens and Turkey Vultures are two of more than 400 bird species that visit the park. Both Ravens and Turkey Vultures are thought of as scavengers. But Ravens are actually omnivorous. Given an easy kill, a Raven will kill prey for a meal.

Raven Trio 4:5:16

These three were enjoying a sunny pasture

Out at chimney Rock eight Turkey Vultures were slope soaring in a swirling wind above the Elephant Seal Colony on the sand below. Their skill in flying is delightful to watch.

TV at DE 4:5:16

The view of Drakes Bay was breathtaking.

Drake's Bay, Point Reyes National Seashore

A short walk down a path led to an overlook of an Elephant Seal Colony resting out of the wind in the sun on a white sandy beach protected by the Point Reyes Headlands.

Elephant Seals, Chimney Rock 4:5:16

Elephant Seal Colony, Chimney Rock, PRNSS, 4/5/16

The ride back to the car parked at the Estero Trailhead lay ahead of me, so I mounted my trusty yellow bike and began the journey home.

trimmed bike photo