Sunday, 30 December 2007

Beaming in at Oceano and 'Marking' time

Reporting back for duty after a week in the Alps........Firstly, many thanks to 'guest presenter' Alan Parkinson who has geo blogged so enthusiastically in my absence and has written a fascinating account of the second part of the New Zealand leg and the first part of the USA leg. When I last geo blogged, Mark was in South Island NZ - today he's cycling down the Californian coast not far from Santa Barbara . That's an amazing change of environment in just 9 days. In the interim , I've been to the Alps and back and today, I'm picking up Mark's trail at Oceano where he overnighted yesterday. I feel slightly jet-lagged!

The aerial view of Oceano shows the feature with which the town is most associated - an extensive dune system to the south of the town....

The extent of the dunes is emphasised in the Google maps view. The dunes are a state park but are unique in the USA in being the only state coastal park where vehicles can be driven onto the beach and through the dunes. It is officially a 'State Vehicular Recreation Area' (SVRA)! With dunes as beautiful as the image below shows, there will almost certainly be a few conservation v recreation issues ..
There is lots of video footage of 'vehicular recreation' on the Oceano dunes available on You Tube if you find boy racers on quad bikes interesting!

Local time for Mark is now 8 hours behind GMT and so he has not yet finished his day's route when those of us on this side of the Atlantic are heading to bed. What I therefore intend to do for this leg of the journey is to write up each day's route the following day... starting tomorrow.


SLORider said...

Great trip! ... Yes, sure there are some "conservation" issues at Oceano Dunes. I'm a local, so I have good knowledge of that. But one should realize a few things... First, there is always some assumption that vehicle use destroys the sand; where does that come from? Sure, the sand gets moved around a bit and may impact the visual appearance--until the wind blows overnight and smooths it out again!

Also, 91% of the area is completely closed to vehicle use. There is more than plenty of hiking to be done where no vehicles will be found---miles and miles, in fact.

About 250,000,000 pounds of sand blow onshore each year (USGS Shoreline Report). The dunes are not going anywhere and vehicles aren't changing anything. If anything has had a major negative impact, it was the extensive planting of foreign dune grass years ago (for sand control) which takes good territory from the Western Snowy Plover (bird) and provides cover for predators. Vehicles actually help control this invasive species (yes, it's officially listed as invasive).

No where in the state does the Snowy Plover thrive better than the vehicle use area (Snowy Plover report)--even the closed areas! Really.

Recreation provides for 2.1 million visitors per year at Oceano. Vehicle access provides for elderly and handicapped that cannot walk to touch the tide otherwise. The whole reason for recreating there is the natural beauty.

And, it's not just boys on toys. Plenty of responsible adults and their families get time together at this popular park/campsite. And if it were just boys... don't boys deserve a place to play?

Look at any urban area and tell me that miles of "environment" weren't paved over for houses, roads, and places of shopping and recreation. Oceano provides a natural environment in which to get away and enjoy a sport and family time. It's not for everyone, but 2.1 million people enjoy it. That makes it important and worth having.

And, I've hiked the closed area--there's hardy a soul out there enjoying things. I'd say the vehicle area is far more valued and enjoyed and accessible to the public.

SLORider said...

Please come back to the area soon and enjoy it. By the way, you missed out if you didn't stop to see the 20,000 Monarch Butterflies along Highway 1 at the Pismo Monarch Preserve, or the hundreds of Elephant Seals on the San Simeon coast across from Hearst Castle.