Saturday, I shined up the Cheyenne and headed down to Grover Beach to support the Freedom Flag Rally. A group urging the California State Parks to reopen the Oceano Dunes for camping and off-road use.
Organized by Off-Roaders United and originally planned as a celebration for the Oceano Dunes opening date originally set for October 1st. Unfortunately, with pressure from the California Coastal Commission and local health officials, the reopening has been postponed even longer. The current reopen date being November 8th.
Since we could not get on the sand, advocates gathered at the end of Grand Ave. in the parking lot next to Fin’s Bar and Grill.
I headed towards the beach down 4th Street onto Grand Ave. I joined a small group of trucks flying their flags. Slowing down to enter the parking lot I was thrilled to see that amount of trucks and cars of all types flying their flags high.
Friends of Oceano Dunes was set up ready to have their voice heard with the local news and inform visitors of the fight we are up against. Friends of Oceano Dunes is a nonprofit that has been fighting the legal battle against organizations that determined to close the Oceano Dunes permanently.
Around 4pm a parade of more than 140 vehicles began the 30 mile loop up the Coast. Everyone made their way down Grand Ave. and then headed north on Highway 1 towards Avila Beach. Many business owners were on the sidewall cheering and cars were honking as they passed us.
We rolled slow through Downtown Avila Beach in a mass of trucks. It was great to see the support bystanders gave us as we drove through. A fire truck passed in the opposite lane and gave a huge billow from their horn and multiple arms were waving from the cab.
After rounding the port of Avila Beach, we made our way back down Highway 1 and into Downtown Pismo Beach. Roundtrip it took about an hour and half to make our way back to Grand Ave. beach access parking lot.
The miles of flags flying in the parade represented the built-up frustration the local community and California residents have been dealing with as we watch barrier after barrier being placed in front of the reopening of the Oceano Dunes.
Since March, the Oceano Dunes has been closed. At first, the closure came due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Initially all State Vehicular Recreation Area (SVRA) Parks were initially closed due to the pandemic.
As other SVRA parks began to open there seemed to be a silent delay with the status of the Oceano Dunes. People online kept asking why other parks like Prairie City, Hollister, and Ocotillo Wells are open but Oceano remaining closed. Just as you felt the time was overdue and the park will open, the snowy plover nesting came which extended the reopening.
The snow plover is an endangered species that uses the Central Coast as one of their nesting areas. In years past the nesting did not conflict with keeping the park open because our Central Coast has many protected reserves for the plover to nest.
However, the California Coastal Commission demanded the park remain closed until the end of September because the plover had moved in and began nesting for their season.
An event like this flag rally gives hope to me, and others that we can make a difference in the outcome of the Ocean Dunes staying open for OHV use. It is important to continue the calls during commission meetings, submit your comments and opinions through emails and phone calls to our land’s representatives.