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Pay to Play? 

Beach parking fees should be a local decision

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Sonoma Coast Surfrider is disappointed that the California Coastal Commission (CCC) voted to remove jurisdiction from Sonoma County to determine the effects of placing 15 pay stations at beaches along the Sonoma Coast. Among the beaches proposed for the $8 daily fee are Bodega Head, Salmon Creek and Goat Rock. Even though the commission agreed that the county had properly denied the state's application based on the effects of the proposal on public access and the coastal environment, they were influenced by the state's need for revenue.

Surfrider argued to keep the discussion at the local level, but now the CCC has taken control of the process, and the choices are limited to yes to all locations or a modified proposal. We believe other solutions are available. The option to instate no new fees is slim unless it can be proven that the plan is not in compliance with Coastal Act requirements to preserve public access and protect sensitive coastal environments.

The permit now under review allows interested parties to comment and request that additional information be included in the review. It is important that the public affected by the possibility of the proposed fees express their concerns far in advance of the hearing and contact the coastal commission directly at ethan.lavine@coastal.ca.gov. Interested parties may ask that there be a complete explanation of how or if the proposed fees will be spent locally, what the impacts will be to low income coastal visitors, what the cost is to public safety, if the proposed locations incorporate disabled accessible parking spaces, and the environmental impacts of the grading required to provide those spaces.

Our coast is primarily accessed by vehicle. Alternative free parking locations suggested by the state raise public-safety and environmental concerns because, for the most part, they are roadside pullouts along the highway or parking spots along more dangerous cliff-side locations that require traversing steep trails or crossing the roadway to reach the beach.

The date and location of the hearing are yet to be determined. It will be important to advocate for locating the hearing near or in Sonoma County since that is the area that will be affected by the decision. Surfrider is requesting that the coastal commission conduct community forums in Sonoma County prior to making its recommendation, so that citizens have the opportunity to express their views.

Cea Higgins is volunteer coordinator for the Sonoma Coast Chapter of Surfrider.

Open Mic is a weekly feature in the 'Bohemian.' We welcome your contribution. To have your topical essay of 350 words considered for publication, write openmic@bohemian.com.

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