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Quicksand 

Time running out to halt Sonoma Coast parking-fee plan

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We are sinking in quicksand, with little time to stop the California Coastal Commission from approving California State Parks' plan to install pay stations at beaches along the Sonoma Coast. The time for the public to weigh in to halt the move is running out.

On Feb. 17, State Parks held a meeting on its revisions to the fee proposal. The revisions included removal of several proposed self-pay stations at popular beaches like Salmon Creek, but included a self-pay station at Freezeout Creek and staffed pay-entrance stations at Goat Rock, Bodega Head and Willow Creek, in addition to the previously proposed self-pay stations at Stump and Shell beaches. Very little information has been provided regarding the project, and the changes appear to be a significant modification to the agency's initial proposal.

Coast-advocacy groups like the Surfrider Foundation, Sonoma County Conservation Action and Coastwalk California, along with many passionate beach lovers, attended the meeting. The local climbing community was shocked to realize that the proposed pay entrance station at Goat Rock will essentially eliminate parking and access to Sunset Rock. It's the premier climbing location in Sonoma County, where permitted groups teach rock climbing and outdoor stewardship to children and disadvantaged youth. The Rock Ice & Mountain Club, a local club, with support from the Access Fund, a nationwide advocacy organization for climbing access, stands with the coast-advocacy groups to oppose the fee proposal.

Coastal commission staff held a forum in Santa Rosa on Feb. 24. The public voiced unanimous opposition and we hope the Commission will prepare a report that reflects its demands. The Coastal Commission will hold a public hearing in Santa Rosa in April, where the issue may be decided. The decision will have statewide significance and could result in additional fees in undeveloped lots, lower standards for environmental review of state park projects and reduced access to the coastline.

I urge anyone who cares about this issue to gather more information at sonomacoast.surfrider.org. Even more important: Contact your legislators and provide written comment by March 25 to sonomastateparksappeal@coastal.ca.gov.

Darren Wiemeyer is an independent biological consultant from Santa Rosa and president of the Rock Ice & Mountain Club.

To have your topical essay of 350 words considered for publication, write openmic@bohemian.com.

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