OPINION by STACY KORSGADEN
The heart and soul of any community is found in its strength of relationships. The Central Coast became my home over thirty years ago. While at Cal Poly, my affinity for the central coast grew so much, I chose to establish a business here and make it my home.
There is a certain prevailing spirit here, built upon the desire to be interconnected socially, spiritually, and intellectually. Many occupations are directly tied to the beautiful environment we share. There is no better place to call home. The heart and soul of our community has also been the preservation of access and recreation on the Oceano Dunes.
When speaking of the dunes in today’s terms, many acronyms have been thrown around in the legal and political arena. While it is important to acknowledge the organizations and regulations represented in the discussion, it is equally important to emphasize that each stakeholder is not independent from one another. The question on the future of the Oceano Dunes should not be an either/or. It must be based on the decades of history that has made our community strong, and a prime destination spot that is central to the health of our local economy and people that live and work in our community.
In the recent past, there has been disagreement about the future of the dunes based solely on environmental concerns. Because the discussion has been limited to environmental issues, as a community, the fiscal impact has not been given equal consideration. Both issues must be addressed.
Over two million people visit the Oceano Dunes State Vehicle Recreation Area each year. Visitors come from all over the world to recreate on the dunes. For many decades, generations of families have made this a part of their family tradition. They value the time spent in our community and consider it their home away from home. These families have a vested interest in the future of the dunes because they too value the community, we call home.
Removing access to the dunes would be catastrophic to our local economy. There is approximately $243 million in direct, indirect, and induced spending related to the use of the dunes. Decisions regarding access to the dunes must not be narrow-minded and shortsighted. All data points must be accurate and approached holistically. The very attributes which make our community strong must be preserved for the sake of the entire populous including economic impacts.
Direct spending is defined by direct purchases, gas, food, entertainment, and hotels. Indirect spending relates to those same businesses purchasing from other businesses to provide their service such as when restaurants buy local products. Induced spending equates to employees of all these businesses using their paychecks to live, shop, and contribute to the local economy as well.
The Oceano Dunes District alone contributes about 3,300 jobs and provides about $2 million in state and local taxes as well. The most important aspect of the loss of revenue is its impact on the entire county. With the loss of such revenue, thriving businesses become extinct, unemployment skyrockets, infrastructure improvements become impossible, and the interconnectedness of our community wains.
The most important way we can bring our community together is to commit to researching proposals which benefit all stakeholders. A recent example of this is the controversy surrounds the exceedances of California’s air quality standard for airborne dust. In a recent study conducted about the number of PM10 State Standard Exceedance on the Nipomo Mesa comparing May 2015 through May 2020, the data is telling.
Comparing 2019 to 2020 the data indicates the number of exceedances in 2019 is six and in 2020, twelve. It is interesting to note the Oceano Dunes were closed in May 2020 and the exceedances were double over the prior year. Again, with the absence of recreation on the Dunes the exceedances doubled.
There have been very few discussions about how airborne dust can be mitigated that will protect all stakeholders, and no thorough examination of the California Air Resources Board statistics. One must consider whether mitigation efforts would even have an impact. Our community cannot move forward when data is either ignored or manipulated to serve the interests of only some members of the community. So we must ask ourselves, is it well with our community when we jeopardize our way of life by appeasing only some residents? It is not.
Sustaining recreation on the Oceano Dunes plays an integral role in our thriving community. The spirit of our community is connected to the preservation of access to the Dunes. The infusion of economic activity keeps businesses open, neighbors employed, community projects afloat, and preserves a way of life we’ve become accustomed to for many decades. Those who visit our community contribute directly to our economic strength and those families have sustained our way of life through their love for our beaches, businesses, and traditions we’ve all shared.
We must keep the Oceano Dunes open. The heart and soul of our community depends on it.