By KAREN VELIE
In an attempt to have portions of the Oceano Dunes dedicated for off-highway vehicle use, Friends of the Oceano Dunes filed a quiet title lawsuit on May 11 against multiple state and local government agencies.
According to the lawsuit, because off-road vehicle enthusiasts have recreated on the dunes for more than five years, without asking or receiving permission and without objection, they have the right to continue driving and camping on the dunes. People began driving on the dunes decades before three defendants named in the lawsuit — California State Parks, the County of San Luis Obispo and the California Department of General Services — purchased the property.
“Under state law, once an implied dedication is established against a private property owner, it can never be retracted,”according to the lawsuit. “A public trust is created when property is held by a public entity for the benefit of the general public. Thus, the implied dedication is thereafter held in trust for public use for the dedicated purposes, which here includes OHV recreation, beach driving and camping.”
In March, the California Coastal Commission voted unanimously to phase out off-road vehicle usage at the Oceano Dunes over the next three years and to ban nighttime vehicle riding at the Oceano Dunes.
Friends’ latest lawsuit also alleges the Coastal Commission “abused its discretion” when it voted to stop off-road vehicle usage on land with an “implied dedication.”
In addition, the suit names the SLO County Air Pollution Control District (APCD) as a defendant because it exceeded its authority by requiring dust control measures that shuttered portions of the dunes to vehicles.
More than a decade ago, the APCD first claimed it had tied off-road vehicle traffic at the Oceano Dunes State Recreational Area to higher levels of dust on the Nipomo Mesa, including a claim that the dust contained dangerous levels of toxic crystalline silica.
After 10 years of warning Nipomo residents of the dangers of silica dust, the APCD decided to run tests for silica in the air. The testing refuted the APCD’s earlier claims; concluding the dust blowing from the dunes did not contain dangerous levels of crystalline silica.
Because of the APCD-derived false concerns that silica from the dunes was harming the health of people living on the Mesa, Coastal Commission staff first showed interest in shuttering the off-road vehicle park.
In two lawsuits filed earlier this year, friends accuses the Coastal Commission of violating laws and exceeding its authority when it voted to stop off-road vehicle recreation at the dunes.
Friends of the Oceano Dunes is a nonprofit that represents approximately 28,000 supporters of off-road recreation. The organization has successfully sued state and local government agencies, including the Coastal Commission, over past regulatory actions related to the Oceano Dunes State Recreational Area.