Back in May, you may remember, California officials settled with the Hollister Ranch Homeowners Association, agreeing to give up all claims to public land access to the Ranch’s beaches. Instead, the public would be granted water access from kayaks and surfboards and maybe zodiacs, to a little stretch of beach near Cuarto Canyon.
The negotiations leading to this settlement were kept pretty quiet, with most learning about the plan only after it had been agreed to. The judge presiding over the case said, basically, this settlement is fine, but let’s have some time for the public to comment on it, to let the thing breathe a little, and we’ll come back in the fall to wrap this thing up.
And just this week, the Gaviota Coast Conservancy, California Coastal Protection Network, Coastwalk/California Coastal Trail Association, and the Santa Barbara County Trails Council filed a motion in the Santa Barbara County Superior Court to block this settlement, arguing that the state is giving up way too much in the deal, and that the public didn’t really have a say here.
“This proposed settlement was conceived and executed behind closed doors, and offers no benefit to public coastal access,” said Marc Chytilo, lawyer for the trails groups. “It has become necessary for community groups to step into the breach and prevent this one-sided relinquishment of public rights and misuse of funds.”
Paddling a kayak or another kind of soft-bottomed craft to the potentially-opened beach can be treacherous, and requires access to surf craft that can make the journey, something not necessarily feasible for everybody that might want to visit that bit of beach.
Giving up easier coastal access for a mission that requires a four-mile round-trip paddle through often extremely windy seas didn’t sit well with coastal advocacy groups and a generally upset public–the Coastal Commission has received over 1,5oo letters in opposition to the settlement–hence the new lawsuit.
This particular issue comes to a head on September 10, when the judge presiding over the case has scheduled a final hearing over whether to approve the settlement.