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Camping to Be Banned at Popular California Beach After Human Waste, Trash Threaten Wildlife

Camping to Be Banned at Popular California Beach After Human Waste, Trash Threaten Wildlife

Trash on a beach in California on Jan. 4, 2024. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

Jill McLaughlin

Jill McLaughlin

3/19/2024

Updated: 3/26/2024

Federal and state officials will temporarily close the last beach open for free night camping along Highway 1 in the Big Sur area of Central California as human waste and trash along the shoreline is threatening wildlife.
U.S. Forest Service officials expect to close San Carpoforo Creek Beach, about 14 miles north of San Simeon in San Luis Obispo County, by mid-April, Los Padres National Forest District Ranger John Finley Eifert told California Insider on March 18.
The San Carpoforo Creek Beach’s popularity with campers has skyrocketed recently, leading to the destruction of natural habitats, Mr. Eifert told The Tribune, a daily newspaper that covers San Luis Obispo County.
The California Coastal Commission, a state agency within the California Natural Resources Agency, approved the Forest Service’s plan to close the beach in a unanimous vote on March 14 at a meeting in Sacramento.
“I am concerned about the loss of the camping, but I also completely agree with the Forest Service on the impacts to the coastal resources—I am very appreciative that they’re addressing it,” Coastal Commission Chair Caryl Hart said at the meeting.
The camping and campfire ban is expected to last for two years, according to officials.
In a recent report, the commission said the beach has limited amenities, such as restrooms, parking, potable water, and trash containers or collection.
“The [U.S. Forest Service] reports that campers and other visitors have sometimes left large amounts of trash, debris and human waste at the beach, and have cut or removed vegetation—some of which ... provides habitat for Western snowy plovers—for campfires or to build shelters or windbreaks,” the report said.
The lack of resources may adversely affect the Western snowy plovers, which are small birds that forage in wet sand, according to the commission.
Snowy plovers run in the surf at Melbourne Beach in Florida on March 25, 2007. (Karen Bleier/AFP via Getty Images)

Snowy plovers run in the surf at Melbourne Beach in Florida on March 25, 2007. (Karen Bleier/AFP via Getty Images)

An elephant seal moves up the beach in Ragged Point, Calif., on Jan. 2, 2023. (Stefani Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images)

An elephant seal moves up the beach in Ragged Point, Calif., on Jan. 2, 2023. (Stefani Reynolds/AFP via Getty Images)

Other wildlife, such as bald eagles and elephant seals, are also spotted at the beach when the camping tents are gone, Mr. Eifert told The Tribune.
Although some of the camping-related activities are prohibited by various regulations, the lack of enforcement and management personnel contributes to the ongoing problems, the commission reported.
After receiving the commission’s approval of the closure, the Forest Service must develop a plan and have it approved through the Office of General Council, which could take another month or more, Mr. Eifert said.
Part of the plan will include meeting Coast Commission conditions. The Forest Service will be required to provide the commission with a list of rare, endangered, or threatened plant species and vegetation that exist at the beach.
The Forest Service must also install symbolic fencing, such as posts with rope, at locations determined by a biologist to indicate the snowy plover’s nesting habitat, along with signs requesting that visitors avoid the area.
The agency must additionally post signs that tell visitors about the snowy plovers and how to safely exist with the birds at the beach, according to the report.
It also must submit a report to the commission every six months about how it is drafting a visitor use management plan for the beach and invite Native American tribes to help draft the plan.
Once the closure plan is fully approved, the beach will become a day-use area, opening from sunrise to sunset like the other beaches along the coast managed by the Forest Service, according to Mr. Eifert.
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Jill McLaughlin

Jill McLaughlin

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Jill McLaughlin is an award-winning journalist covering politics, environment, and statewide issues. She has been a reporter and editor for newspapers in Oregon, Nevada, and New Mexico. Jill was born in Yosemite National Park and enjoys the majestic outdoors, traveling, golfing, and hiking.

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