After successfully advocating in 2019 to have Surf Beach kept open year-round, Lompoc city leaders have set their 2020 sights on increasing the recreational opportunities at the beach and its nearby estuary.
The Lompoc City Council on Tuesday reviewed a pair of letters prepared by City Manager Jim Throop that, respectively, call for the reestablishment of a boat ramp at Ocean Park and for the return of fishing to a portion of Surf Beach. The letter regarding the boat ramp at the Ocean Park estuary was addressed to the Santa Barbara County Community Services Department, while the letter about fishing was addressed to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.
A handful of community members addressed the City Council regarding the letters, with all of them speaking in support of the effort.
“This has really brought the community together,” resident Joe A. Garcia said of the recent push to relax regulations at Lompoc’s closest publicly accessible coastline.
The letters, which were slightly modified during the City Council discussion, were written after a year in which the state, county and federal governments agreed to new rules at Surf Beach that will keep the coastline open to the public.
For the past 20 years, officials at Vandenberg Air Force Base, which owns the Surf Beach property, have monitored the coastline in an effort to protect the Western snowy plover, a small bird species that nests at the beach and has been classified as threatened by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Base officials would close off public access after a certain number of trespass violations into the plovers' nesting areas.
With that issue seemingly resolved last year, Lompoc leaders have turned their attention to a pair of activities that could not only benefit community members, but also have the potential to increase tourism to the city.
Providing a boat ramp at Ocean Park, which is managed by Santa Barbara County, was initially discussed last summer during a multi-agency site meeting at and around Surf Beach that was coordinated through the California Coastal Commission.
A boat ramp was installed at the estuary several decades ago and many older Lompoc residents have shared memories of using the ramp and swimming in the estuary in years past.
The Jan. 8 letter to George Chapjian, the county’s director of community services, asks that the county “construct a new estuary launch site for non-motorized activities, so visitors to the park may take full advantage of the recreational uses that the estuary has to offer.”
“This would be an incredible benefit to all visitors to the park, as it would allow for paddle boards, canoes, kayaks, etc. to be used and enjoyed,” the letter continued. “In addition to increased park usage, these activities align with the County and City’s goal of promoting a healthy population.”
Councilman Jim Mosby shared a photo of the old ramp at Tuesday’s City Council meeting and suggested it could be useful for county officials looking to install a new one.
The letter refers to the project as “high priority” and asks that the county either allocate funding within its next budget cycle or redirect money in its current budget so that the ramp can be installed this year.
Fishing was allowed at Surf Beach until the 2007 creation of the Vandenberg Marine Preserve, which spans 33 square miles.
In the Jan. 8 letter to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, Throop asks that fishing be allowed on a half-mile stretch of Surf Beach, which is part of the preserve.
“However small, the modification would allow for families to once again fish for subsistence, and/or provide a low cost/no-cost recreational alternative for the residents of Lompoc and the surrounding area,” the letter states.
The city requested a response from the state by Feb. 28.
Both letters note that Lompoc is considered a regionally isolated, disadvantaged community by the state of California.
Councilman Victor Vega was among those who expressed support for the letters on Tuesday. Vega said he remembers swimming and playing in the water at Ocean Park as a kid.
“We were always having fun,” he said. “We need something to have fun.”
Willis Jacobson covers the city of Lompoc for Lee Central Coast Newspapers. Follow him on Twitter @WJacobsonLR.
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