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Defend Your Access to Our Sonoma Coast

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Defend Your Access to Our Sonoma Coast

By Jim Sullivan

A public hearing will be held on Wednesday, April 13, at the Santa Rosa Veteran's Memorial Auditorium at 1351 Maple Avenue in Santa Rosa, California 95404 on proposed new fees for the use of various State Beaches and Parks on the Sonoma Coast.  This agenda item is not expected to be heard before the lunch break, so 1 pm is a realistic estimate of when public testimony will be taken. 

By way of background, California State Parks has applied for a new parking fee program within multiple State Park units across 35 miles of the Sonoma County coast. The program includes installation of self-service automatic payment machines (charging a new fee of $8 per day), signs, fencing, and related development at Bodega Head, Goat Rock, Shell Beach, and Stump Beach along the shoreline of Sonoma County.  The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors previously unanimously rejected State Parks' fee proposal, and the California Coastal Commission will now hold a hearing on this issue as item 17 on their agenda at http://www.coastal.ca.gov/mtgcurr.html

For a more accurate estimate of the timing of this item on the agenda, you can phone (415) 407-3211 on the day of the meeting only.  If you want to track the progress of the day's agenda to determine when the beach fees item will be coming up, you can watch the online live stream video on the day of the event at http://www.cal-span.org/State_Webcast/stream_index.php

This is your chance to send a message to the Governor and the Coastal Commission that as free people we want to retain the free public access to State owned beaches that we have enjoyed forever up till now, including through the Great Depression, through World War II, and and right up till recently.  The current regime wants to monetize the scenery and evade the responsibility of caring for the public assets in their charge.  They have already degraded the parks, driven out some of the best park rangers and other personnel, neglected maintenance and curtailed access.  They have also floated proposals for various amusement-style money making schemes and other development.  It seems pretty clear they would ultimately like to privatize the parks system.  

My thanks to the various activists who have struggled against this.  They have caused the County to move the meeting to the Veterans Building so we can accommodate the crowd we hope to turn out. The county of Sonoma understands all of this and has rejected the access fees, but the Coastal Commission which has authority, is acting against the essence of its original charge, which was to limit development and maximize access.  Governor Brown needs to take some heat on this.  He is said to be ready to appoint 3 more developers to the Coastal Commission.  

We are going to be facing some battles ahead of us.  The sooner and the heavier we weigh in, the better. If we don't succeed in demonstrating that we are serious, we are going to be fighting individual battles against even bigger odds in the future.  

REMEMBER:  "All Victories for the Developers are permanent, all victories for the environment are temporary".