Mile­stone reached to buy ‘dog beach’ near Morro Bay

The Tribune (SLO) - - Front Page - BY MON­ICA VAUGHAN

The Trust for Pub­lic Land made sig­nif­i­cant progress this week to­ward ac­quir­ing Toro Creek Ranch, a prop­erty of coastal grass­lands over rolling hills at the base of Toro Creek Road and a stretch of un­de­vel­oped beach be­tween Morro Bay and Cayu­cos known as the “dog beach.”

With a goal of con­serv­ing the land for pub­lic ac­cess, the Coastal Con­ser­vancy on Thurs­day au­tho­rized giv­ing $1 mil­lion to the Trust for Pub­lic Land to buy the 283-acre prop­erty from Chevron.

If fund­ing is se­cured and ne­go­ti­a­tions go well, land would likely be turned over to the city of Morro Bay and the County of San Luis Obispo to be man­aged as a park and would en­able the de­vel­op­ment of a bike coastal bike path from Morro Bay to Cayu­cos.

It’s the first money com­mit­ted to the project that is es­ti­mated to cost around $5 mil­lion — a sig­nif­i­cant mile­stone for a vi­sion that’s been held by lo­cal com­mu­nity mem­bers since the Chevron Ma­rine Ter­mi­nal ceased op­er­a­tions in 1999, ac­cord­ing to Su­per­vi­sor Bruce Gib­son, whose district in­cludes the area.

“This is ab­so­lutely some­thing I would like to see hap­pen,” Gib­son said, not­ing that the project meets sev­eral of the county’s goals such as con­ser­va­tion, main­tain­ing pub­lic ac­cess to the beach, and pro­tect­ing open space be­tween Morro Bay and Cayu­cos.

The Cayu­cos San­i­ta­tion District is also in­volved in the deal, as in­land parcels would be used for un­der­ground in­fra­struc­ture to sup­port its new waste­water treat­ment plant on Toro Creek Road.

The deal could go through as soon as early 2020, ac­cord­ing to Rachel Bier Lem, project man­ager for the Trust for Pub­lic Land.

The long stretch of un­de­vel­oped beach north of Morro Bay is a fa­vorite for lo­cals and vis­i­tors alike, and for good rea­son: Gor­geous views, good surf­ing and plenty of room to build sand cas­tles or run with the dog.

Those uses will not likely change with a shift in own­er­ship, pro­po­nents said.

“So many peo­ple are so pas­sion­ate about dogs off leash there. It is a vi­sion both the city and the county that use con­tinue as it is,” Gib­son said. “I have never seen a use in a park bring peo­ple to­gether more than their four-legged friends.”

Pub­lic ac­cess to the in­land parcels east of High­way 1 would not likely be im­me­di­ate, Gib­son said, but it could be

avail­able in the fu­ture.

Project back­ers en­vi­sion the 283-acre ac­qui­si­tion as phase one of what they hope will be many phases of ac­qui­si­tion of land from Chevron, stretch­ing into the hills above Morro Bay and open­ing the pos­si­bil­ity of a coastal trail from Del Mar Park to Toro Creek Road, Gib­son said.

Con­ser­va­tion­ists are ea­ger to buy the land be­fore it is ac­quired for an­other use. In the past sev­eral years, Chevron has sold some of its parcels to pri­vate own­ers and other lots are for sale, ac­cord­ing to a Cal­i­for­nia Coastal Con­ser­vancy staff re­port.

Be­gin­ning in the late 1920s, crude oil was stored there and loaded to large ocean tankers that an­chored off­shore. Some stor­age tankers have been re­moved in re­cent years, and Chevron is re­spon­si­ble for clean up.

Where that clean up needs to hap­pen will likely shape which of the more than 2,000 acres Chevron owns the county would want to de­velop, Gib­son said.

“It’s ful­fill­ing a long­time dream to con­serve this in­cred­i­bly spe­cial piece of land for its use and scenic beauty. It’s the start of po­ten­tially more con­ser­va­tion op­por­tu­ni­ties as Chevron works co­op­er­a­tively with the land trusts and pub­lic agen­cies,” Gib­son said.

“When it comes to­gether, it’s go­ing to be some­thing spe­cial,” he said.

JOE JOHN­STON jjohn­[email protected]­bune­

The 283-acre Toro Creek Ranch— a strip of beach be­tween Morro Bay and Cayu­cos and grass­land at the base of Toro Creek Road— could be pur­chased for pub­lic use from Chevron. The Coastal Con­ser­vancy this week au­tho­rized giv­ing $1 mil­lion to the Trust for Pub­lic Land to ac­quire the area known as “the dog beach” from Chevron.

Cour­tesy of The Trust for Pub­lic Land

The Trust for Pub­lic Land is ac­tively work­ing to ac­quire parcels of land be­tween Morro Bay and Cayu­cos owned by Chevron. The first phase of ac­qui­si­tion in­cludes the parcels shown in orange. The parcels in blue could be ac­quired as Phase 2. Parcels shown as pur­ple are other lands owned by Chevron. The dot­ted red line shows the pro­posed Morro Bay-Cayu­cos mul­tiuse trail con­nec­tor.

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