PLEASURE POINT – A fence at the center of a debate between the California Coastal Commission and the Opal Cliffs Recreation District will remain intact for the foreseeable future.
The fence and locked gate on Privates Beach on Opal Cliffs Drive in Pleasure Point have been points of contention between the Coastal Commission and the Recreation District for years, but most recently when the commission threatened to fine the recreation district up to $11,250 per day if they were not removed by June 30.
The Coastal Commission contends that Recreation District is in violation of several sections of the Coastal Act, which dictate that development should not interfere with public access to land protected under the act.
The Recreation District’s position is that the fence was installed at the beach in the 1940s and approved by the Coastal Commission in 1981 and 1991. Annual access keys to the locked gate are available for $100 each, meaning that the area is not completely off limits to the public.
Noaki Schwartz, public information officer for the California Coastal Commission, told the Northern California Record that the commission disputes the Recreation District's version of the fences history and says the two parties have gone back and forth on the issue for years without reaching consensus.
“Commission staff have been trying to move the district towards resolution of the violations involving the fence, gate, guard, and fee program for over a decade,” Schwartz said.
Coastal Commission Enforcement Supervisor Pat Veesart and Mark Massera, an attorney for the Recreation District, met July 12 to discuss options and settled on collecting a $5 entry fee to the beach through Labor Day.
The interim use plan, available at opalcliffspark.org, also states that the Recreation District will provide the Coastal Commission with a report on inquiries, complaints, expenses and recommendations after Labor Day.
Schwartz said the Coastal Commission is still considering the terms of the plan and will respond to it soon.
“Charging beach access fees does not maximize public access, which is a critical goal of the Coastal Act. We will discuss the situation this week to see what our next steps are,” Schwartz said.
Massara could not be reached for comment, but the Santa Cruz Sentinel reported that the Recreation District made a decision to act quickly after years of inactivity on the fence issue.
“We wanted to do something immediate to address their (Coastal Commission) concerns while we continue to collaborate with the interested parties,” Massara told the Sentinel. “We’ve determined that it’s better to do this given that it’s been discussed for many years and rather than and lose the opportunity to provide daily low-cost access this summer.”
Schwartz said reaction to the plan in the community has been mixed thus far.
“We have been getting phone calls from the public in support of the commission’s efforts to restore unfettered access, and we have been getting phone calls from district residents who want to keep their gated beach,” Schwartz said.