Hikers now have access to three miles of coastline north of Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant.
Pacific Gas and Electric Co., which owns the plant and surrounding property, opened the entire length of the Point Buchon Trail to the public June 28.
The trail goes from the southern boundary of Montaña de Oro State Park to Crowbar Canyon, a point just north of Diablo Canyon Power Plant.
The trail is open 8 a. m. to 5 p. m. Thursday through Monday. Hikers must sign in but do not need to be accompanied by docents.
The trail winds through part of a security buf fer zone around the nuclear power plant. As such, the creation of the trail is the first time the public has had access to this secluded part of the coastline in years.
The California Coastal Commission required that PG&E build the trail in exchange for permission to install an above-ground storage facility for the plant’s highly radioactive used reactor fuel.
“But for your action and foresight, the public would not have access to this remarkable section of coastline,” Executive Director Peter Douglas told his commission.
A mile-long loop at the beginning of the trail opened a year ago and quickly became a popular hiking destination. The newly completed trail has already been used by 8,000 hikers, and 1,000 a month are expected, said Charles Lester, director for the commission’s Central Coast district.
The new trail goes south from the loop trail and generally follows the coastline. At several points, it moves inland to avoid ecologically sensitive areas and to give hikers more panoramic views of the coastline.
The Coastal Commission is also working with PG&E to increase public access to the Point San Luis Lighthouse, which is surrounded by PG&E land at the southern end of the Diablo Canyon buffer zone.
Docent-led hikes from Port San Luis to the light station are available at 9 a. m. each Saturday. The commission would like to find a way to allow the public to hike to the lighthouse without docents.
A sticking point is the current need for hikers to pass through the main security checkpoint for the power plant. One possible solution would be to establish a new trailhead near the parking lot for the Harford Pier in Port San Luis.