Is San Luis Obispo Countys only clothing-optional beach about to be gentrified out of existence?
We dont believe so, but thats one of the fears raised by those opposing improvements at Pirates Cove. The $1.5 million in upgrades, which the Board of Supervisors will consider today, consist of a paved parking lot for up to 70 vehicles, restrooms, picnic tables and an improved access path and stairway down to the beach, plus the completion of a half-mile segment of the California Coastal Trail, from Cave Landing Road to Shell Beach.
The county Planning Commission already has given the project an OK, but opponents are appealing that and are urging the Board of Supervisors to keep the area wild, free and natural.
We understand the desire to maintain the status quo. Pirates Cove has been a clothing-optional beach for several decades; its seclusion and relative inaccessibility make it a good spot, inasmuch as the general public isnt likely to accidentally stumble upon nude sunbathers.
But this is now public property the county accepted title to the land in February and the county has an obligation to maintain it in a safe manner.
Thats hardly the case now: The rutted dirt parking lot and the steep trail down to the beach can make access difficult, and sometimes even dangerous. The county cant look the other way and allow the public to continue to use makeshift stairs and a rope to access a public beach.
That said, nude sunbathing is a well-established use at Pirates Cove, and we dont see why that should have to change. The beach will still be secluded, and it will still entail a bit of a hike to get there and back. The improvements will simply make it safer and more convenient for those who choose to make the trek.
The idea that a few picnic tables and a paved parking area will somehow lure unsuspecting families to a clothing-optional beach is absurd. Locals already know that Pirates Cove is a nude beach, and they stay away if they arent interested much as those who dont care for the noise of ATVs avoid the Oceano Dunes.
If were worried about tourists wandering onto the beach by accident, then lets post a sign or two in the parking lot: Be advised, Pirates Cove is a clothing-optional beach.
After all, those who are offended by nudity or dont want to expose their children to it have plenty of other beaches they can frequent.
Were all for keeping some places wild, free and natural but a county-owned beach thats open to the public for recreation must be maintained in a safe condition regardless of what the beach-goers are or are not wearing.
We strongly urge the Board of Supervisors to deny the appeal and allow the Pirates Cove improvements to move forward.