As organizers continue planning this year’s Pismo Beach Huckfest — a truck-jumping competition at Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area expected to draw thousands of spectators — California State Parks officials have determined the event poses no significant environmental impacts.
The public has until Sept. 15 to submit comments on a recently issued study from State Parks’ Off-Highway Motor Vehicle Recreation Division. Officials expect to determine whether or not to issue a permit to Huckfest organizers around Sept. 19.
The event is planned for Oct. 17-18 by Nipomo brothers Manuel and Johnny Garner. Some of the planning process has focused on reducing traffic impacts to residents, who complained that last year’s event drew so many people that they couldn’t park or easily drive around the area.
State Parks officials expects up to 11,400 spectators to attend this year’s event.
The annual event started in 2008 as a casual, free gathering with fewer than 200 people, but in August 2013 more than 2,200 vehicles and thousands of people came to watch more than a dozen custom-built off-road trucks jump in the dunes.
“It caught us by surprise and wasn’t anything that we anticipated,” said Kevin Pearce, chief ranger for the Oceano Dunes district. “This year we made a point to correct any issues.”
State Parks, which has issued Huckfest an annual permit since 2011, approved an initial permit for this year's event but has yet to issue a final special events permit.
“Most of the stuff has been met but within each of those conditions there are a few minor loose ends that need to be wrapped up,” Pearce said.
The off-highway division prepared an initial study and draft negative declaration, a required environmental document under the California Environmental Quality Act, finding the proposal would not have a significant effect on the environment.
It calls for organizers to have permits or agreements with agencies including Caltrans, CHP, Grover Beach police and Cal Fire to provide traffic or emergency services outside the park boundaries.
In addition, State Parks staff will be on site during the event to ensure it complies with permit conditions, to monitor activity by the federally listed western snowy plover, to monitor traffic problems and to ensure public safety.
Manuel Garner said the planning process has gone smoothly.
“We’re meeting with local authorities, and we’re trying to make the event good for everyone and the community,” he said.
For the first time, the brothers are charging for the event to cover their costs. Those who want to camp on Friday or Saturday night will pay $100 each night; day users will pay $35 a vehicle (regular costs are $10 for camping and $5 for day use).
State parks has limited the number of day-use tickets to 2,200 of the 2,580 total day-use passes allowed at Oceano Dunes, and up to 800 of the allowable 1,000 daily camping permits.
So far, organizers have sold about 400 camping permits each for Friday and Saturday nights, 300 day-use permits for Friday and about 500 day-use permits for Saturday, Park and Recreation Specialist Dena Bellman said.
However, only special event ticket holders would be allowed to drive south of Post 2 on Oct. 17-18 — about one mile down the beach from the Pier Avenue entrance.
The event features 25 custom-built street-legal and off-road trucks jumping off a sand dune ramp, as well as monster truck exhibition, and a motorcycle exhibition by three X-Game performers. Only drivers who have been invited to the event will be permitted to jump.