Supervisors ask county parks for a plan to clean up Pirate’s Cove

What people are saying about trash and nudity at Pirate’s Cove near Avila Beach

Pirate's Cove is San Luis Obispo County's only nude beach. But it isn't the nudity that people complain about most. It's the trash.
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Pirate's Cove is San Luis Obispo County's only nude beach. But it isn't the nudity that people complain about most. It's the trash.

A plan to clean up Pirate’s Cove will be developed at the request of the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors after years of neglect have left the property littered with trash and graffiti.

Supervisors on Tuesday asked parks and recreation director Nick Franco to bring back a recommendation on how to manage the picturesque 55-acre clifftop property near Avila Beach (also known as Cave Landing) following comments from members of the public about an article and critical commentary in The Tribune regarding the area’s poor condition.

For years, Pirate’s Cove has been unmanaged and unmaintained by the county. Beer bottles, used condoms, discarded clothes and assorted other garbage mar the property. Without restrooms, area hikers and beach goers leave their waste on the eroding trails and rutted parking lot. The Sheriff’s Office is often called there in response to reports of theft and fights, and two sexual assaults were reported this year.

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Partying is a common problem at Pirate’s Cove. The cave is littered with trash, and spray-painted graffiti covers the walls. Laura Dickinson ldickinson@thetribunenews.com

“I’m going to bring something back to the board that says, ‘Here’s what we would need to do as next steps to try and manage the area.’ What will be in that? We don’t know yet,” Franco said in a phone interview Tuesday.

Whether the county will allocate funds or the Coastal Commission will approve any project is yet to be seen.

No money was allocated to the park this year, even after Supervisor Adam Hill and Franco last year announced a small-scale plan to manage the property.

Franco said it was no longer a priority and it didn’t have funding after the Board of Supervisors voted to spend all of the public facility fees parks budget on Nipomo parks. Hill voted against those allocations but did not propose spending any money on Pirate’s Cove.

The history of failed planning at Pirate’s Cove goes back many years, and an effort by the county to develop the area into a managed park was scrapped in 2014 after a disagreement occurred between the county and the Coastal Commission.

At the time, the county envisioned a paved parking lot, restrooms, garbage cans, posted hours of operation and an improved trail.

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At Pirate’s Cove, a lone trash can that was brought in by volunteers is defaced with graffiti and overflowing with garbage. Laura Dickinson ldickinson@thetribunenews.com

While Franco on Tuesday told the board that the Coastal Commission rejected the county’s permit, commission staff disagree with that characterization.

Instead, they say, commissioners approved a permit to enhance the trail but did not approve other parts of the project including paving, striping and night-time closure of the parking lot.

“There was substantial public opposition to the project as originally proposed from local users, and after hearing from the public, the commission determined that the project was overbuilt for the rural character of the area and would have been overly restrictive to public access,” said Sarah Christie, the commission’s legislative director.

The Coastal Commission told the county that restrooms, garbage cans and signs would be permitted as part of an enhanced coastal trail.

Instead, the Board of Supervisors scrapped the project.

“The Coastal Commission’s suggestions, in my opinion, wouldn’t have solved the issues and would have caused more issues,” Franco said.

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