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Plan to close Pirate’s Cove parking lot at night shelved

Trash and crime problems have plagued Pirate’s Cove and Cave Landing near Avila Beach for years. The San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors are working on a plan to clean up the popular beach hangout spot.
Trash and crime problems have plagued Pirate’s Cove and Cave Landing near Avila Beach for years. The San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors are working on a plan to clean up the popular beach hangout spot. ldickinson@thetribunenews.com

The Pirate’s Cove parking lot won’t be closed at night after all.

A plan to clean up the picturesque area by banning access to vehicles after dark was shelved Tuesday by the San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors, who will instead work with the Coastal Commission on the trash and crime problems.

Supervisors decided to hold off on the plan they unanimously supported two weeks ago after receiving a letter from the commission late Monday indicating it might not issue the necessary permit out of concern that the closure would limit coastal access.

Still, county officials agreed that something needs to be done to address the drug use, trash, crime and other safety issues on the beach and the overlooking scenic bluffs known as Cave Landing, assigning Chairman John Peschong and Supervisor Adam Hill to form a committee and meet with staff of the Coastal Commission in the next two weeks to devise a plan that both agencies can agree on.

“Nobody wants to limit access of people already there; we’d actually like to improve access for everybody,” said Hill, whose district includes Pirate’s Cove.

Management and development of the area stalled after the Coastal Commission partially rejected a plan by the county a few years ago to install restrooms and garbage cans and develop the parking lot. The county dropped the project and redirected the money.

Since then, conditions on the bluffs have deteriorated, and the area is often littered with everything from beer bottles and toilet paper to used condoms and hypodermic needles.

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.

The Board of Supervisors once again turned its attention to the issue following an article in The Tribune early last month detailing the park’s squalid conditions and lack of attention from the county.

At Tuesday’s meeting, representatives from the Sheriff’s Office and Cal Fire San Luis Obispo County both spoke about increased calls for service to the area.

A Cal Fire official said “trauma calls” have doubled every year and also noted that parking in the area often blocks crews from accessing surrounding hills, delaying services in potential emergencies.

Members of the public spoke against the closure, arguing that the place is trashed even after daytime parties, and to limit hours of access to the parking lot would essentially close the beach and bluff.

“By doing this, you’re punishing the law-abiding people because of a few bad apples,” one man said.

While discussing the issue, Hill blamed Coastal Commissioner Eric Howell for “killing” the previous project and accused him of “ex parte” communication with supervisors.

People “shouldn’t have to encounter illegal activities if we can do something about that,” Hill said. “We have a health and safety issue that we should address.”

Peschong noted that everyone on the board seemed “frustrated” and proposed they table the issue for 14 days so he and Hill can meet with Coastal Commission staff to best address the problem.

Monica Vaughan: 805-781-7930, @MonicaLVaughan

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