Oceano Dunes brings big bucks to SLO County — to the tune of $243 million, report says

The Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area and Pismo State Beach collectively generated an estimated economic impact of $243 million in San Luis Obispo County from July 2016 and July 2017, according to a report released by State Parks on Monday.

That’s based on direct spending, indirect spending and induced spending from visitors outside of the county who come to use any facility in the Oceano Dunes District of California State Parks, which offers onshore camping, off-highway vehicle riding and other recreation opportunities with the Monarch Butterfly Grove, Grand Dunes Trail, Pismo Nature Preserve and the new Oceano Dunes District Visitor Center.

Unlike similar past studies, which are compiled about every five years, information used in this year’s study was collected from visitors using all of the district and not just those visiting the state vehicular recreation area.

Those interested in learning more can attend a public meeting about the report from 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday at the Ramona Garden Park Center, 993 Ramona Ave. in Grover Beach.

More than 2.2 million people visited the state parks in the district during the time period studied, most from out of the area.

For this survey, visitors were stopped at the entrances of Oceano Dunes District Parks and asked if they would like to participate in a survey of their experiences and spending related to their visit. About 900 people completed surveys.

Groups of visitors surveyed said they tended to spend about $1,400 each on lodging, day-use fees, food and beverages, transportation expenses, retail shopping and recreation activities.

Based on the analysis, about 3,300 jobs were generated as a result of travel spending by park visitors. And district visitors generated about $1.9 million in state and local taxes.

The report did not consider economic activity generated by concessions, special events or filming events in the district. Concessions at the park, like ATV rentals, generate between $10 million and $12 million in gross revenue, according to State Parks staff.

The report did not outline the costs of the Oceano Dunes district to San Luis Obispo County, such as police and fire services.

Visitors who took the survey were an average age of 42.2 years old, primarily white (57 percent) and Hispanic (27 percent), and had an average household income of $115,000.

According to the survey, the average length of stay was 3.1 days, the average party size was 11.4 people, and 73 percent of those responding had children under 17 in their group.

The report comes just weeks before a hearing to consider whether dust from the Oceano Dunes SVRA is an air-quality nuisance that needs to be abated to decrease pollution to downwind communities. A hearing board could order closure of the off-road vehicle riding areas, including the entire 584-acre La Grande Tract, to protect public health.

The impact of more closures in the riding area was not analyzed in this report. But those who took the survey were asked if they would visit the county if the Oceano Dunes SVRA didn’t exist. Sixty-two percent said they would not and 18 percent said they weren’t sure.

The top three activities that survey respondents engaged in were ATV riding (62 percent), enjoying a beach bonfire (57 percent) and enjoying the sunsets (56 percent).

Monica Vaughan: 805-781-7930, @MonicaLVaughan

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