Off-highway group scopes out Oceano Dunes

A commission that governs off-highway vehicle use on state lands will spend two days next week in the South County examining issues related to Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area.

The Off-Highway Motor Vehicle Recreation Commission will spend Thursday morning touring Oceano Dunes. The next day, the commission will meet in Arroyo Grande to hear an overview of operations at Oceano Dunes and discuss the contentious issue of dust pollution blowing onto the Nipomo Mesa from the park.

The Off-Highway Motor Vehicle Recreation Division is part of the State Parks Department. It is overseen by a separate eight-person commission appointed by the governor.

The commission has a lot of interest in Oceano Dunes and wants to get up to speed on the issues there, said Phil Jenkins, division chief.

“We tend to move our meetings around the state,” he said. “Anytime we have a meeting near an SVRA, we will focus on that SVRA.”

The commission will hold a separate discussion of Oceano Dunes’ air pollution issue, including a regulation being drafted by the county Air Pollution Control District that will hold the state accountable if unhealthy amounts of dust pollution blowing off the park exceed background levels.

The dust issue is divisive, and the meeting is likely to attract activists both for and against vehicle riding in the dunes. The commission will also hear reports on OHV riding on federal lands in the state.

Thursday’s tour of Oceano Dunes is open to the public. It begins at 9 a.m. at Ramona Garden Center, 993 Ramona Ave., Grover Beach.

Participants are encouraged to bring their own four-wheel-drive vehicles. The State Parks Department will have a limited number of rides available to those without their own vehicles.

“Don’t assume you will get a ride, but we will try to find a seat for anyone who shows up without a four-wheel-drive vehicle and wants to go on the tour,” Jenkins said.

The commission meeting begins at 9 a.m. Friday at the South County Regional Center, 800 West Branch St., Arroyo Grande. The public will be given time to comment.