Plans for Pirate's Cove upgrades upheld by supervisors

Pirate's Cove in Avila Beach.
Pirate's Cove in Avila Beach. jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

Plans to make significant improvements to the county park at Pirate’s Cove in Avila Beach overcame a major hurdle Tuesday when county supervisors unanimously overrode two appeals objecting to the project.

Approval of the project clears the way for the improvements to be made to the park next summer. However, it can be appealed to the state Coastal Commission and one of the appellants, Sean Shealy, said he is prepared to appeal it.

The county parks department plans to pave the parking lot at Pirate’s Cove, install picnic tables and other amenities, and rebuild a section of trail connecting Avila Beach to Pismo Beach as well as a trail down to the county’s only nude beach, which is part of the park.

Both of the appellants said they are frequent users of the park and want it to be left the way it is. Shealy, who represented a group called Friends of Pirate’s Cove, argued that the park is very popular the way it is and there is no reason to make improvements that will change the character of the place.

“This is a spectacular and wild landscape,” he said. “Can’t we keep it that way?”

The other appellant, Brian LoConte, objected to many of the aspects of the improvements, particularly the paving of the parking lot. He wanted the surface of the parking lot to be made of a permeable substance such as gravel.

“The root of the evil is asphalt,” he said.

Both men also objected to the park being closed from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. The purpose of the closure is to reduce the large number of crimes at the park, including drunk in public, lewd acts and vandalism, which occur mostly at the parking lot at night, said Curtis Black, county parks director.

Black also said the improvements are intended to increase public access to the beach and make that access safer.

The paving of the parking lot also covers and protects a variety of archaeological resources found at the site.

Supervisor Adam Hill, whose district includes Pirate’s Cove, acknowledged that it is a “special place that people are passionate about,” but the improvements are necessary. “This project has been well vetted and improved by public input,” he said.