Plan for Pirate's Cove improvements is scrapped

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

The county is dropping plans to make improvements at its park at Pirate’s Cove after the state Coastal Commission turned down the bulk of its proposal Friday.

The county parks department had planned to spend $1.5 million making a variety of improvements to the 55-acre park that is home to the county’s only clothing-optional beach. The work included paving the parking lot, installing restrooms, improving beach access with a path and stairway and building a new half-mile segment of the California Coastal Trail.

On Friday, the commission approved the new coastal trail but denied the rest of the improvements. Commissioner Erik Howell, who also sits on the Pismo Beach City Council, said he opposed the project because it would undermine the rustic nature of the site and could disturb cultural resources.

“It’s a very special place,” he said. “If there is any development on this site, we want to make sure we get it right, and I have serious concerns.”

Since the Friday meeting, county parks and administration staff met with Supervisor Adam Hill, whose district includes Pirate’s Cove, and decided not to try to redesign the project and bring it back to the commission at a later date.

“We have spent a lot of time and resources trying to improve coastal access at Pirate’s Cove, and they said ‘no,’ so we will move on to many other projects,” Hill said. “We don’t have the resources to continue trying to find some permutation that will be acceptable to the Coastal Commission.”

Hill said he was disappointed in the commission’s decision. The project was in the works for a decade and was intended to increase coastal access, a key goal of the commission.

The county will move ahead with the coastal trail, which will connect Pirate’s Cove to the northern end of Pismo Beach. County parks staff was waiting to get the final permits before finishing up the design plans, so work on the trail cannot begin immediately, said Shaun Cooper, senior parks planner.

“Next summer is the earliest we could begin work on the trail,” he said.

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