Pismo Preserve scheduled to open next year

An oak tree frames the view from the proposed 900 acre Pismo Preserve.
An oak tree frames the view from the proposed 900 acre Pismo Preserve. jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

If all goes as planned, the 900-acre Pismo Preserve could be open to hikers, cyclists and equestrians by this time next year.

The Land Conservancy of San Luis Obispo County, which owns the property, is in the final planning and permitting phases for improvements needed to open the preserve to the public.

On Friday, the county planning department will hold a hearing to issue the permits needed for construction of two parking lots, restroom and picnic facilities, and other amenities at the preserve’s main access point on Mattie Road near Pismo Beach. One parking lot will have 50 to 60 parking spaces and the other will be available for equestrian parking and unloading.

Friday’s hearing will begin at 9 a.m. and will be held in the county Board of Supervisors chambers.

“Our job is to ensure that the site has the necessary amenities like parking and trail signage to make it an enjoyable and safe place for people to visit,” said Kaila Dettman, the conservancy’s executive director.

How quickly the work gets done depends in part, on how much rain falls this winter with the anticipated El Niño weather conditions. Heavy rains could slow construction, Dettman said.

Volunteer groups such as Central Coast Concerned Mountain Bikers will build nearly a dozen miles of new trails that will be connected to the existing 10 miles of ranch roads already on the preserve.

In the coming months, the conservancy plans to hold a series of stakeholder workshops in order to give the public an opportunity to voice concerns and opinions before the preserve is opened to the public, Dettman said.

The Pismo Preserve, located in the hills behind Pismo Beach and Shell Beach, was acquired by the Land Conservancy more than a year ago. The property was purchased for more than $12 million after a whirlwind fundraising effort.

Of that amount, $8 million was donated by the state Coastal Conservancy and Wildlife Conservation Board, $3 million came from local and regional government agencies and the remaining $1.3 million was donated by the community.

State and local officials call conservation of the preserve a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and anticipate that it will be a highly popular recreational resource once it opens.

Once complete, the preserve will be open to the public from dawn until dusk. No camping will be allowed.