I read with great sadness the news of Roger Lyon’s death and wanted to express my condolences to his loving family and wide circle of friends. Obviously, Lyon had a great many years left to live and a good many adventures to experience, such as the humanitarian mission that took his life and those of three other San Luis County residents (and medical heroes). That makes his passing all the more tragic.
While his work on preserving much of the Hearst Ranch has been well covered in recent articles, I was particularly grateful for Lyon’s invaluable involvement in two other important coastal issues during my term in office as county supervisor representing the North Coast: the rezoning and preservation of the coastal bench land north of Cayucos and the creation of two of the most valuable and active coastal access points on the entire California coast, just south of Piedras Blancas lighthouse.
By his choice, Lyon wasn’t a visible player in the 1991 to 1992 fight to restore agricultural zoning to the Cayucos bench land, reversing an unfortunate residential zoning decision of an earlier Board of Supervisors. But it was his guidance and advice, before and after I took office, that laid the groundwork for the eventual preservation of this incredibly beautiful section of coast.
But Lyon was the most important player in my fight to establish two coastal access points in conjunction with a mid-1990s Caltrans project moving Highway 1 away from eroding bluffs. The Planning Commission had completely dropped the ball on this project in terms of its impact to public access and by working with affected user groups, I was able to get the project appealed to the Board of Supervisors.
It was only with Lyon’s support and involvement as the representative of the Hearst Ranch that we negotiated a land swap for two new access points and made part of Caltrans’ conditions the establishment of a docent program to protect elephant seals and the public from each other.
Despite the Sierra Club’s opposition to the swap, up to and including the California Supreme Court, this project has the hallmarks of one of the great success stories of local coastal preservation, spawning, as it did, the wonderful volunteer group known as “Friends of the Elephant Seals.”
Without Lyon’s influence, there’s a very good chance that neither of these remarkable coastal protection projects would exist today. He will be missed.