In 2013, Sonoma County denied State Parks’ coastal permit application requesting the installation of pay stations that would charge a fee to park at several Bodega Bay and other Sonoma Coast beaches. Many of these publicly-accessible and free beaches are enjoyed by locals and visitors alike, and nearly everyone surveyed voices strong disapproval for “iron rangers,” or automated machines to collect payment, many of which take only cash. The message was clear then, as it is now: Sonoma County wants to keep our beaches free.
However, this issue has recently reared its head once again. With a new proposal for a proposed fee structure of $8 for a day-pass and up to $3 an hour otherwise, plus fancier machines that allow payment via debit, credit, or even cell phone and “demand pricing” options, State Parks is once again attempting to collect. Several beaches with camping and facilities already charge for parking, but this proposal extends the fees to additional unimproved spaces throughout Sonoma Coast State Park and Salt Point State Park. Frequent beachgoers may recognize several spots on the list – Salmon Creek, Shell Beach, Bodega Head and Goat Rock, among others.
The arguments on both sides have left the California Coastal Commission deadlocked before, so it’s important to keep pushing to make our voices heard on this issue. While the argument for the automated pay stations claims that fees will improve public access and amenities at the beaches, the fact remains that all funds are not required to stay local. Ultimately, the 1976 Coastal Act states that access to our beaches is guaranteed, and parking fees may limit people’s access to our beautiful coastline. Finding other options for parking on roads may cause additional safety issues for residents and emergency vehicles, and is not an acceptable solution.
If you want to keep our beaches free and protect public access to the coast, please contact us here at Conservation Action to learn how you can help, or donate to our efforts. You can also email the CA Coastal Commission, who will be taking up this issue in the coming months. We are urging them to hold local hearings so our local and unique voices can be clearly heard in the process. Send emails to Ethan.Lavine@coastal.ca.gov
The Sonoma Coast should be enjoyed by all!