04 February 2009

Waves Behind Bars, Part II

Here's the Park's full response to my objection to the gating off of HMB beaches during dawn patrol hours:
As you noted, the park hours for all of our State Parks along the San Mateo coast are from 8 a.m. to sunset. We have a limited budget, which is being cut even more this year, with which to staff and maintain our State Parks. Some staff arrive as early as 7 a.m. to begin opening gates with the expectation that all gates are open for visitors by 8 a.m. There is greater usage of our parks from sometime in the late morning until sunset, so that is why staff are scheduled as they are rather than to be here to open at dawn.

The hours of darkness are when many of the crimes occur in the parks including vandalism and violence to individuals. Darkness also contributes to the possibility of injury. By limiting the hours of the parks (closing at sunset) and blocking access with gates during the closure hours, we can limit the number of these problems that we have. This also allows us to schedule more staff to respond to issues during daylight hours when the majority of the park visitors are here rather than spreading staff thinner over a twenty-four hour period.

In addition to the reduction in funding provided to State Parks we have been directed to increase revenue, so the parking fees charged at many of the State Parks were increased last October. The annual passes provide a good value for frequent visitors to the parks. The annual passes are only intended to provide access to parks during the normal park hours. With the Poppy Pass, which we accept here at Half Moon Bay State Beach, if you visit a State Park more than once a month, on average, it will save you money. Some people purchase the passes just for the ease of not having to pay each time they come in. Other people prefer the passes when they use the parking lots that require self-pay so they do not have to have exact change and fill out an envelope each visit. Most people find value in the passes for those reasons.

You asked if State Parks limits access to the waves at Half Moon Bay for up to two daylight hours. The posted hours at some State Park beaches apply to the beach and parking areas while at others the hours may only apply to the parking areas – this depends on the regulation orders for each beach. At Half Moon Bay State Beach the posted hours apply to the parking lots. Therefore, you do have access to the beach and the waves at Half Moon Bay State Beach in the mornings before the gates are open.

I hope this helps you understand that there are a lot of issues considered when making decisions about access provided to parks. If you have other questions please let me know. I will pass your comments and concerns on to our park managers.

Thank you,
Nelle Lyons
Half Moon Bay State Beach
And my reply, with a practical suggestion:
Thank you for your prompt response, Nelle. However, it's not wholly true that the beach and waves are accessible when the parking lots are closed. There are "No Parking" signs outside the entrances which prevent parking along the entry roads for a substantial distance, and even the small dirt lot near the Dunes entrance is marked "No Parking." While it is possible to park a good distance away and hike to the beach carrying gear, the de facto effect is a denial of access.

I understand the desire to close the park during darkness, but a sunrise to sunset policy would not affect that. If budget does not allow, perhaps parking outside the gates could be forbidden only during park open hours and at night?
It's a simple fix which harms no interests that I can see. Dawn-patrollers and other early beachgoers could park legally near the entrance and walk a short distance to the public beach, and the State would not lose any day-use fee revenue. But this is the government, so I have no expectation that the addition of a few words to some signs will happen without a lot of concerted public effort. Unless I get laid off, I won't have that kind of time - but then I won't need to surf that early. Catch-22.

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