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RICK ERKENEFF, vice-chair of Surfrider Foundation, South Orange County Chapter

Public access at the Headlands is arbitrarily being denied—again.

During the planning of the Headlands development, the Surfrider Foundation worked for years to establish acceptable mitigation for public access. The cornerstone of this work is the guarantee of pedestrian access of the trails to the beach and through the Headlands.

For nearly two decades, the public has enjoyed the ability to access this mitigated trail system from sunup to sundown. The California Coastal Commission, the Headlands developer and the City of Dana Point guaranteed this. So why is access being limited now?

There is no argument that the ESHA and endangered species at the Headlands are valuable resources that deserve protection from any activities that damage or harm their sensitive habitat.

However, the closure of the Headlands trail is eerily similar to what the city attempted to do by limiting access to Strands Beach by erecting illegal gates and limited hours. 

 Public access to these trails and time of operation have been functioning well for nearly two decades.

Initially, the CNLM used the spread of COVID-19 as an excuse to close the trails, and now their narrative has changed, citing that public access is damaging the ESHA. This closure for the last two years has denied thousands of visitors and locals access to the coastal resources by an arbitrary decision based on convenience, not science. 

If CNLM’s reasoning for closing the trail is that the public is damaging the ESHA by simply walking on the trail or even going off trail, then, ironically, the CNLM is to blame for not doing their job.

Being short-staffed or choosing not to hire qualified personnel is not a valid reason to limiting access. Surfrider Foundation stands with the City of Dana Point’s action to open the trails sunup to sundown every day, now!

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