Santa Barbara Politics, Media & Culture

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

WWTT? VAFB Closes Trails to Hikers

What were they thinking? Vandenberg Air Force Base is the subject of some press scrutiny from the Los Angeles Times and even the very northern San Jose Mercury. This from the LA Times on trail and beach access:

At the trail head to one of the most remote and rugged public beaches in California, graffiti scratched onto a road sign asks: "What good is a state beach if you can't use it?"

It's a question that has vexed lovers of wind-swept Point Sal State Beach in the year since officials at Vandenberg Air Force Base abruptly closed the only public road leading to and from its rocky shoreline and began citing hikers who used it.
Being someone who understands national security, I can understand how VAFB would want to be careful and provide heightened security at times. To indiscriminately say they need to protect missile secrets all the time, every day....whaaaa? When many of their launches are for some corporation that is putting up a TV satellite or some such -- it rubs me the wrong way.

Surprisingly, Supervisor Joni Gray seems to get it when she points out in the LA Times:
...county leaders point to documents dating to 1935 that they say support the public's long-standing right of access. Vandenberg honored those agreements for decades without a problem, said county Supervisor Joni Gray.

To arbitrarily close the road and begin citing citizens attempting to use it is not only an abuse of authority by the military, it's illegal, Gray contends. "People shouldn't have to be doing community service when in fact they didn't break the law," she said. "We have set forth that legal argument, and the base officials haven't disagreed with it."
VAFB did not inform the county or the Coastal Commission of their new policy until after they began enforcing it. To be somewhat fair, it seems VAFB is slowly responding to Supervisor Gray's concerns...but perhaps not fast enough for this rather conservative public official or the public-at-large. Frankly, I am very impressed and surprised with Gray's stance....

"That's why I'm squawking," Gray said. "We think people have been deprived of their beach long enough."

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Anonymous teddy roosevelt said...

Saying Joni Gray is in the pocket of Vandenberg is about as inaccurate as saying Gail Marshall was in the pocket of UCSB. We all seem to find ways of pidgeonholing and simplifying our elected representatives.

I've only started taking that hike to Point Sal beach lately because of the controversy. It is an amazing, amazing place. More like the Na Pali trail in Hawaii than Santa Barbara; at least the terrain.

I think it is the best hike in the area.

What this really is about is paranoia and unreasonable disrespect for common folk by the military. After 9/11 the military has forgotten the ideals of the country they seek to defend... freedom and public uses of public land.

Frankly I don't care if Vandenberg monitors the area with heat imaging and remote videocams 24/7. But shutting down access altogether is just too arrogant.

12/12/2007 4:20 AM  
Blogger MCConfrontation said...

I think we'd be better served patrolling the southern border than policing this public wildland. I don't think any terrorists are going to swim here from Japan; they're more likely to swim across the Rio Grande to infiltrate.

SDLG, since you "understand national security," where do you stand on the border issue and the Patriot Act? Because alot of paranoid people in this town seem to think that Uncle Sam tapping the phones of suspected foreign terroists is somehow going to end them up in trouble for something or other. I think it's a necessary evil, and I know some knucklehead is going to throw the Ben Franklin quote at me, but hey I've got nothing to hide so I'm fine with it.

Memo to the people who oppose the Patriot Act: do your dope deals in person, not on the phone, and you should be just fine.

12/12/2007 8:23 AM  
Anonymous christine said...

I recently wrote and had published in the Santa Maria Times-after their article 2 weeks ago on this very subject- and I'll try and get my same thoughts on line here.

WHAT????????????? Is this the same Joni Gray who worked so hard to close both Ocean Beach and Surf Beach -easily accessed vs. the VERY hard to get to Pt Sal?

The snowy plover nests from the State of Washington to Baja Mexico- yet the only beaches closed are in Lompoc California- where the only 2 beaches are Surf and Ocean Beach. Notice that they don't close the beach at UCSB, or Rincon, or driving on Hollister Ranch beaches, or close Goleta Beach or Jalama Beach, or Haskells.....Only Lompoc endures.

And now Joni, is fighting to get this beach open while the road to get there is washed out - who in the heck can even get there? And then once there- scale the sheer cliff to get on the sand? Last time I was there- it was graffiti covered and trash strewn- a sad display of neglect.

I LOVE Pt Sal, and have visited it many times in the 35 years I have resided in the County- visited it when you could drive to it, visited it when you had to semi hike, and even when you had to walk the entire trip- like it is now.

I find it laughable that Joni is taking this issue to the mat, when again- the easy to access beach is closed so the coyotes and crows can have free rein on the plover eggs.

Anyone else read about the high water prices in Casmalia- right below Pt Sal? These folks need Joni more than Pt Sal does.

Vandenberg has a long history of closing their gates and letting only their own hike, hunt and enjoy the HUGE property they have control over.

12/12/2007 9:39 AM  
Blogger jqb said...

"Saying Joni Gray is in the pocket of Vandenberg"

Who has ever said that? But just because she isn't in Vandenberg's pocket doesn't mean she isn't in anyone else's pocket.

"We all seem to find ways of pidgeonholing and simplifying our elected representatives."

You seem to have found a way to pidgeonhole and simplify Ms. Gray's critics.

12/12/2007 9:43 AM  
Anonymous Don said...

This turn in events of course, has ignited my desire to hike this trail. Does anyone have a link to where to park, etc? I wanna go.


12/12/2007 10:43 AM  
Anonymous teddy roosevelt said...

I don't think she is in anybody's pocket. I don't think she is the sharpest tool in the shed, and sometimes her lack of CPU cycles leads her into cul-de-sacs and instead of finding a U-turn she digs a trench.

I've usually found the South Coast Supes smarter and less trustable, and the North County ones the other way around. Not always, but usually.

12/12/2007 6:16 PM  
Anonymous christine said...

Don- its a very nice drive...

101 Northbound, and you can either exit at Los Alamos and take the 135 W till it turns into Hwy 1 N- just south of Guadalupe, there will be a left hand turn called Brown Road. Drive it till it dead ends/the fence is closed. Start hiking the trail you see- some parts of it are so rugged- you have to slide on your ass, literally. Then you get to the top and have to find a way to the sand.

The other way- is 101 N, exit Main street in Santa Maria- go W, and when you hit Hwy 1, you go south until you see Brown Road- then you turn right and follow other directions.

Take water and food, and layer up with at least one thick windbreaker. A hat is always good. Waves so big they shake the ground!

12/12/2007 7:50 PM  
Anonymous Eckermann said...

Folks seem to be misunderstanding the way things work on military bases is not the way they work elsewhere. The base commander of any military intallation holds very broad powers over what goes on there. He or she (alas, most often "he") also holds potentially career ending responsiblities. As the saying goes, with great power comes great responsibility. Also, the base commander very seldom has to obtain permission from anybody regarding the operations of the base's facilities. So what we have here is an inherently conservative person with almost complete control over what goes on in the area under his authority. Risk management is much simpler and cleaner in such an environment than it is in messy democracies. On a military base, one simply issues orders and they are carried out. Risk reduced. End of story. Next issue please.

12/13/2007 12:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

mcconfrontation said ...

Memo to the people who oppose the Patriot Act: do your dope deals in person, not on the phone, and you should be just fine.

I oppose the Patriot Act, and I don't do drugs. Never have.

I have nothing to hide but I don't want anyone tapping my phone.

12/13/2007 7:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

U.S. government military lands is EXEMPT from state law including the coastal commission. It is also , of course , exempt from having to get ANY county of SB permit or approval.

12/14/2007 6:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

6:19pm the US Government is still bound by the contracts it makes, and it made one with Santa Barbara County concerning Pt. Sal Road.

Sure, they can break the contract, but there must be due process to arrive at just compensation. Just like if the US Government decides to seize your house and quarter soldiers there. They can do it, the just must provide just compensation arrived at by due process.

Of course, perhaps you are reminding us that these days the military and the Bush administration pretty much has shredded the US Constitution and is using it for toilet paper.

12/15/2007 7:26 AM  

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