Proposed paid parking at Rincon Beach sparks debate
Among residents, surfers, some in favor
By Shane Cohn 08/16/2012
It may soon cost a few dollars to visit the Queen of the Coast.
Rincon Beach, home to arguably some of the best waves in the world, is one of six locations the Santa Barbara County Parks Commissions is considering for implementation of paid parking fees.
With the county needing to close an $18-million to $20-million budget shortfall for next year, imposing a beach parking fee at the area’s most crowded surf spot, along with Loon Point, Lookout Park, Arroyo Burro Beach, Goleta Beach, Ocean Beach and Guadalupe Dunes Park, the county could generate $3.1 million to $8.3 million a year, as reported by the SB Independent.
A fee structure has yet to be proposed, and the Parks Commission is in an information-gathering phase, having hosted the first of three scheduled public meetings on July 26.
“Most of the public speakers were in opposition to beach parking fees,” said Herman Parker, the county’s director of community services.
Many at the meeting complained that the parking fees would create severe parking issues in the small surrounding communities like Summerland.
Robert Brunner, a Mussel Shoals resident, said that his community, along with La Conchita residents, would also feel the sting of the beach parking fees. The current highway widening project through La Conchita and Mussel Shoals has eliminated parking along the Rincon parkway, which Brunner said has funneled an unsafe amount of traffic into the beach hamlets. Adding beach parking fees at nearby Rincon would only add to the problem, he said.
“It’s going to impact our communities immensely,” Brunner said. “Most surfers just want to get wet and don’t have a dime to pay for parking.”
But Ventura resident and surfer Brennan Kelly, 27, disagrees.
“Absolutely,” said Kelly about whether or not he would pay to park at Rincon. “Rincon is the best. I already pay to park at crappy Pipe (Surfers Point upper parking lot, $2/day).”
Ventura County Supervisor Steve Bennett, whose district includes La Conchita and Mussel Shoals residents, said he has yet to hear from any constituents in the area about the issue. While acknowledging the beach parking fees at Rincon are a Santa Barbara County issue, Bennett said he wasn’t keen on the idea.
“It sort of changes the rules of the game on them (Mussel Shoals and La Conchita residents),” said Bennett. “I would not be in favor of going to paid parking.”
The next meeting for community input is Thursday, Aug.16, in the Santa Barbara County Planning Commission hearing room at 5:30 p.m., and Aug. 23 at 9:30 a.m. in Santa Maria.