The parking facility serving La Jenelle Park in Silver Strand is to be reopened by this summer, according to District 3 Supervisor Kathy Long and Harbor Department Director Lyn Krieger, if an agreement can be reached with the state regarding who is to pay for the restoration.
Since 2012, county representatives have gone back and forth with the state as to who should be responsible for the cost of the repairs. The California State Lands Commission contends that the county is responsible, and vice versa.
“We sent a letter to the county back in November of 2013 with what we believe the agreement provides for,” said Jennifer Lucchesi, executive officer with the State Lands Commission. “We also understand that this county may have a different interpretation of its responsibilities.”
Long, whose district encompasses the parking lot and road, said that the way the contract is worded is the reason repairs have taken so long.
“It’s not that clear; if it were clear we wouldn’t have attorneys,” said Long. “It’s certainly our intention to get it done and accomplished within the next month.”
Jim Hensley has been an advocate for the public right of access to the beach at La Jenelle Park for years. When the road was closed for the summer of 2013, visitors to the park had to find parking elsewhere — specifically in the surrounding neighborhood, where congestion has been an increasing problem.
“It isn’t accessible for a disabled person. A lot of older people or handicapped people can’t get through the sand,” said Hensley. “It used to be a family beach where families could go down and picnic.”
La Jenelle Park came to be when the county sealed the area off in 1974, turning the surrounding beach into a park with a jetty constructed from the wrecked ship La Janelle for fishing, surfing and swimming. In 1972, plans had fallen through to turn the area at Silver Strand Beach into a floating restaurant/hotel à la The Queen Mary when the docked luxury liner La Jenelle ran ashore during strong winds.
The park became popular with the local community, largely made up of Latino families and lower-income residents. The road, Victoria Avenue, leading to the parking lot, which is handicap-accessible and closer to the beach than the roads in the surrounding community, has been covered in a thick layer of sand since 2012, and the parking lot itself is littered with potholes and fissures, making it unsafe for vehicles.
According to the 1974 contract between the state of California acting as the State Land Commission and Ventura County, the county is responsible for the “maintenance and operation” of the jetty and the parking facilities, which include the removal of litter and, in regards to the parking lot, “the accomplishment of any resurfacing which may from time to time become necessary.”
Jason Hodge, commissioner for the Oxnard Harbor District, said that he’s frustrated with the back and forth.
“This is part of a bigger issue, but this really exemplifies it,” said Hodge. “On a road like this, the more frequently you do maintenance, the less you have to do in the future.”
Hodge said that no maintenance has been performed on the road or parking lot since 2012, when a sand dune blew onto the road, and that further damage could have been avoided had the county provided regular maintenance to the parking lot and road. Now Hodge has grown weary of waiting for the lot to reopen.
“Every time I talk to someone, they say that they’re days away from coming to a solution,” said Hodge. “Basically, no one at the county has talked to the state since they received a letter two and a half months ago saying that they need to fix it.”
Lucchesi confirmed that there had been no response from the county to a letter posted in November asking for an update in regards to La Jenelle, but mentioned that on Jan. 27, the commission’s staff reached out once again and were told that they would receive a response from the county within the week. Channel Islands Harbor Director Lyn Krieger said that a response was sent earlier this week.
Supervisor John Zaragoza (District 5) said that the issue rests on the difference between an infrastructure improvement and regular maintenance and that the problems with the access road and the parking lot will require more than a simple resurfacing.
“We have a jurisdictional disagreement as to who should have maintained the road and the parking lot; that’s where we’re at right now,” said Zaragoza, whose district includes the neighboring communities of Silver Strand. “I want it open because it affects most of the people in Silver Strand.”
Krieger said that considering the maintenance of the park has been on the county for over four decades, the state should assist in the repair of the lot.
“There have been a number of issues over this recessionary period where the state has deferred activity to the county,” said Krieger. “And the county isn’t really eager to sign up for everything.”
The estimated cost to fix the facilities would come close to $200,000, according to Krieger, who said that she sent an update to the state as of Monday.
“We didn’t open for summer of 2013,” said Krieger. “Everybody wants to get it resolved before this summer.”
For Jason Hodge, action speaks more loudly than words.
“We’ve heard that consistently for the last nine months,” said Hodge, regarding the re-opening of the parking facilities.
“We’ve heard that [the county was] going to start working with the state and come to some kind of agreement with them.”
In August of 2013, Hensley presented the Ventura County Board of Supervisors with a letter regarding the reopening of the park, claiming that by closing the parking lot to the public, the county could be in violation of state law, and its closure “is similar to finding a means to block people from public sidewalks, streets or parks.” Hensley has presented the case to reopen the park to LULAC, the League of United Latin American Citizens, as well as the Sierra Club, and said that members of the neighboring community may have pressured the county into keeping the lot closed.
“It’s a historic park,” said Hensley. “They’re making this like a Malibu type of thing; these people are so uppity that they don’t want people on their beach. It’s not their beach, fortunately.”