Hamlet Paoletti, NRDC, 310/434-2300; Elizabeth Goldstein, President, California State Parks Foundation, 415/258-2661;
Coalition Launches Campaign to Stop Six-Lane Toll Road
Through San Onofre State Beach
LOS ANGELES (October 18, 2006) -- Today, the 2 millionth visitor for 2006 arrived to share one of California's most popular recreation areas, the state park at San Onofre State Beach, with surfers, swimmers, campers, kayakers, birders, fishermen and cyclists. Soon, however, if the Transportation Corridor Agencies, an Orange County joint powers agency, has its way, there will not be much of a state park left to visit. The agency wants to build a six-lane toll road running over four miles right through the middle of San Onofre, permanently closing 60 percent of the park and degrading the rest.
The proposal has sparked outcries of public opposition from throughout California. To commemorate the 2 millionth visitor, a coalition of environmental groups and statewide supporters have launched a campaign to save the state park. The coalition includes the Natural Resources Defense Council, California State Parks Foundation, Surfrider, Sierra Club, Sea and Sage Audubon Society, Laguna Greenbelt and Endangered Habitats League.
"We must defend this state park not just for its own sake, though that's reason enough, but to prevent the terrible precedent that its destruction would set for state parklands around California," said Elizabeth Goldstein, spokesperson for Save San Onofre, Coalition to Protect our Parks and Beaches, and President of the California State Parks Foundation. "For the sake of all our state parks, it's time to draw a line in the sand around San Onofre State Beach."
Established in 1971 by Gov. Ronald Reagan as a "great legacy" of unspoiled land for future generations, San Onofre State Beach has since become California's fifth most popular state park. Each year, more than two and a half million visitors flock to the park, which is located in northern San Diego County, to enjoy its long sandy beaches, world-class surf break, hiking trails, campgrounds and windswept bluffs.
The six-lane toll road threatens all of these resources, as well as seven Native-American archaeological sites, habitat for eleven endangered and threatened species, and San Mateo Creek, one of the last unspoiled watersheds in Southern California. Contaminated runoff from the road would pour into the world-famous Trestles surfing beach.
"Trestles is one of the best waves in the world. It's a gem," said Mark Rauscher from Surfrider Foundation. "If constructed, the toll road will have undeniable and adverse impacts on the beach."
Last March, several lawsuits were filed to stop the destructive scheme. California Attorney General Bill Lockyer filed two lawsuits, on behalf of the People of California and the State Parks Commission, and the second on behalf of the Native American Heritage Commission. Coalition members filed a lawsuit under the California Environmental Quality Act to protect natural resources and the park.
Already, a growing number of cities and counties across California have expressed opposition to the toll road, including the counties of Ventura and Santa Cruz, and the cities of Los Angeles, Oceanside, Laguna Beach, Aliso Viejo, Del Mar, Santa Cruz, Santa Monica, Malibu, San Francisco, San Luis Obispo, Berkeley, and Imperial Beach.
"This is one of the most destructive projects in California today" said James Birkelund, a staff attorney with the NRDC. "If they take San Onofre State Beach today, other parklands, in a neighborhood near you, will be targeted for development tomorrow."
Proponents of the toll road say it will ease traffic congestion in Orange County, but less harmful traffic solutions -- like widening the I-5 interstate highway -- were rejected. "This project doesn't make any sense," said Dan Silver, executive director at the Endangered Habitats League. "There's an easy solution to this problem -- fix I-5 and save the park."
The Coalition is asking all Californians to voice their support. Visit www.savesanonofre.com to learn more and take action to save San Onofre State Beach and, with it, all of California's state parks.