California State Parks announced Oct. 20, a three-phased reopening plan for vehicular use at Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area (SVRA) and Pismo State Beach (SB), starting Friday, Oct. 30. Vehicular access to all state park units was closed in March to prevent visitation surges and help mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

In recent months, State Parks has worked with local and state officials on a phased and regionally driven approach to increase access across the State Park System, where compliance with state and local public health ordinances can be achieved. The phased-reopening plan for Ocean Dunes SVRA and Pismo SB was designed to support a safe and healthy environment for employees, visitors and natural resources such as the endangered Western snowy plover and California least tern. 

Though the first phase is expected to begin Oct. 30, specific dates for phases two and three have yet to be determined. Updates on all aspects of the phased-reopening plan will be posted on the Oceano District’s Twitter and Facebook social media accounts and park unit webpages — ohv.parks.ca.gov/OceanoDunes and parks.ca.gov/Pismo.

“Public safety during COVID-19, the protection of natural resources and providing recreational opportunities at Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area and Pismo State Beach are priorities for California State Parks,” Director Armando Quintero said. “We thank the public for their patience as this is the first time in the history of the department where safety measures such as vehicular access closures, full closures and cancellation of reservations have been implemented at such a large scale in response to a pandemic.”

Below is a summary of the three-phased reopening plan for Oceano Dunes SVRA and Pismo SB:

Phase One

Scheduled for Friday, Oct. 30

  • Day Use Hours: Both park units will be open daily from 7 a.m. until 8 p.m. for day use by visitors who can walk, bike or drive in with a “street legal” vehicle (e.g., jeeps or trucks).
  • Vehicle Access:
    • “Street legal” vehicles, such as jeeps and trucks, will be allowed on the dunes.
    • “Green Sticker” off-highway vehicles (OHV) will remain temporarily prohibited from entering the park at this time. Staff will monitor conditions and operations to determine when to restore “Green Sticker” OHV activity.
  • Visitation: As the State of California continues to protect Californians from the COVID-19 pandemic and for the protection of natural resources, the daily allowed number of “street legal” vehicles will be temporarily limited to 1,000 per day for both park units. While State Parks does not anticipate this operational change to impact visitation since this is considered the off-season, over the next few weeks, there may be instances where the maximum allowance of vehicles will be met and no further vehicles will be allowed to enter the beach due to the temporary capacity requirement.
  • Camping:
    • Oceano Dunes SVRA: During the initial reopening phase, no overnight camping opportunities will be provided at Oceano Dunes SVRA (beach camping area). Staff will monitor conditions and operations over the next few weeks to determine when to restore these experiences. When campgrounds reopen, the public is advised that they will do so at a reduced and limited capacity (100 sites) to support a safe and healthy environment for employees, natural resources, and visitors.
    • Pismo SB: On Sept. 21, developed campgrounds at Pismo SB reopened to visitors. Reservations are required. To book your reservation, visit www.ReserveCalifornia.com
  • Reservations: Since the campgrounds at Oceano Dunes SVRA will not reopen at full capacity, the number of prior reservations in the system would exceed the reduced inventory under the phased reopening plan of the SVRA. To give everyone fair access to available camping, State Parks needs to restart the booking process at zero reservations. The department apologizes for the inconvenience as it continues to address operational considerations during COVID-19. Reservation cancellations and refunds will be automatic. As such, visitors do not need to take any action. ReserveCalifornia will contact affected reservation holders via email. Phase two of the phased-reopening plan will include the date new reservations can be made for Oceano Dunes SVRA.
  • Events: Special event applications are not being accepted at this time for both park units.
  • Concessions: These services will continue to be temporarily closed.

Phase Two

Date to be determined.

  • Vehicle Access: “Green Sticker” OHVs will be allowed on the dunes.
  • Visitation: The daily allowed number of “street legal” vehicles will continue to be temporarily limited to 1,000 per day for both park units.
  • Camping: A total of 100 camping sites at Oceano Dunes SVRA will become available to the public.

Phase Three

Date to be determined: State Parks expands day-use opportunities and camping inventory as environmental conditions allow and align with state and local public health orders.

Drivers are advised that the dunes and topography changed during the park unit’s closure, creating unfamiliar terrain. All drivers are being asked to drive with care and provide shorebirds and pedestrians plenty of space as they enjoy the park. The speed limit on the beach is 15 mph.

Visitation and physical distancing will be monitored at Oceano Dunes SVRA and Pismo SB and if unsafe conditions develop, access may be restricted again. The public is reminded to plan, maintain the proper physical distance, avoid crowds, wear face coverings and limit the group to people from the immediate household. For additional OHV COVID-19 tips, visit www.parks.ca.gov/SafetyTips.

As the department works to restore vehicular access at Oceano Dunes SVRA and Pismo SB, visitors will notice some maintenance activity to prepare for public access. Activities will include Air Pollution Control District wind fence and restoration projects, critical facility maintenance activities and emergency access maintenance, which may require the use of heavy equipment.

Located along California’s coastline in San Luis Obispo County, midway between San Francisco and Los Angeles, Oceano Dunes SVRA and Pismo SB receive more than 2.2 million visitors annually for off-highway vehicle recreation, surf fishing, camping and other coastal recreation activities. Both units are adjacent to each other. The SVRA is popular for the unique experiences it provides to visitors, such as beach camping, OHV recreation and a myriad of aquatic activities. This popular destination is also home to the endangered Western snowy plover and the California least tern.

Getting through this together, Paso Robles