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Foes of coastal parks fee plot strategy

Foes of plans to charge the public an $8 day use fee at more than 20 North Coast beaches gathered in Bodega Bay on Thursday night to plot strategy for killing the idea.

California State Parks has applied for county permits to install self-pay stations at 22 beaches in Sonoma and Mendocino counties as a way of generating more revenue.

But just as happened 20 years ago, opponents are hoping to thwart the proposal by lobbying local and state officials, signing petitions and using other strategies discussed at Thursday's meeting.

About 35 people gathered in the community room at the Bodega Bay Fire Protection District, including one man who sported what appeared to be an original “Free Our Beaches” T-shirt.

Brenda Nichols of Sebastopol earned the loudest applause of the night after she recounted how beaches were the only outlet for recreation that she and her husband could afford after they moved to the county 30 years ago.

Implementing the fees now would be “like cutting off oxygen,” she said.

The list of beaches included in the state parks proposal include Goat Rock, Bodega Head and Salt Point State Park in Sonoma County, and the Mendocino Headlands, Point Cabrillo Light Station and Van Damme State Park in Mendocino County.

State officials sought exemptions from the California Environmental Quality Act for the self-pay stations and are in the process of applying for coastal permits in both counties.

Thursday's meeting was facilitated by former county supervisor Ernie Carpenter, who was a leader of the beach protest movement in the 1990s.

Carpenter is now running against incumbent Efren Carrillo for the 5th District seat on the county board. But he insisted Thursday's meeting was not intended to highlight his campaign.

“I didn't ask them to bring back the iron rangers. That's what they're doing, and that's why we're here,” he said.

But Carpenter nevertheless took some digs at Carrillo, including mocking Carrillo's decision to send a letter to Gov. Jerry Brown on Tuesday that stated Carrillo's opposition to the fees.

Carpenter told the audience they should demand that Carrillo instead lobby county planners who are deciding whether the state's fee proposal is exempt from the coastal permit process.

Carrillo was absent from Thursday's meeting because it conflicted with a campaign event at Spud Point Marina, according to one of his campaign advisors.

In his letter to the governor, Carrillo wrote that it is “absolutely unacceptable” for the state to charge people for access to their beaches.

Last week, Carrillo said in an interview with The Press Democrat that he would support such fees “if it comes down to closing additional parks or not being able to reopen some.”

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