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County planners oppose beach day use fees

Sonoma County planners are recommending that the state be prevented from charging new day use fees at beaches up and down the coast on the grounds that doing so would limit public access and violate local and state laws.

The highly-anticipated recommendation provides ammunition for fee opponents. They include county Supervisor Efren Carrillo, whose district includes the coast and who Thursday vowed to fight the fee proposal "on every front."

"You absolutely have to draw the line and protect what I'm describing as a fundamental interest of the people of California, which is access to public beaches," Carrillo said.

California State Parks applied for a county coastal development permit to install 15 new self-pay machines at beaches on the Sonoma Coast. The application does not spell out any fees but parks officials previously said they plan to charge visitors $8 for parking.

State officials say the new fees are necessary to keep the beaches open and to reopen others as the park system grapples with budget cuts and a deferred maintenance backlog of more than $1 billion.

"Our budget situation remains critical," Roy Stearns, a spokesman for state parks, said Thursday.

But Carrillo predicted the state will "have a very rough road ahead through the planning process." State parks rescinded similar fees in 1990 amid strong local protest.

The beaches where the new fees would apply include Stump Beach, Russian Gulch, Blind Beach, North Goat Rock, Goat Rock Arched Rock, South Goat Rock, Shell Beach, Portuguese Beach, Schoolhouse Beach, North and South Salmon Creek, Campbell Cove, Bodega Head Upper and Bodega Head Lower.

The county Board of Zoning Adjustments is scheduled to take up the state's permit application Jan. 17.

Carrillo said the proposal likely will end up before the Board of Supervisors, whether as a recommendation for approval or on appeal.


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