My, how time flies, but after 15 years of being at each other's throats, Orange County's toll road agency, California's Attorney General and a broad coalition of national and local environmental groups have essentially saved San Onofre State Beach, the Richard and Donna O’Neill Conservancy and San Mateo Creek watershed.
The pact, announced after the Foothill-Eastern Transportation Corridor Agency Board voted 10-2 behind closed doors Thursday, settles lawsuits that sprang from the board's desire to carve a toll road into previously donated park land—and perilously close to the world famous Trestles surf break.
However, exploration of other transportation solutions for South Orange County are allowed for under the agreement. This includes State Route 241-5 freeway connection options so long as sensitive lands and cultural resources within the San Mateo Creek watershed, including San Onofre State Beach and the O’Neill Conservancy, are protected, the Transportation Corridors Agency (TCA) announced.
“TCA is very pleased to join over a dozen environmental organizations in this unprecedented outcome, which underscores the collaboration between the agency’s leadership and leaders of the environmental community,” stated Foothill/Eastern Transportation Corridor Agency Chairman Craig Young in a press release.
“The settlement agreement reached today is the culmination of years of work by the Save San Onofre Coalition to ensure the protection of the extraordinary recreational, cultural and natural resources of San Onofre State Beach and the Richard and Donna O’Neill Conservancy,” adds Elizabeth Goldstein, president of the California State Parks Foundation and spokeswoman for the Save San Onofre Coalition, in the same release. “This agreement will guarantee that millions of Californians will be able to enjoy this magnificent park, its beaches and natural areas for years to come.”
Her coalition includes Audubon California, California Coastal Protection Network, California State Parks Foundation, Defenders of Wildlife, Endangered Habitats League, Laguna Greenbelt, Inc., Natural Resources Defense Council, Orange County Coastkeeper, Sea and Sage Audubon Society, Sierra Club, Surfrider Foundation and WiLDCOAST/COASTALVAjE.
The California Park and Recreation Commission and the Native American Heritage Commission also signed off on the pact.
Keep your fingers crossed that rising sea levels do not do to Trestles what the TCA could not.
Matt Coker has been engaging, enraging and entertaining readers of newspapers, magazines and websites for decades. He spent the first 13 years of his career in journalism at daily newspapers before “graduating” to OC Weekly in 1995 as the paper’s first calendar editor. He went on to be managing editor, executive editor and is now senior staff writer.