Sometimes we forget just how precious the resources of San Onofre State Beach and San Mateo Creek are to Southern California. Sure, they play host to one of North America’s premiere waves, but there are plenty of lesser-known reasons that make the park equally compelling; not to mention a horde of environmental concerns worth considering on your next visit. Here are a few facts that may surprise you:
“The Trestles Wetlands Preserve is the highest level of protection that State Parks have,” says Rich Haydon, South Sector Superintendent of Orange Coast District, California State Parks. “There are Recreational areas and State Beaches and State Parks, but a Preserve is a sacred spot for us and something we will pull out all the stops to protect.
“A lot of people don’t realize that we don’t own the park outright,” says Haydon. “It’s still owned by the Department of the Navy, and is on a fifty-year lease which runs out in 2022. We’re hoping that we’ll at least get a lease extension; if not we’ll get the opportunity to purchase the property.
Nixon did some good for the environment. “When Richard Nixon was president at the Western Whitehouse, his love for this area is a large reason that it became a state park,” says Haydon. “That’s a good legacy to leave. They recognized the value of the area and wanted it to be made a park for preservation purposes. We like to assume that his intent, instead of doing a lease before his presidency terminated, was to bid the area over to the state of California.”
The area is home to a lot of endangered species. The list includes: the Arroyo Toad, Southwestern Willow Flycatcher, Least Bell’s Vireo, Southern Steelhead, Tidewater Goby, Pacific Pocket Mouse, Leaf Terns, Plovers, and many more.
Every time you cross the railroad tracks at Lowers you’re breaking the law. The offense could potentially cost a $5,500 fine if punished to the furthest extent.
The risk of wildfire in this park is high when Santa Ana winds occur. “It’s a high threat,” says Haydon. “One spark will set it off here; all it takes is one cigarette butt and it has the potential to cause a lot of damage.”
Here are a few tips for surfers and spectators alike to help keep the park clean:
- Use the Port-O-Potty. Don’t go in the wetlands.
- Stickers. “Everyone puts stickers up all over the place,” says Haydon. “it’s a blight and they end up in the sand.”
- Graffiti. “We have to use resources to cover the graffiti and it’s a waste of time and money,” says Haydon. “Some of it we have to power wash out or paint over top of, but we get rid of it.”
- Don’t burn pressure-treated wood in your bonfires. Pressure treated wood often bears a greenish tint and releases toxins like arsenic when burned.
- Don’t use the trail through the wetlands to access Lowers.It invades the natural habitat of rare species and causes unnecessary damage to the environment.
- Pack up your trash. “Surfers’ worst contribution to the beach is litter,” says Haydon. “Pack it in and pack it out; Instead of using plastic water bottles bring a polycarbonate reusable bottle. I think surfers are a lot better about it then they used to be, but if everyone took a second to consider their affect on the environment it could make a huge difference.”