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May 27th
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Town Hall with Supervisor Neal Coonerty

neal-coonertyThe state is planning to close Twin Lakes, Seabright and Blacks state beaches this summer. What will this mean for Santa Cruz?  

State Parks plans to close these beaches as of July 1 of this year.  

I am gravely concerned about [this]. This sandy shoreline attracts approximately half a million visitors every year. Locals and tourists enjoy swimming, picnicking, and having family gatherings and bonfires at these beaches.

Since State Parks hasn’t provided details of the closure plan, it isn’t clear whether they will try to prevent people from using these beaches or allow people to use the beach at their own risk. State Parks may lock the restrooms and stop picking up the trash, leading to health, safety and environmental problems.  

Without lifeguards at these beaches during the summer months it is likely people will drown. According to state lifeguard statistics, lifeguards performed 64 rescues in 2010 alone and undoubtedly some of those rescues would have been fatalities without the lifeguards.

What will happen on these beaches on the Fourth of July when tens of thousands of people—some with illegal fireworks—come to these beaches?  State Parks rangers usually work with local law enforcement to attempt to maintain some level of safety and, if State Parks staff won’t be a part of that effort, public safety will be compromised.

After years of budget cuts, local governments don’t have the funds to take over management of these beaches and it is very unlikely that a local nonprofit group will be able to either, given the challenges of managing beach use.

While California has a severe budget problem, closing 70 of our 278 state parks would save the state only $22 million—a mere two-tenths of 1 percent of the state’s $9.2 billion budget deficit. When the impact to the tourism economy, increased vandalism, legal costs and environmental costs are factored in, the closures could easily end up costing the state money.

I understand the state’s horrible budget situation and in November will support the temporary tax increases that are seriously needed for the sake of California's basic quality of life and business climate.

Right now I am fighting to keep Twin Lakes, Seabright and Blacks state beaches open and I need your readers’ help. Please contact our local legislators and … call Gov. Brown at 916-445-2841 and tell him that closing parks is bad for California. Urge him to keep the Twin Lakes beaches open and reverse the permanent cuts to state parks.

What environmental issues are coming to the Board of Supervisors this winter?

In February the Board will consider an amendment to expand the county’s polystyrene ordinance. Currently, Santa Cruz County’s polystyrene ban only applies to take-out food containers. While this has been an important first step to reducing waste and substituting bio-degradable materials, it does not apply to many other products that contain Styrofoam, such as disposable coolers or beach toys that are still found as trash on our county’s beaches.

Styrofoam continues to be a major polluter of our beaches and ocean sanctuary. According to local environmental organizations, despite the passage of the county’s Environmentally Acceptable Packaging Materials Ordinance in 2008, polystyrene foam is still one of the most abundant types of litter found during beach cleanups.

In addition, the U.S. EPA has stated that the physical properties of polystyrene foam are such that “the material can have serious impacts on human health, wildlife, the aquatic environment and the economy.” According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, there is medical evidence to suggest that styrene, a primary component of polystyrene foam, leaches from polystyrene foam containers into food and drink.

The proposed amended ordinance that the Board will consider in February will ban all polystyrene products in the county with an exception for those products that are encased in more durable material. Examples of exempted products include surfboards, boats, life preservers, construction materials, craft supplies and durable coolers not principally composed of polystyrene. The Board of Supervisors is scheduled to consider the expanded ban on polystyrene at our Feb. 14 meeting. If this is an important issue for a reader, [they shouldn’t] hesitate to let [his or her] voice be heard by calling or emailing their County Supervisor.

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