San Onofre’s Trestles — The Countdown to Closure?

12 06 2014

There may not be a crowd at Trestles after 2021.

Many times we forget that Trestles, even Uppers, is part of the larger San Onofre State Beach, which is mistakenly believed by many to be in Orange County (actually it is in San Diego County).

The 2,900-plus-acre State Beach was created in 1971 through a 50-year lease from Camp Pendleton to the State of California. Verbal history says that President Nixon, who spent his holidays at the Cotton mansion at Cotton’s Point (referred to as the Western White House), actually lobbied the Department of the Navy to allow the arrangement. More can be found at this link.

Prior to 1971, surfers traveled beyond the barbed wire at Cotton’s (now called “Barbed Wires”) at their own risk. There are the stories of Marines firing in the air to convince trespassing surfers to come to the beach to turn themselves in. Others will tell you of the times they lost their boards (pre-leash days) only to have them picked up by the MP’s as they washed up on shore. When you went in to claim your board, you were automatically arrested, driven to the Provost’s office at Church, and fined. If you were under 18, your parents got a call. It depended on the officer as to whether you would be taking your board home with you.

In 1970, as an experiment, the Marines allowed the State to open the long bluffs portion of the beach (commonly referred to as “Trails”) to the public, but just for a few weeks in the summer. Fortunately, everyone behaved and the arrangement was made permanent. Interesting side story, during that short temporary opening, fishermen on the beach pulled a lot of great fish from the shallow reef, because the area had not been fished in decades. The following year, the lease was approved and the gates were opened to the public.

Today, we mostly don’t think Trestles could ever be closed to surfers again. But, the lease is up in 2021. It should be interesting to watch the Navy’s maneuvers over the next few years. Will the Crowd thin?

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