Once visited for its remoteness and natural beauty, recent visitors to Point Sal State Park have found barbed wire fences adorned with no trespassing signs and military security patrols to greet them. Its wind-swept bluffs accessible for years, the remote beach at Point Sal State Park remains inaccessible to members of the public a year after the only road in and out was closed by the command at Vandenberg Air Force Base. Claiming to be protecting “critical national assets”-including several underground missile silos in the area-the closure has lead to complaints from local residents and Santa Barbara County supervisors alike.
The County road, which cuts across the northern end of the base, is the only access route into Point Sal State Park. Although there used to be a car-accessible road and a parking area near the beach, heavy surf from the storms of 1998 washed out much of the road, leaving it safe only for hikers. Up until last year, hikers were able to transverse the seven mile stretch to access one of the Central Coast’s hidden natural treasures.
Fourth District Supervisor Joni Gray has been a staunch advocate of the park’s users, contending that the Air Force’s closure of the road is illegal. “We think people have been deprived of their beach long enough,” she said, referring to some people who have continued to use the road despite the ban, incurring federal trespassing charges and community service sentences. Air Force and County officials met on November 29, but have yet to come to an agreement that would allow people access to Point Sal, although Col. Stephen Tanous, commander of the 30th Space Wing, has agreed not to site people with trespassing anymore, and has promised to allow access in the future through a “specified route.”