LOMPOC, Calif. - Surf Beach will remain open during the Western snowy plover nesting season next year.
On Thursday, the City of Lompoc announced that U.S. Fish and Wildlife had granted Vandenberg Air Force Base the option to not enforce the 50 violation limit at the beach during next year's breeding season.
“This is the first time in a long time that the City of Lompoc is being heard by the federal and the state government," said Lompoc Mayor Jenelle Osborne.
Historically, if people violated the rules more than 50 times, the entire beach would be closed for the remainder of the nesting season, which runs from March through September.
"To feel like we've been locked out of our own beach is very frustrating to the community, driving all the way to Jalama or Pismo," said Osborne.
The Mayor says Fish and Wildlife will still be monitoring the beach, and people will be expected to respect snowy plover nests and not go into areas where the birds are breeding. She says officials may still limit some beach access, but it will not be closed.
"It means that we as a community will have full access to the beach. We will just need to honor the current restrictions and honor the Western snowy plover habitat and nesting areas," said Osborne. "I am so happy for the residents of Lompoc. Lompoc is so connected to Surf Beach. It's our beach."
Some beach goers are happy about the news.
“I think that's wonderful because we love to come here year round," said Lompoc resident Jim Morgenstern.
"I'm very excited," said resident Kathy Morgenstern. "I've always been frustrated that I couldn't just come here and use the beach when I wanted to. I only live seven miles away and I often times in the summer would have to drive all the way to Avila or some place, you know, an hour, hour and a half.”
Others are worried about the bird.
“I think there are gonna be so many violations that they'll have to go back to closing it next year," said Lompoc resident William Thompson. "I just wish people would leave the snowy plovers alone.”
Vandenberg Air Force Base personnel will continue tracking trespass violations, and it's possible beach closures will be reinstated in the future. If there is a significant increase in trespass violations, that could impact whether the beach remains open long term.
Surf, Wall and Minuteman beaches at the base reopened last month after they were closed for the Western snowy plover mating and nesting season.
The Western snowy plover uses the beaches every year. They are protected due to their threatened status.
Critics of the beach closures started an online petition earlier this year, arguing that the rules impact tourism and the local economy.
At the time, Lompoc city officials said they were looking for ways to allow people to access the beaches while also protecting the snowy plover.