Caring for one of Isla Vista’s natural treasures is too important a task to be undertaken without I.V.’s help.
UCSB’s Coal Oil Point Reserve is asking the California Coastal Commission to close a 400-meter stretch of Sands Beach. The public would still be allowed access to the beach, sort of: A narrow walkway would trace the high-tide line in front of the bluffs. Straying from the path would be illegal.
If the closure protects the endangered western snowy plover, it’s a good idea. Without popular support the plan will only make it more difficult to protect the plover in the future.
UCSB rushed forward with the plan without involving the public in the beach’s future. The university held only one open meeting.
Isla Vistans, loath to give up a beautiful free beach, are understandably upset. Some question the science behind the proposal.
Isla Vistans think the reserve’s director, Christina Sandoval, has mixed motives. Sandoval has a trailer on the reserve and, critics say, wants a private beach. They could be wrong, but Sandoval’s living arrangement makes her judgement appear suspect.
Given these very reasonable objections, the California Coastal Commission should delay any final decision on the plan. It should, however, put the plan into effect on a temporary basis.
While the beach is shut off, the plovers can be studied. If they prosper, then it’s probably a good plan. If the plovers do as well as before, then the beach should be left open to the public.
It’s even possible that, at times other than their mating season, plovers could benefit from human company. As large hairless bipeds, people scare away smaller, furrier predators.
No one knows exactly what the plan means for plovers. Both the plovers and the people who use the beach deserve a better-evaluated proposal. With the plovers’ mating season months away, there’s time for one.
While the beach is shut down, the university should bring in researchers unconnected with the Coal Oil Point Reserve to watch the plovers and check the old data.
Sands Beach and the plovers that live there are a local treasure. Part of what makes the beach special is that people can enjoy it.
Anything as special as that deserves a well-researched plan.