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Campground Hearing Draws Large Crowd

October 22, 2008 by   - () Leave a Comment

The opportunity to discuss the future of Lawson’s Landing campground drew a crowd of 150 to a hearing before the Marin County (Calif.) Board of Supervisors on Oct. 14, as the master plan amendment moved one step closer to conclusion.
“I’m going to chain myself to my trailer. You’ll have to haul me out. I’m going to be a trailer hugger,” said Cynthia Whitley, whose family has been coming to Lawson’s Landing for four generations.
The campground, one of the last low-cost waterfront seaside recreation areas in California, also supports wetlands, a rare sand dune habitat and endangered species, according to the Point Reyes Light, Inverness, Calif.
The campground has been operating without permits for four decades. Bringing it into compliance with current regulations will drastically change the way it looks and operates – and threatens to put it out of business.
“This is a wonderful place,” Whitley said. “Please don’t take away the access for these people. There is no other place like it.”
“Nobody has mentioned closing this site down, we certainly don’t support that. The acreage of this site is so large that there most certainly is room to have campsites somewhere else,” said Barbara Salzman of the Marin Audubon Society, who was shouted away from the microphone when her comments exceeded the allotted time.
Owners Propose Major Improvements
The Lawson family has submitted a plan that includes the installation of expensive septic systems, road improvements and facilities. Camping will be reduced and regulated to clearly defined sites, eliminating the open, family-style camping in the property’s main meadow.
But the family has been fighting proposals to enforce wetland buffers, which would drastically curtail camping. In addition, the county and Coastal Commission may require the removal of an enclave of privately owned travel trailers, which remain in place year-round and provide half of the campground’s income.
In the face of these changes, patrons of the campground offered impassioned pleas that the business, and some semblance of its unique character, be preserved.
“I’m here to stress the importance of the permanent spaces,” said Walt Driggs, of Georgetown. “My family has had a spot there since the ‘60s. My great-grandchildren are starting to play now in that area. To see that just go away would almost be a sin.”
Nearby homeowners raised concerns about heavy traffic, whereas the owner of a neighboring business warned that if the campground went out of business, he would too.
A contingent of environmental advocates was on hand to plead for their cause as well.
Others speakers countered that the use of the property is relatively low-impact. “The property supports over a dozen rare, endangered and threatened species, and the richest collection of seasonal dune collections and they are there,” said attorney Gary Giacomini during a vehement speech that kicked off the hearing. “The reason is because this family is such good stewards.”
Supervisor Steve Kinsey made it clear that the board would require more information and several more meetings before it is comfortable approving the plan, citing roughly two dozen issues that were raised during the meeting.
If approved by the board, the plan will be passed to the Coastal Commission for yet another review.
“We need to be careful that we are going to send something to the Coastal Commission that can make it through them, too,” added Supervisor Susan Adams. “I don’t want to go through this whole process and then have it fail at that level.”
The next hearing is scheduled for Nov. 18.

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