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Fate of Trestles, toll road project may soon be known

November 18, 2008 | 10:02 am

A railroad cuts through San Onofre State Beach. A toll road would do the same, perhaps jeopardizing important habitat, if the project gets a green light from the  U.S. Department of Commerce.

A U.S. Department of Commerce decision is expected soon regarding a controversial toll road extension that would slice through a portion of San Onofre State Beach, jeopardizing a pristine watershed that is home to endangered species, and also jeopardizing the famous Trestles surf breaks.

In case you missed it, the L.A. Times devoted nearly a page in Monday's California edition outlining issues that have made the proposed project so contentious.

Personally, I despise the idea as much as I despise heavy traffic.

What the story glossed over were the pros and cons of developing state parks.

Outdoors enthusiasts ought to oppose any project that sacrifices even a portion of any state park. Parks ought to be considered sacred ground and protected against all infringements of civilization.

Isn't that the purpose behind them?

San Onofre receives 2.8 million visitors a year and is the fourth-most visited park in California. Reasons: proximity to ocean and wilderness, and aesthetics.

Those visitors would not likely welcome such an unsightly intrusion, which would run for about five miles and consume 320 acres of their beloved park.

San Onofre State Beach is bisected by San Mateo Creek, one of the last pristine watersheds in Southern California and home to endangered species of wildlife.

A toll road through San Onofre State Beach may jeopardize important habitat if the project gets a green light from the  U.S. Department of Commerce.

Groups such as the Sierra Club, Surfrider Foundation, Wildcoast, Save San Onofre Coalition and California State Parks Foundation vehemently oppose the project for good reasons.

Even proponents of  the toll road project concede this habitat could be damaged.

As for waves at Lower Trestles, one of the world's premier point breaks and home to the only World Tour surfing event in the continental United States, they may not be ruined by the alteration of flow from the creek caused by construction.

Or they could be.

As for traffic, there are no assurances that travelers on Interstate 5 in south Orange County will even detect the slightest difference after completion of an alternative route that would dump motorists onto I-5 at Basilone Road south of San Clemente.

Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez has until Jan. 7 to decide whether to override the California Coastal Commission's rejection of the project last February.

Here's hoping he decides in favor of state parks.

-- Pete Thomas

Photos: Top, a railroad cuts through San Onofre State Beach. A toll road would do the same, perhaps jeopardizing important habitat, bottom, if the project gets a green light from the  U.S. Department of Commerce. Credit: Don Tormey / For The Times; Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times

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