The California Department of Parks and Recreation is appealing the Sonoma County Board of Zoning Adjustment’s denial of its plan to install self-pay boxes at 14 beach parking lots from Salt Point to Bodega Head on the Sonoma Coast.

The zoning board in January unanimously denied the state’s request for a coastal permit to install signs and collection boxes. On Tuesday, the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors will hear the state’s appeal.

The county’s Permit and Resource Management Department is recommending that the supervisors deny the appeal.

Two dozen people spoke against the plan at the zoning board’s hearing in January. They said damage would occur to environmentally sensitive habitat areas when people cut new trails to avoid paying $8 day use beach fees.

They also said the public safety of people who park on the side of state Highway 1 to avoid the beach fees would be in jeopardy.

Speakers also noted the public outcry when $50 million was discovered in two different state parks department accounts at a time when the agency was planning on closing dozens of parks in the state.

The California Department of Parks and Recreation cited budget shortfalls and a legislative mandate to increase revenue as the reasons for collecting the fees at beach parking lots in Sonoma Coast State Park and Salt Point State Park.

“The main issue for this project is consistency with Coast Act section 30210 which requires ‘maximum access’ to the coast ‘for all people’,” the Permit and Resource Management Department said in a report to the Board of Supervisors.

The Board of Supervisors in August approved a resolution opposing new beach parking fees until the Department of Parks and Recreation accounts for all funding streams and determines no other viable funding alternatives exist to endure free and open access to parks.

State parks staff have said one option would allow use of multiple parks in a single day with a payment of the fee at the first stop.

The agency has also proposed an hourly fee at some locations in Southern California.

James Lanaras, Bay City News

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