South Trestles in San Onofre State Beach is known as a spot for world class surf. It has been referred to as ‘the jewel of Southern California,’ cultivating its reputation through cult classic films like the Endless Summer and elite surfers, such as Kelly Slater and Jordy Smith. However as popular as this break may be, it has become endangered by the extension of the 241 toll road. Construction would continue from the existing 241 toll road near Mission Viejo, extending all the way to San Clemente and through San Mateo Camp ground. Local surfers and residents of San Clemente have been up in arms about the development of the toll road and have been protesting its completion since 2008. However, the state verdict against the construction of the toll road has been appealed by the California Chamber of Commerce and they have asked to build construction on the first five miles, where the California State Park has no jurisdiction to prevent construction.
Opponents of the extension are afraid the construction will impact the local surf, changing the shape and form of the legendary waves of Trestles. Their argument states that the construction of the toll road would release sediment and cobblestones, which would eventually be washed out to sea, changing the foundation, surf and break of the waves. Environmental groups, such as the Sierra Club are more concerned about the water quality and run off from the construction of the road tampering with the pristine ecosystem within South Trestles. This natural watershed which is located in San Mateo, provides the state standard for regulating ocean cleanliness. Environmentalists argue the runoff will contaminate the last natural virgin watershed and the ecosystem it provides within Southern California.
On the contrary, Dave Skelly a coastal engineer and member of the Surfrider foundation, argues the construction of the 241 toll road would in no way change the formation or existing wave pattern at Trestles. He argues the cobblestones are only found in the watershed and it would take the sediment over 50-100 years of constant rain to be eventually moved into the ocean. The extension of the 241 toll road does not have cobblestones located within its construction site. In regards to the San Mateo watershed, the cobblestones and sediment only are forced into the ocean once the creek water exceeds the berm. This happens once every couple of years and only for a short time, having no impact on trestles surf whatsoever. Therefore, the construction of 241 would not change the sediment of Trestles. However, this does not account for the damaging of the ecosystem nor the destruction of habitat of endangered species and water purity.
Yet, as California State Parks continue to suffer from lack of funding the idea of third party organizations, non-profit groups, community organizations and for profit groups could be a reasonable solution. The Little Hoover Commission, a bipartisan state agency created by the legislature in order to evaluate the effectiveness of state programs, released a report supporting these interactions. Proponents believe the 241 toll road would increase profits in California due to the presence of the toll. As for the argument of damaged habitat and threatened species, previous toll roads such as 73 toll road have been labeled conservation sites.
The Transportation Corridor Agency (TCA), responsible for the construction of the 241 toll road, released a report promoting the pros of toll roads, including their conservation programs. These conservation sites have helped species such as the California gnatcher bird, rodents, coyotes and mountain lions to thrive due to the coastal sage scrub, wetlands and marsh that provide homes for these animals. They also provide excursions and habitat tours to the public for a fee, contributing revenue to the state. Toll road 241 could ultimately provide the same result if the extension were completed.
However, there is no evidence from proponents to refute inadvertent effects to water and air quality. Proponents have argued the toll road would reduce CO2 emissions by reducing the amount of drivers on the road, whereas opponents have stated new roads create new drivers in rural areas which would not have originally been driven. Potentially, water quality would be effected due to runoff: oil, refuse, and litter from the toll road. Opponents of toll road 241 have not brought sufficient, contrary evidence arguing the waves of Trestles would be augmented by cobblestone and sediment run off, whereas proponents have not given evidence against damaging the watershed of San Mateo.
Either way, before making preconceived judgments about the toll road 241 or about tree-hugging hippies wanting to save the gnatcher bird, getting both sides of the story are crucial to keep the ignorance out of surfing and decisions towards the preservation of a legendary, iconic location in the world of surfing.