LOS ANGELES — A disagreement over a well-known slice of the Southern California coast is threatening to drive a wedge between Marines and surfers, groups that had recently set aside differences and become political allies.
At issue is the 2.25-mile stretch of surf and sand known as Trestles, between the San Onofre nuclear plant and the San Diego County-Orange County line. The name comes from two train trestles that parallel the ocean.
To wave riders, Trestles represents seven of the primo surf breaks in the world. To Marines, the middle section of the 2.25 miles is an ideal location to teach grunts how to fight their away from ship to shore and inland.
With the San Clemente-based Surfrider Foundation in the lead, surfers petitioned to have Trestles listed on the National Register of Historic Places, for its role in the rise of “surf culture.” Surfers hope the listing will ensure that nothing will disrupt the site’s isolation and lack of “commercial growth.”
The Marine Corps, which owns the beach and the paths leading to it, opposes having Trestles listed, out of concern that the designation might lead to civilian oversight that crimps training.
The skirmish is not over, but so far the surfers appear to be winning.
Despite opposition from the Marine Corps and the Navy, the State Historical Resources Commission voted unanimously Feb. 8 to forward a recommendation to Washington that Trestles be listed.
The decision now rests with the civilians who run the National Register, which is part of the National Park Service.
The recommendation “does not and will not impose any additional requirements for consultation for military training and operational use,” according to documents supporting the Trestles nomination.
“This is a historic designation, it does not change the use of the property,” said Amy Crain, a state historian.
But military brass and two state senators aren’t buying the assurances that nothing will keep the Marines from using what is called Green Beach for mock assaults, or for other exercises involving heavy vehicles traveling between the beach and the open spaces of Camp Pendleton.
Military officials “believe these assurances to be unenforceable,” Brig. Gen. Vincent Coglianese, commanding general of Camp Pendleton, wrote to the state historic preservation officer before the commission vote.
State Sens. Mimi Walters and Mark Wyland, in a joint statement, warned that listing Trestles will “put state bureaucrats and surfers in control of Marine Corps training near Trestles.”
From World War II to 1971, the Marine Corps was in control of the entire 2.25 miles. But after prodding from then-President Nixon, a part-time resident of San Clemente, the military leased the property to the state to establish San Onofre State Beach.
Of course, even before the Trestles breaks — Uppers, Lowers, Middles, Church, the Point, Old Man’s and Dog Patch — were open to the public, intrepid surfers were attracted by the near-perfect waves.
“For well over 25 years, surfers carried on guerrilla warfare with U.S. Marines,” according to a California Department of Parks and Recreation history of the area. “Trespassing surfers were chased, arrested and fined.”
One of those who fondly remember those days is Bruce Johnston, later a member of the Beach Boys.
“We even had to outrun 18-year-old Marines from Oklahoma trying to chase us away,” Johnston wrote in support of listing Trestles as a historic place. “... It was a great experience!”
In 1963, Trestles was mentioned in “Surfin’ USA,” the Beach Boys song that became an anthem for a suddenly surf-obsessed generation. Beach Boy Mike Love has joined Johnston in supporting Trestles as a historic site.
Trestles would be the first surf spot to be listed as such, state officials said. Before its vote, the state commission received more than 1,300 letters about Trestles — 1,235 in support, 112 in opposition, a record for any proposed historic designation.
A sign warns of limited public access to an area of the San Onofre State Beach Trestles surf area.
The Rainbows are coming again, and Crook County is prepared. Ten years ago, more than 20,000 members of the Rainbow Family, an international Utopian living group, met to camp, recreate and pray for peace at Indian Prairie, part of the Ochoco National Forest located approximately 30 miles northeast of Prineville. The group’s stay in Central Oregon was largely uneventful. But the influx of visitors and…
They arrive from every corner of Oregon — and even from across the country — on a remote gravel road just outside the Mount Jefferson Wilderness. Thirty cars line the small parking area at Whitewater Trailhead 68 miles east of Salem, their owners stepping into the bright sunlight on a recent Saturday wearing hiking boots and carrying backpacks for a journey into one of the…
The holiest plant of the Christmas season may be a raggedy shrub with peeling bark that seems to grow best in a dusty backyard in Tempe, Ariz. This is Boswellia sacra, better known as the frankincense tree. The shrub’s gum resin is one of the three biblical gifts that the wise men bestowed on the infant Jesus. Until recently, Americans who wished to cultivate their…
FRESNO, Calif. — Federal law now allows visitors to carry guns in national parks, but you can’t just slip a loaded pistol into your backpack and take a hike. Pay attention, because this is a little complicated. You will need a concealed weapons permit to carry the loaded gun in the backpack. But you don’t need any kind of permit if you just want to…
Move over, large lap pools. Smaller swimming holes are making a big splash. Sure, the economy is playing a role in making this luxury littler: Smaller pool equals smaller budget. But it's more than that, says Brett Berry, owner of Landscape Renderings, a Missouri business that designs and builds outdoor living environments. “You can create a fantastic sense of intimacy and atmosphere with a small…