Phased Reopening of Vehicular Access at Oceano Dunes SVRA and Pismo SB FAQs

Posted on Oct. 20, 2020

Where is Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area (SVRA) and Pismo State Beach (SB) located?

When will Oceano Dunes SVRA and Pismo SB reopen to coastal vehicle access on the beach?

What services and restrictions will be in place during the three phases of the reopening?

Will I be able to ride my off-highway vehicle (OHV) in the dunes during the first phase of reopening?

Will camping be allowed at Oceano Dunes SVRA in the first phase of reopening?

Is it true that camping is permitted at Pismo SB?

I have camping reservations at Oceano Dunes SVRA for the Thanksgiving holiday. Will my reservation hold or will it be canceled?

Is Oceano Dunes SVRA the only state park unit starting reservations at zero?

Is camping available at Pismo State Beach?

What are the current COVID-19 visitor guidelines?

What is the department doing to restore OHV access at Oceano Dunes SVRA?

Why is Oceano Dunes SVRA closed even though the California Coastal Commission’s Cease and Desist Order ended on October 1?

Prior to October 30, what services are available at Oceano Dunes SVRA and Pismo SB?


Where is Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area (SVRA) and Pismo State Beach (SB) located?
Located along California’s coastline in San Luis Obispo County, midway between San Francisco and Los Angeles, Oceano Dunes SVRA and Pismo SB receive more than 2.2 million visitors annually for off-highway vehicle recreation, surf fishing, camping and other coastal recreation activities. Both units are adjacent to each other. The SVRA is popular for the unique experiences it provides to visitors, such as beach camping, OHV recreation and a myriad of aquatic activities. This popular destination is also home to the endangered Western snowy plover and the California least tern.

All parts of the SVRA are accessed through Pismo State Beach. Oso Flaco is the exception.

When will Oceano Dunes SVRA and Pismo SB reopen to coastal vehicle access on the beach?
Based on COVID-19 data reported by the California Department of Public Health, State Parks is actively working on a three-phased vehicle access reopening plan for Oceano Dunes SVRA and Pismo SB, that supports a safe and healthy environment for employees, natural resources and visitors.

The first phase of State Parks’ reopening plan will begin Friday, Oct. 30, 2020. The phased reopening plan for Ocean Dunes SVRA and Pismo SB is designed to support a safe and healthy environment for employees, visitors and natural resources such as the endangered Western snowy plover and California least tern. Though the first phase is expected to begin October 30, specific datesfor phases two and three have yet to be determined. Updates on all aspects of the phased-reopening plan will be posted on the Oceano District’s Twitter and Facebook social media accounts, and park unit webpages – ohv.parks.ca.gov/OceanoDunes and parks.ca.gov/Pismo.

The department strongly advises the public to plan ahead and find out what services are available and what restrictions are in place. This is especially true for the SVRA. The dune sands have shifted and topography has changed, creating a different terrain that riders and drivers will need to become familiar with to recreate responsibly.

What services and restrictions will be in place during the three phases of the reopening?
Below is a summary of the three-phased reopening plan for Oceano Dunes SVRA and Pismo SB:

Phase One
Scheduled for Friday, October 30

  • Day Use Hours: Both park units will be open daily from 7 a.m. until 8 p.m. for day use by visitors who can walk, bike or drive in with a “street legal” vehicle (e.g. jeeps or trucks).
  • Vehicle Access:
    • “Street legal” vehicles, such as jeeps and trucks, will be allowed on the dunes.
    • “Green Sticker” off-highway vehicles (OHV) will remain temporarily prohibited from entering the park at this time. Staff will monitor conditions and operations to determine when to restore “Green Sticker” OHV activity.
  • Visitation: As the State of California continues to protect Californians from the COVID-19 pandemic and for the protection of natural resources, the daily allowed number of “street legal” vehicles will be temporarily limited to 1,000 per day, for both park units. While State Parks does not anticipate this operational change to impact visitation since this is considered the off-season, over the next few weeks there may be instances where the maximum allowance of vehicles will be met and no further vehicles will be allowed to enter the beach due to the temporary capacity requirement.
  • Camping:
    • Oceano Dunes SVRA: During the initial reopening phase, no overnight camping opportunities will be provided at Oceano Dunes SVRA (beach camping area). Staff will monitor conditions and operations over the next few weeks to determine when to restore these experiences. The public is advised that when campgrounds reopen, they will do so at a reduced and limited capacity (100 sites) to support a safe and healthy environment for employees, natural resources and visitors.
    • Pismo SB: On September 21, developed campgrounds at Pismo SB reopened to visitors. Reservations are required. To book your reservation, please visit www.ReserveCalifornia.com
  • Reservations: Since the campgrounds at Oceano Dunes SVRA will not reopen at full capacity, the number of prior reservations in the system would exceed the reduced inventory under the phased reopening plan of the SVRA. In order to give everyone fair access to available camping, State Parks needs to restart the booking process at zero reservations. The department apologizes for the inconvenience as it continues to address operational considerations during COVID-19. Reservation cancellations and refunds will be automatic. As such, visitors do not need to take any action. Affected reservation holders will be contacted by ReserveCalifornia via email. Phase two of the phased-reopening plan will include the date new reservations can be made for Oceano Dunes SVRA.
  • Events: Special event applications are not being accepted at this time for both park units.
  • Concessions: These services will continue to be temporarily closed.

Phase Two
Date to be determined.

  • Vehicle Access: “Green Sticker” OHVs will be allowed on the dunes.
  • Visitation: The daily allowed number of “street legal” vehicles will continue to be temporarily limited to 1,000 per day, for both park units.
  • Camping: A total of 100 camping sites will be become available to the public.

Phase Three
Date to be determined: State Parks expands day-use opportunities and camping inventory as environmental conditions allow and in alignment with state and local public health orders.

Drivers are advised that the dunes and topography changed during the closure of the park unit, creating unfamiliar terrain. All drivers are being asked to drive with care and provide shorebirds and pedestrians plenty of space as they enjoy the park. The speed limit on the beach is 15 miles per hour.

Visitation and physical distancing will be monitored at Oceano Dunes SVRA and Pismo SB and if unsafe conditions develop, access may be restricted again. The public is reminded to plan ahead, maintain the proper physical distance, avoid crowds and wear face coverings and limit the group to people from the immediate household. For additional OHV COVID-19 tips, please visit www.parks.ca.gov/SafetyTips.

Will I be able to ride my off-highway vehicle (OHV) in the dunes during the first phase of reopening?

  • “Green Sticker” off-highway vehicles (OHV) will remain temporarily prohibited from entering the park units during phase one of the phased reopening plan. Staff will monitor conditions and operations to determine when to restore “Green Sticker” OHV activity.
  •  “Street legal” vehicles, such as jeeps and trucks, will be allowed on the dunes during the first phase of the reopening.
  • As the State of California continues to protect Californians from the COVID-19 pandemic and for the protection of natural resources, the daily allowed number of “street legal” vehicles will be temporarily limited to 1,000 per day, for both park units. While State Parks does not anticipate this operational change to impact visitation since this is considered the off-season, over the next few weeks there may be instances where the maximum allowance of vehicles will be met and no further vehicles will be allowed to enter the beach due to the temporary capacity requirement.

Will camping be allowed at Oceano Dunes SVRA in the first phase of reopening?

  • During the initial reopening phase, no overnight camping opportunities will be provided at Oceano Dunes SVRA (beach camping area). Staff will monitor conditions and operations over the next few weeks to determine when to restore these experiences.
  • The public is advised that when campgrounds reopen, they will do so at a reduced and limited capacity (100 sites) to support a safe and healthy environment for employees, natural resources and visitors.

Is it true that camping is permitted at Pismo SB?
Yes. On September 21, developed campgrounds at Pismo SB reopened to visitors. Reservations are required. To book your reservation, please visit www.ReserveCalifornia.com.  

I have camping reservations at Oceano Dunes SVRA for the Thanksgiving holiday. Will my reservation hold or will it be canceled?
No, all existing camping reservations for Oceano Dunes SVRA will be canceled.

Since the campgrounds at Oceano Dunes SVRA will not reopen at full capacity, the number of prior reservations in the system would exceed the reduced inventory under the phased reopening plan of the SVRA. In order to give everyone fair access to available camping, State Parks needs to restart the booking process at zero reservations. Reservation cancellations and refunds will be automatic. As such, visitors do not need to take any action. Affected reservation holders will be contacted by ReserveCalifornia via email. Phase two of the phased-reopening plan will include the date new reservations can be made for Oceano Dunes SVRA.

Thank you for your patience as this is the first time in the history of the department where safety measures such as vehicular access closures, full closures and cancellation of reservations have been implemented at Oceano Dunes SVRA and Pismo SB at such a large scale in response to a pandemic and other concerns such as the safety of the endangered Western snowy plover and California least tern.

Is Oceano Dunes SVRA the only state park unit starting reservations at zero?
No, the process of cancelling all reservations and starting at zero reservations was implemented during the COVID-19 pandemic within the State Park System in order to give everyone fair access to available camping.

This is the first time in the history of the department where safety measures such as vehicular access closures, full closures and cancellation of reservations have been implemented at this large of a scale and in response to a pandemic.

Thank you for your patience as park operations have been temporarily adjusted over the past few months. The department looks forward to serving you again.

Is camping available at Pismo State Beach?
Yes. On September 21, developed campgrounds at Pismo SB reopened to visitors. Reservations are required.To book your reservation, please visit www.ReserveCalifornia.com

What are the current COVID-19 visitor guidelines?
Here are some visitor guidelines State Parks has implemented at state vehicular recreation areas to reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19 in the outdoors:

  • Plan Ahead -- Visit the webpage – www.parks.ca.gov/ParkIndex -- or social media accounts of your nearby state vehicular recreation areas before leaving home to find out if it is open and what new visitor guidelines are in effect.
  • Stay Safer at 6 Feet -- Maintain a physical distance of 6 feet or more. Do not ride next to others or pull up next to someone else as it could put you in close proximity to others. In your riding group, limit the group to people in your immediate household. Only sheltering together can ride together in UTV’s and 4WD. No gatherings, picnics, or parties.
  • Stage Apart -- Stage 10 feet or more from each other during unloading and loading.
  • Use Safety Equipment-- Use proper equipment such as protective clothing, goggles, a proper helmet, gloves and spark arrestor.
  • Stay Clean -- Be prepared. Bring soap/sanitizer as restrooms may be limited due to an increase in cleaning schedules. Keep soap/sanitizer in vehicle.
  • Pack it In – Pack it Out-- Do your part to keep outdoor places healthy and accessible for other users.
  • Avoid Alcohol: Do not drink and ride.
  • Natural Resources: Tread lightly and stay in designated routes. Stay out of closed areas.
  • Drive with Courtesy: Be prepared to yield any time there is doubt and you can safely do so. Approach curves and hill crests with caution. Assume there are vehicles ahead and slow your driving accordingly. Allow extra room and stopping distance when approaching other vehicles.

For additional OHV COVID-19 tips, please visit www.parks.ca.gov/SafetyTips.

What is the department doing to restore OHV access at Oceano Dunes SVRA?
Based on COVID-19 data reported by the California Department of Public Health, State Parks is actively working on a three-phased vehicle access reopening plan for Oceano Dunes SVRA and Pismo SB, that supports a safe and healthy environment for employees, natural resources and visitors.

Starting Friday, October 30, “street legal” vehicles such as jeeps and trucks will be allowed to enter both Oceano Dunes SVRA and Pismo SB. OHV recreational activities and camping opportunities will be opened to the public during phase two of the reopening plan. Updates will be posted on the Oceano District’s Twitter and Facebook social media accounts, and park unit webpages – ohv.parks.ca.gov/OceanoDunes and parks.ca.gov/Pismo.

As the department works to restore vehicular access at Oceano Dunes SVRA and Pismo SB, visitors will notice some maintenance activity to prepare for public access. Activities will include Air Pollution Control District wind fence and restoration projects, critical facility maintenance activities and emergency access maintenance which may require the use of heavy equipment.

Why is Oceano Dunes SVRA closed even though the California Coastal Commission’s Cease and Desist Order ended on October 1?
In support of the state’s efforts to mitigate the spread and protect Californians from the COVID-19 pandemic, State Parks closed vehicular access at all state park units in March. State Parks is currently working with local and state officials on a phased and regionally driven approach to increase access across the State Park System where compliance with state and local public health ordinances can be achieved.

At Oceano Dunes SVRA and Pismo SB, State Parks is actively working on a three-phased reopening plan that supports a safe and healthy environment for employees, visitors and natural resources such as the endangered Western snowy plover and California least tern.

Though the first phase is expected to begin October 30, specific datesfor phases two and three have yet to be determined. Updates on all aspects of the phased-reopening plan will be posted on the Oceano District’s Twitter and Facebook social media accounts, and park unit webpages – ohv.parks.ca.gov/OceanoDunes and parks.ca.gov/Pismo.

As the department works to restore vehicular access at Oceano Dunes SVRA and Pismo SB, visitors will notice some maintenance activity to prepare for public access. The dunes and topography at the SVRA changed during the closure of the park unit, creating unfamiliar terrain. Activities will include Air Pollution Control District wind fence and restoration projects, critical facility maintenance activities and emergency access maintenance which may require the use of heavy equipment.

Prior to October 30, what services are available at Oceano Dunes SVRA and Pismo SB?
To help mitigate the spread and protect Californians from COVID-19, State Parks has modified park operations across the State Park System, including at Oceano Dunes SVRA and Pismo SB.

Below is a breakdown of the services available at this time at Oceano Dunes SVRA and Pismo SB:

  • Vehicular access is closed at both park units, meaning there are no parking facilities within the boundaries of park units. There is limited public parking outside the units at the Pier Avenue and Grand Avenue park entrances for individuals that can walk into the park units.
  • Both park units remain open to local residents that can walk or bike into these public outdoor spaces, provided that they follow COVID-19 guidelines.
  • Developed campgrounds at Pismo SB have reopened. Reservations are required. To book your reservation, please visit www.ReserveCalifornia.com

State Parks continues work and preparations to support a three-phased reopening to vehicular use at Oceano SVRA and Pismo SB starting on Friday, October 30. The phased reopening plan for Ocean Dunes SVRA and Pismo SB is designed to support a safe and healthy environment for employees, visitors and natural resources such as the endangered Western snowy plover and California least tern. Though the first phase is expected to begin October 30, specific datesfor phases two and three have yet to be determined. Updates on all aspects of the phased-reopening plan will be posted on the Oceano District’s Twitter and Facebook social media accounts, and park unit webpages – ohv.parks.ca.gov/OceanoDunes and parks.ca.gov/Pismo.

As the department works to restore vehicular access at Oceano Dunes SVRA, visitors will notice some maintenance activity to prepare for public access. Activities will include Air Pollution Control District wind fence and restoration projects, critical facility maintenance activities and emergency access maintenance which may require the use of heavy equipment. The dunes and topography at the SVRA changed during the closure of the park unit, creating unfamiliar terrain.