Before 1982, you could ride OHVs from Oceano to Devil's
of Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes National Wildlife Refuge
1901 Southern Pacific Railroad line completed from San Francisco
to Los Angeles.
1920-30 European beach grass introduced to keep sand from
blowing onto railroad tracks.
1934 A portion of Pismo Dunes set aside as a State Beach
including the 500-acre Dune Preserve.
1938 Mobil Corporation acquires 2,550 acres of Guadalupe
1948 Oil discovered in Guadalupe Dunes.
1956 California State Parks proposes establishment of
great State Park, extending from Point Sal to Pismo Beach.
1959 State Parks recreation survey rates Nipomo Dunes
Complex high on places in need of protection.
1962-63 PG&E proposes construction of nuclear power
plant on dunes near Oso Flaco.
1964 PG&E purchases 1,121 acres in Nipomo Dunes and
begins planning for the development of a nuclear power plant.
1966 Opposition to development of sand mine industry.
1969 Santa Barbara County Parks Department acquires 26
acres of lands south of Santa Maria River and designates it “Rancho
Guadalupe County Park.”
1971 Off-Highway Vehicle Division established – funded
with fees collected from issuance of off-highway vehicle licenses.
1972 Passage of California Coastal Zone Conservation Act
and creation of California Coastal Commission to provide for orderly,
long-range conservation, use and management of the resources of the coastal
1973 Gordon Sand Company obtains permit for sand mining.
1976 California Coastal Act mandates all public agencies
to protect rare and sensitive habitats of plants and animals where they are
known to occur.
1976 California Department of Fish and Game study shows
that trampling of marsh vegetation by cattle, use of marsh and riparian
vegetation for feed and eutrophication of runoff waters by waste products have
all led to a general decline in habitat quality of Santa Maria River lowlands.
Same report refers to water quality problems at Oso Flaco Lake associated with
fertilizer and pesticide runoff.
1976 California Department of Fish and Game study declares
Santa Maria River lowlands one of the most important wetlands in the state in
need of protection.
1980 U.S. Fish and Wildlife report describes the Nipomo
Dune Complex as “the most unique and fragile ecosystem in the State of
California” and ranks it #1 on a list of 49 habitats in need of protection.
1980 U.S. Secretary of Interior designates Nipomo Dunes as
a National Landmark.
1982 Coastal Commission offers The Nature Conservancy
easements on Leroy Trust property adjacent to Santa Maria River; one for
public access and one for habitat protection.
1983 Pismo Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area
established; Oso Flaco Lake closed to off-road vehicles; State Parks signs
agreement with Unocal to manage 280-acre parcel in Callender Dunes area as
buffer zone. West Main Street entrance to the Mussel Rock Dunes closed to
off-road vehicles; regulated through staffed guard station funded by Santa
Barbara County with funds from Shell Oil conditional use permit.
1984 Santa Barbara County Local Coastal Plan adopted. San
Luis Obispo County Local Coastal Plan adopted. OHVs prohibited except for the
fenced Pismo Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area. Formation of People for
Nipomo Dunes National Seashore. The Nature Conservancy prepares a habitat
protection plan for the Guadalupe Dunes.
1986 Coastal Conservancy approves Phase I of the Nipomo
Dunes Enhancement Program including disbursement of $715,000 to The Nature
Conservancy for acquisition of 567 acres of coastal dune habitat adjacent to
wetlands of the Santa Maria River mouth. Release of funds for this acquisition
contingent upon development of management agreement between The Nature
Conservancy and Santa Barbara County that called for:
1. A statement establishing the Santa Maria Valley
property as a wildlife and recreation preserve, permitting only those uses
that will be appropriate to maintaining sensitive resources on the property.
2. An agreement to adequately assure the continuation
of the manned gate at the entrance of West Main Street, or some alternative to
the manned gate, in part to prevent off-road vehicle use of the subject
3. An outline of a resource inventory to be conducted
on the subject property to identify sensitive resources, including wetlands
and endangered and/or rare plant and wildlife species and to develop a plan to
protect and enhance such species.
4. Acceptance of responsibility to implement Phase I
of the Nipomo Dunes Enhancement Program, which may include a program of
revegetation and other improvements to benefit sensitive dune wetland
5. A plan for controlled access to allow passive
recreational use consistent with the protection of sensitive resources as
identified in the above-described inventory.
1987 Mussel Rock Dunes parcel acquired by The Nature
Conservancy including property leased to Gordon Sand.
1988 California Wildlife, Coastal, and Park Land
Conservation Act (Proposition 70) passes providing the Coastal Conservancy
with up to $10,000,000 to acquire lands within the Nipomo Dunes Complex,
including $750,000 for restoration and public access development The Nature
Conservancy and Santa Barbara County enter into agreement whereby Santa
Barbara County purchases property from The Nature Conservancy and leases it
back to TNC to manage under terms of an approved agreement between TNC and
Santa Barbara County. Unocal reports first incidence of odors and oil on the
beach in the Guadalupe Dunes.
1989 State Coastal Conservancy approves Phase II of Nipomo
Dunes Enhancement Program, acquires 2,550 acres of Guadalupe Dunes from Mobil
Foundation, and provides Management Plan which will define the restoration,
access and management goals for that property and others within the Nipomo
1991 Management Plan for the Nipomo Dunes Preserve
approved by State Coastal Commission, State Coastal Conservancy, Santa Barbara
County, San Luis Obispo County. The Nature Conservancy enters into a
Concession Agreement with OHV Division of State Parks for management of Oso
Flaco Lake Natural Area. The Nature Conservancy secures grant from Coastal
Conservancy for visitor center and other access improvements.
1992 The Nature Conservancy begins implementing approved
management plan including fee collection system, restriction on dogs and
horses. Santa Barbara County Supervisors rescind entrance fees at the West
Main Street gate three months later.
1993 The Nature Conservancy conducts first
Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes docent training course.
1997 The Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes Center established as
non-profit center; takes over visitor center and educational programs from The
Nature Conservancy. The Nature Conservancy approves 2,550 acres of the Mobil
Coastal Preserve to be transferred to FWS.
1999 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued first in series
of planning updates to solicit public input into establishment of a national
wildlife refuge (NWR) of the Central Coast.
2000 Final comments on proposed Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes
National Wildlife Refuge (GNDNWR). In August GNDNWR is established. In
December there is a dedication ceremony for the visitor center and the new
2001 Center for Natural Lands Management (CNLM) signs
lease agreement to manage Rancho Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes County Park as a
preserve. UNOCAL finishes clean-up/restoration on 5X site. Coastal Conservancy
acts on two offers to dedicate conservation easements on 6000 acres of Leroy
Trust land in former Guadalupe Oil Field.
2002 Unocal acquires former oil field from LeRoy Trust and
begins effort to establish conservation easement over entire 2,700 acres.