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    Open Letter on Ormond Beach Public Access

    To Whom It May Concern,

    As a former President of the Surfside III Condominium Owners’ Association in Port Hueneme, and co-founder of the Ormond Beach Task Force, I wish to give a sincere thanks to the “Project Partners” who include The City of Oxnard, The State Coastal Conservancy, and The Nature Conservancy, who commissioned the Ormond Beach Restoration And Public Access Plan. They helped the residents of Oxnard and Port Hueneme to keep the dream alive of protecting and enhancing the Ormond Beach wetlands, and neighboring environmentally sensitive habitat areas that serve as “buffers” in both cities. 

    These same “partners” reached out to a select group of stakeholders, policymakers, a local neighborhood advocacy group, and scientific experts to make recommendations for their plan. Regrettably, they hastened the process of achieving a broad public consensus on what needs to be done to protect endangered and threatened wildlife at the Ormond Beach wetlands. To compound matters, residents of a large homeless encampment adjacent to the Ormond Beach wetlands are currently destroying critical habitat at Hueneme and Ormond Beaches.

    The Ormond Beach Restoration and Public Access Plan Must Be Recirculated To Include Comments

    From Past Stakeholders, Scientific Experts, & Local Experts Who Work Daily With “The Homeless”

    I wish to state my profound concern about the untimely approval of the “Final” Ormond Beach Public Access and Restoration Plan, without the benefit of more input and comments from certain past and present stakeholders, local housing and homeless advocates, along with other conservation and scientific experts.

    There would be no plan today if it were not for the joint efforts in the 1990’s by the Sierra Club, League for Coastal Protection, Surfside III, Surfside II, Surfrider Foundation, Environmental Coalition, and other concerned “stakeholders” whose residents or members live in Oxnard, Port Hueneme, and neighboring coastal and inland communities. 

    The latest OBRAP “final plan” must be recirculated to the previously uninformed public and policy makers to give them adequate time to identify scientific information, overlooked by ESA and other members of the plan “Consultant Team,” which is missing from public documents of critical importance to both Ormond and Hueneme Beach.  More comment time is also needed to allow informed input from other prominent stakeholders such as Brian Foster, PhD, Wayne Ferren, formerly of UCSB, and Dr. Pat Baird from CSULB, whose decades of experience advocating on behalf of Ormond and Hueneme Beach, and its associated land use, public access, and human services challenges, are invaluable and were not fully considered by the plan’s proponents or their paid consultants.

    The Plan Partners, The City of Oxnard, The State Coastal Conservancy, and The Nature Conservancy neglected to seek out certain key stakeholders who helped to organize and were founding members of the Ormond Beach Task Force (OBTF).  Luminaries such as Sara Wan, the former Chair of the OBTF and past Chair of the California Coastal Commission, her OBTF successor Russ Baggerly, representatives from Earth Alert, the Ormond Beach Observers, Point Mugu Wildlife Center, League of Women Voters, Sierra Club, Surfside II, and Surfside III, and the Earth Island Institute were recently made aware of the state of the OBRAP and have missed important meetings regarding same.

    It’s particularly noteworthy that officials of the Rescue Mission Alliance, headquartered in Oxnard, were not consulted about the OBRAP.  For several decades, RMA has provided expert housing and human services to homeless populations in Oxnard and Port Hueneme.

    Roma Armbrust, Jean Harris, and Alan Sanders are due special recognition for their many years of effort reaching out to local homeowners and businesses whose residences or enterprises adjoin or are in close proximity to Ormond Beach.  Sara and Roma later helped Sara to organize the Ormond Beach Task Force (OBTF).  Representing Surfside III as President, I was among the founding members of the OBTF. Al Sanders joined me in leadership of this fledgling organization.  As the Conservation Chair, Al represented the Los Padres Chapter of the Sierra Club, who along with Surfside III and others, continue to be absent from any formal discussion about the above referenced “final” OBRAP plan. This lack of engagement on the part of the Plan Partners did not and does not serve the best interests of the public or other stakeholders.

    Neighboring industrial businesses and public agencies such as New-Indy Containerboard® and Agromin®, and the Port Hueneme Water Agency and the Oxnard Waste Water Treatment Plant did not input on the plan, which seems odd considering their operations adjoin or are in close proximity to both Hueneme Beach and Ormond Beach.  Together, they discharge waste water into drains and canals that feed into the ocean and the wetlands. Incidentally, why was Ducks Unlimited or other conservation groups not invited by the partners to comment on the OBRAP?  They help restore critical habitat throughout the United States.

    Oxnard Coastal Land Use Plan (LCP) is Obsolete

    Oxnard’s Coastal Land Use Plan is (LCP) of February 1982 is obsolete.  It was last revised in May of 2002, which renders some planning information contained within it either incomplete or obsolete.   Much of the new scientific information that has been shared with the cities of Oxnard and Port Hueneme over the past three decades about Ormond Beach, its wetlands, and the Environmentally Sensitive Habitat Area and ESHA buffer zones that adjoins it, including Hueneme Beach and Bubbling Springs, is missing from their antiquated LCP and the final plan. This new and updated information would help the public and policymakers to have a greater understanding of the status of threatened and endangered birds, fish, reptiles, and other wildlife that still exists at Ormond Beach, Hueneme Beach, and neighboring Bubbling Springs Park. 

    Vehicular and Public Access to the Ormond Beach Wetlands Must Be Limited To Protect Endangered Wildlife

    Due to the sensitive nature of the Ormond Beach wetlands, and the adjoining ESHA and ESHA buffer zones, vehicular and public access to the project site must be restricted and monitored 24/7 by uniformed park staff and volunteers.  The Partners should consider the creation of an offsite staging area for tours by appointment, and the establishment of a new visitor’s wetlands education center at the former Dorill B. Wright Cultural Center (known today as Oceanview Pavilion). As a practical matter, the staging for all Ormond-centric activity and events should take place at Hueneme Beach. This is due to its proximity and existing coastal infrastructure, where the public has greater access to short-term parking, restrooms, low-cost public bus and shuttle service, informal dining, a fishing pier, and other visitor-serving amenities which are otherwise miles away from the project site.

    If the Project Partners are successful in breaking ground in Ormond Beach, something has to be done to ensure that members of the public are escorted on designated paths or trails, and confine their visits to the project boundaries during daylight hours, otherwise irreparable harm will take place to rare, threatened, and endangered birds, plants, fish, reptiles, and other wildlife.

    CAUSE Survey Was A Sham – It Was Neither Representative or Scientific

    The results from the CAUSE “door-to-door in person oral surveys” are invalid. This anecdotal “door-to-door” survey was based upon 322 low and moderate income households in South Oxnard, which is hardly a scientifically valid sample of all residents in either Oxnard or Port Hueneme.  It is particularly noteworthy that residents throughout Oxnard were excluded from this survey, along with over a thousand Surfside-area households in Port Hueneme, people who actually live in closer proximity to Ormond Beach than the “chosen” survey respondents in South Oxnard.  Why did The Partners incorporate this flawed and biased survey in their “final” plan?

    South Oxnard Homeless and Others Should Be Prohibited from Defiling Ormond Beach and In The Neighboring ESHA Buffers in Oxnard and Port Hueneme

    The South Oxnard intransigent homeless have destroyed some of the nesting grounds for threatened and endangered species at Ormond Beach, and are putting themselves and local residents in Oxnard and Port Hueneme in harm’s way.  To be specific, they recently dug a deep trench on the neighboring Halaco Superfund Site that exposed dangerous toxins.  This same toxic waste site borders the wetlands, and is a stone’s throw from Port Hueneme. As one prominent stakeholder recently said, “Ormond Beach is not a housing option.”

    There’s a growing body of evidence that the “homeless” in South Oxnard are actually squatters.  To complicate matters, these trespassers are actually obstructing public access to the beach and lighting fires, both of which are against the law.  They live full-time on environmentally sensitive public and private land that was set aside for endangered birds, plants, fish, reptiles, and other wildlife, at a public cost of millions.

    Non-Native Trees Must Be Removed from Public and Private Land in Ormond Beach      

    Trees that are not indigenous to Ormond Beach must be removed by “The Partners” from land they either own or control this year.

    1)     Tall trees are a magnet for predators that kill endangered birds, their fledglings, and other wildlife;

    2)     Removing these trees will provide needed space for native plants that serve as food and cover for birds, reptiles, and other creatures that live in Ormond Beach;

    3)     The fire danger in Ormond Beach will be reduced when the subject trees and brush are replaced with drought tolerant and fire resistant plants, thus affording greater protection to the environmentally sensitive wetlands, people who have homes nearby, and private property owners;

    4)     If there’s no trees, the number of homeless encampments will be reduced, once there is a comprehensive site clean-up combined with upgraded law enforcement protection

    The Ormond Beach Wetlands and Adjoining ESHA Buffers Are Unique Public Places

    Both Should Be Accorded 24/7 Protection By Wildlife & Law Enforcement Agencies

    Most residents will agree that certain “public spaces” should be restricted or “off-limits,” regardless of whether someone is homeless.  For instance, the public at large does not have a right to pitch a tent on a local Navy base, wetlands, or Environmentally Sensitive Habitat Areas (ESHA) in Port Hueneme or Oxnard.  The notion that any community member should be accorded special rights to spoil or make their home in a designated “sensitive” public space that should enjoy restricted access like the Ormond Beach wetlands and ESHA buffers, or neighboring military bases, is contrary to law. 

    The homeless are not the only community members who have desecrated Ormond Beach. Beachgoers have carelessly ridden their ATV’s on the dunes, trampled on indigenous plants, flown drones at birds, pitched tents or umbrellas, lit fires, and even allowed their dogs to defecate or run loose in the wetlands.  This wrongful conduct must be reported by the public daily and stopped in its tracks by law enforcement.

    The public should be made aware that the Ormond Beach wetlands in South Oxnard and neighboring ESHAs are unique public spaces.  As such, they should be afforded special protection by the cities of Oxnard and Port Hueneme, along with state and Federal wildlife and law enforcement agencies.

    The Oxnard Restoration and Public Access Plan Should Also Encompass

    Designated ESHA Buffers in Both Hueneme and Ormond Beach

    Very few people are aware that the territorial boundaries of Ormond Beach include Hueneme Beach. This statement has been independently verified by numerous public resource agencies and university professors who studied local birds, fish, and rare plants for years at Hueneme and Ormond Beach.  Both venues comprise a single contiguous environmentally sensitive habitat area that, according to these experts and others is necessary to support the existence of various Federal and state listed rare, threatened, and endangered species like the California Least Tern and Western Snowy Plover, who make their home in both Ormond Beach and Hueneme Beach.

    Conclusions (based upon current information)

    Unless the Plan Partners take action now to permanently remove the homeless (aka squatters) from public and private land in Ormond Beach, which is “a condition precedent” to ensuring the long-term survival of rare, threatened, and endangered birds, plants, fish, reptiles, and other wildlife, everything that the Partners are trying to conserve and enhance might well be gone by the time their project is fully-funded and breaks ground. 

    I also believe that the Ormond Beach Public Access and Restoration Plan should be recirculated to all concerned stakeholders and independent experts, so that everyone who wishes to help the homeless, and others who want to preserve and enhance Ormond Beach, and the ESHA buffers in Hueneme and Ormond Beach, and Bubbling Springs Park, will have ample time to comment about the OBRAP through the end of 2019.


    David M. Kanter

    Former President – Surfside III Condominium Owners’ Association

    Co-Founder – Ormond Beach Task Force

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