Ribbon Cutting for Hard-Fought New Oxnard Kiddie Beach Paddle Craft Launch Lane

A lesson on how to get things done in government

By George Miller

Today (6-15-18), County District 5 Supervisor John Zaragosa and staff put on a festive celebration of victory on the approval to finally establish a temporary 25′ wide launch/landing lane for paddle/”human-powered” craft at Oxnard’s Kiddie Beach, at the foot of Victoria Avenue. Zaragosa/staff, harbor personnel and organizations that have worked on achieving this for years attended/participated. The solution involved the Supervisor’s office, the Harbor District, Coastal Commission, local paddling groups and concerned individuals.

VC Supervisor John Zaragosa cuts the ribbon to open up new paddler’s lane at Kiddie Beach, ending prohibition of paddlers at Oxnard’s most popular beach, while stakeholders, participants and officials look on. Photo: George Miller/|CitizensJournal.us

With the crackdown on enforcing old regulations while use of paddlecraft in the harbor is experiencing an unprecedented boom, action was overdue. But at the time of this event, the lane was put in operation, personnel briefed, prohibitions removed  and new signs already posted, demarcating the new launch lane.

In case you wonder why we’ve devoted so many words to this article, it is to better explore what it takes to get even minor things like this done by  government, even by knowledgeable people of good will. It was The People who initiated this and followed through to help ensure it got done.


A summary of keynote speaker Supervisor John Zaragosa’s comments  (provided by his office)

Supervisor Zaragoza – Kiddie Beach Access

  • Good morning, and thank you for joining us today.
  • I’m pleased to announce launching a kayak and paddle board just got easier for community members and visitors at the Channel Islands Harbor – a Ventura County gem I’m pleased to represent.
  • Thanks to a tentative agreement between the California Coastal Commission and the Ventura County Harbor Department, a temporary launch lane has been placed here.
  • The Harbor Department has installed a sign directing where kayakers and paddle boarders should launch. This sign is similar to the surf/swim signs you see at any beach.
  • With the installation of the sign and launch lane, access to the growing community of kayakers and paddle boarders has increased, especially for the elderly and disabled.
  • This portion of Kiddie Beach has long been coveted by those community members because it is the easiest way for them to launch.
  • They have let me know through community meetings their desire to launch from Kiddie Beach.
  • I’m pleased the County could meet their needs.
  • I want to thank the community members for their patience and the Harbor Department for their diligence.
  • As you are aware, prior to today, Kiddie Beach was reserved for swimming only.
  • Kayakers and paddle boarders were required to launch at several day docks, the launch ramp, and Hobie Beach.
  • Hobie Beach is located just north of us, but launching a kayak became difficult because sand is not being retained due to an erosion issue. As you know, this created some problems for the community.
  • In response, the Harbor Department sent a request to the California Coastal Commission asking for a temporary launch lane at Kiddie Beach while a permanent solution to Hobie Beach could be reached.
  • The Coastal Commission recently approved this request and now there is great access. This is a win for everyone!
  • In the meantime, the Harbor Department is working with engineers to limit erosion at Hobie Beach, making sure there is even greater access for everyone.
  • I’m looking forward to this permanent solution.
  • Again, thank you for joining me today.

Zaragosa also gave credit to paddling organizations California Kayak Friends- Robert Tongen (unable to attend), whom he said “was very instrumental” in all of this, outrigger canoer Ben Tai Tai, and local Silverstrand resident Connie Korenstein.  Supervisor Kelly Long also made a brief appearance in support of paddling access, as did VC CEO Michael Powers, Acting Harbor Director Suzy Watkins, Tracy Gallagher and Harbor staffer Mike Thorpe.

Tai Tai pointed out that the launch prohibition hit outrigger paddlers much harder, because the huge, heavy 40 foot craft cannot be readily launched in many places.

After speeches, the assembled crowd lined up behind a red ribbon and Supervisor Zaragosa cut it with “golden” scissors to officially open the new paddlers lane. People stayed and talked afterward longer than I was able to. Some potentially productive relationships have been formed among govt personnel and members of the community, as a result of this campaign.

Comments later sent by Robert Tongen, spokesman for California Kayak Friends (CKF):

Thanks to the California Coastal Commission, Channel Islands Harbor Management, and Ventura County Supervisors to coordinate their efforts, in only 21 months, to again allow paddlers to use Kiddie Beach .  Kiddie Beach is the closest place to launch to the ocean in Channel Islands Harbor.  It is the safest place to launch to the Pacific Ocean between Santa Barbara and Marina Del Rey.

The support of Patti Felker and the SUP Meetup group, members of the California Kayak Friends Club, and Connie Korenstein and the Silver Strand community were important in convincing the governing bodies to again allow paddlers on Kiddie Beach. The CKF team consisted of six of us: Joe Barrett, Beverly Waldron, Dick + Marika Brannon, Peter O’Sullivan, and myself.

It took two years of  efforts of multiple jurisdictions, officials and members of the public for many activities to result in getting this sign put up at Oxnard’s Kiddie Beach, run by Ventura County. Photo: George Miller/|CitizensJournal.us

Robert Tongen (blue shirt) and Connie Korenstein (pink) at a meeting at Kiddie Beach last year. Photo: George Miller/CitizensJournal.us

Statement from Connie Korenstein, kayaker and Silverstand Beach resident (also unofficial Oxnard historian)
I’m very thankful that this day has finally come when we can enjoy kayaking again!  We live in the community but haven’t been able to take our kayaks out for the past 2 years since it was banned here at Kiddie Beach.  We’ve been watching kayakers and paddlers get chased off the beach for the past 2 years by Harbor Patrol and lifeguards. We were incensed that this area, which is the safest place in the Channel Islands Harbor to launch from, and the only option for many of us, was taken away from the community.  We’d been using Kiddie Beach for years, along with everyone else within walking distance and those who were able to take advantage of the free public parking and bathrooms.  Most of the time the beach is empty of swimmers, and even when it’s crowded, there’s still space for all public users to share and enjoy.  A separate kayak lane was the solution that Robert Tongen and the California Kayak Friends suggested back in October 2016 and it took almost two years for the County and Harbor Dept to allow it. Why did the public have to wait so long to get back access to this resource?  Why did we have to go to the Coastal Commission meeting in March and write multiple letters and phone calls to make this happen? It took the County 2 years to simply get to the point where it could install a sign that designates swimming in one direction and kayakers in the other.  I’m thrilled that this coastal resource has been returned to the public and the community and thankful to the California Coastal Commission for listening to our concerns and helping the County take the correct action.

Official response from Ventura County Harbor Dept.:

Request Question:

Due to the continued erosion of Hobie Beach, coupled with the increasing popularity of kayaking and standup paddle boarding, the Harbor Department believed it was prudent to ask for a temporary launch lane at Kiddie Beach to improve access while a long term solution is reached.

Funding Question:

The Harbor Department is using its funding to determine the cause and the potential solutions to fix Hobie Beach. A funding for the solution will depend on the overall cost of the project.

Translated, we think that means that two years of pressure finally moved public servants to serve the public. When they were ultimately motivated to do so, they realized that their own rules and those of the coastal commission, made it not so easy to do. Fortunately, enough officials cooperated and got it done, with constant requests, reminders and pressure, in spite of their many other pressing priorities, some serious/urgent. Also, they don’t yet really know what it will take to make Hobie Beach paddler-friendly, what it will cost or even how and where they would get the funds. So, “temporary” probably won’t be short term. There is a chronic sand erosion problem, which would have to be solved without interfering with the adjacent Coast Guard station operations, dredging staging area and of course, Kiddie Beach.

We have seen over and over again that this is a necessary approach. Even government officials on the firing line have told us this. A great case in point is an  Oxnard Neighborhood Council  guy- Mike Gleason”s multi-year effort to get Oxnard to reform its truly awful “Landscape Management District” fiasco. He investigated, exposed, nagged, inspired, followed up on, for about three years to get the city to finally bring in an outside expert, recruit a manager, revamp contracts, measurement and management systems. It’s still not finished, although the city has made tremendous progress in taming it.

Paddlers are already using the new paddler’s lane at Kiddie Beach, ending prohibition of paddlers at Oxnard’s most popular Beach, 6-15-18 Photo: George Miller/CitizensJournal.us

Background- “Making Sausages”

Some say that politics is like making sausages- if you knew how they were made, you might not want to eat them. This story wasn’t quite  that bad, but it is frustrating how difficult it is to get something seemingly so simple accomplished.

For decades, paddlers used Kiddie Beach with no opposition and no known incidents (they had a de facto policy of avoiding using Kiddie Beach on crowded Summer weekends). But, over two years ago, the forces of obscure regulations and bureaucracy hiccuped and suddenly, kayakers, paddleboarders, rowboaters and outrigger canoers were barred from using the beach. New forbidding signs sprouted up and aggressive park employees chased out paddlers- and that was that. At least until an informal coalition of paddling clubs and local civic figures pushed back hard.

I spoke with Mr . Zaragosa and aide Lourdes Solorzano, who have been the main County Supervisors’ office governmental officials working on this since contacted by local paddling enthusiasts two years ago. I asked them how this was actually accomplished from their perspective. They told me that kayakers and other paddling enthusiasts made them aware of the problem. Robert Tongen (AKA Baidarka Bob) and other CKF folks persisted for years,  joined by Ben Tai Tai, who strongly represented outrigger canoers’ interests, and concerned Silver Strand resident and unofficial Oxnard historian Connie Korenstein, who helped with the Coastal Commission angle.

Supervisor Zaragosa said he stayed in contact with kayakers and other groups, met and worked with them to understand what they sought and helped work out a position for them, which turned out to be a temporary 25 foot wide access area to launch and land paddling craft which would not interfere with the beach swimming areas. Ventura has used this approach for years at Mother’s Beach on a larger scale and even includes power boats, This would only be used until the county can make adjacent Hobie Beach more paddle-craft friendly. They worked with the harbor organization and finally the Coastal Commission in the process (see press release below).  On the County Supervisors end, this was done only through Zaragosa’s office, working with harbor authorities, Coastal Commission and resident groups- there was never a Board of Supervisors vote- it was all done administratively.

What seemed like a fairly simple request and process turned out to be much more difficult because of the multi-jurisdictional aspect- County, County Harbor Dept., Coastal Commission, with the affected area physically in the Harbor District (lower harbor) in an unincorporated area of Oxnard. The effort by local groups started out by engaging the harbor authorities. The Harbor Director, Harbormaster, staff, even harbor patrol and lifeguards were consulted. They thought it could be done, but pointed to a need to change ordinances, which were constrained by Coastal Commission rules. Paddling advocates met repeatedly with them and Zaragosa and staff. Finally letters were sent by the Harbor Dept. and Zaragosa’s office to the Coastal Commission. Paddling advocates also took that route. Early meetings did not bear fruit, but eventually the Commission approved the request and the County was able to put it in effect today, June 15. There was much frustration on the part of the applicants during this long, seemingly interminable process.

Linda presents painting by “Frank” to represent the paddling lane creation, to Supervisor Zaragosa, who promised to put it on the wall (but he didn’t say which wall), at Kiddie Beach, Oxnard, 6-151-8. Photo: George Miller/CitizensJournal.us

Channel Islands Harbor Increases Access for Kayakers and Paddle Boarders

Paddling Oxnard Harbor, by Robert Tongen

Channel Islands Harbor installs Kayak, Paddle launch lane

Persistent kayakers continue fight via Coastal … – Citizens Journal


Mar 10, 2018 – The land that Kiddie Beach is on, in fact all the harbor area south of the … It is a much longer kayak and gear haul to the docks from the parking lot- … is now being enforced at Kiddie Beach, Channel Islands Harbor, Oxnard …

VC Supervisor meets with paddlers at Oxnard’s Kiddie Beach on …


Added by Citizen Reporter on June 28, 2017. … Watercraft/paddling ban is now being enforced at Kiddie Beach, Channel Islands Harbor, Oxnard; Meetings … Photo: George Miller/CitizensJournal.us. Supervisor Zaragoza met with kayak and outrigger enthusiasts over a watercraft ban which affects their use at Kiddie Beach.

Meeting at Kiddie Beach about the kayak/paddling … – Citizens Journal


Jun 24, 2017 – Some California Kayak Friends members before 7-10-16 launch at Kiddie Beach, Channel Islands Harbor, before the kayak ban was enforced.

Kayak Launch Ramp Added to Channel Islands … – Citizens Journal


Jun 1, 2017 – Launching a kayak in the Channel Islands Harbor just got easier thanks to the … Kayakers may also continue to launch from Hobie Beach, the launch ramp, … http://citizensjournal.us/meeting-kiddiebeachkayakpaddling-ban/.

George Miller is Publisher and Co-Founder of CitizensJournal.us and a “retired” operations management consultant residing in Oxnard. He’s also a 26 year sea kayaker.

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Congratulations to all who stayed true through this long and arduous process!
Thank you citizens journal for your in depth reporting on issues!