County May Temporarily Close Clam Beach

4/8/04 County May Temporarily
Close Clam Beach
by Glenn Franco Simmons

On Tuesday, the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors will decide if it wants to close Clam Beach to vehicles again this year.

The vehicle closure stems from an annual tribute to marijuana at the beach the weekend of April 20.

“In 2001, hundreds of people gathered at Clam Beach during the weekend of April 20 to celebrate 4-20,” said Public Works Director Allen Campbell in a written staff report to the board. “No permit was issued for the event and the large gathering took county park staff by surprise. Many of the people in attendance chose to ignore posted regulations and were abusive to county staff.”

April 20 is internationally and unofficially known as “international smoke (marijuana) day.” The origin of the “holiday” is the subject of various urban myths.

Last year, the county blocked access to the beach by placing a rail across the beach’s opening.

There is a significant reason to close the beach to vehicles, Campbell said.

“Temporary closure of Clam Beach to vehicles for the weekend of April 20 may be needed to protect the western snowy plover,” Campbell said, “which nests from March 1 through Sept. 30. Large numbers of vehicles on the beach as a result of 4-20 could negatively impact nesting plovers.”

The snowy plover is listed as a federally threatened species, which means its habitat has to be protected.

People will still be able to use the beach.

“Monitoring and enforcement of camping regulations for the weekend will require an increased county presence,” Campbell said. “Staffing levels will be determined by the number of people who visit Clam Beach for the 4-20 event. Camping will only be allowed in designated areas.”

There is a financial impact to the county, but Campbell said it is “limited.”

“Increased costs will result if additional staffing is required to enforce county regulations because a large number of people use the park to celebrate 4-20,” he said. “The county has no control over how many people choose to visit the park. The only option to reduce costs would be to limit enforcement of park regulations.”

An alternative to Campbell’s recommendation could be for the board to allow the beach to remain open to vehicles, which it most likely will not do.

The board will meet Tuesday at 9 a.m. in the county courthouse in Eureka.

(Publisher/Editor Glenn Franco Simmons can be reached at editor@eurekareporter.com.)