My gut is telling me to keep my mouth shut. My favorite place, this magical little enclave, tucked beneath a WWII turret, and enclosed by a wall of scrubby undulating cliffs, will very soon shut its gates. So I will let you in on the secret in hopes that you can help save it.
The place I speak of is Gray Whale Cove State Park, and next year it will be one of 70 California State Parks slated to close its doors due to budgetary shortfalls.
Only 15 miles from downtown San Francisco, it is a fiercely wild place devoid of cars, crowds and development, a perfect example of why there is no place in the world like the Bay Area. Leave the city, pass the track homes and strip malls of Pacifica, climb a short winding road through a eucalyptus grove, emerge onto a hairpin cliff side road, and in one mile park your car in the dusty parking lot on the left. Walk down a winding wooden staircase and hop onto the sand. You have made it: a quarter mile stretch of sand and intertidal coves, covered in mussels, sea anemones and gooseneck barnacles. You may as well be on a deserted island, or a forgotten cove in New Zealand. The few signs of mankind that do make it down to the beach remind you that you are not: surfers, fisherman, hippies, new-age parents, and on the far northern cove, a rather dependable cackle of nudist men and woman soaking up the rays without a care in the world.
To me Gray Whale is a wave. A ledge jutting out into the deep water produces a heavy barrel that will scare the living daylight out of your average beach bum. I discovered this wave at about the same time that my interest in surfing turned into a full-fledged love affair. To others Gray Whale is a fish, a photograph, a mussel, or a place where the tyranny of clothes holds no sway.
To all of us, it is a small slice of paradise inches away from our busy lives.
So how severe is this year's budget shortfall that is causing 70 of California's 278 state parks to close their doors?
The answer is a measly $11 million.
I asked Linsey Fredenburg-Humes of the California State Parks Foundation what it will mean to close Gray Whale, and she responded that it "is still unclear" how public access will be affected. "As you can imagine, there are some parks on the closure list where restricting public access would seem near impossible. At this time, it is my understanding that closing most state parks will mean that all services and staff are removed, bathrooms are closed, utilities are turned off and gates are closed."
But there are no facilities there. No guards in one-room wood shingled houses. Not even a water fountain or a hose.
Roy Stearns from the California Department of Parks and Recreation was equally perplexed over Gray Whale's fate. "We are still exploring just how to do this (close Gray Whale). Bottom line is that we have no choice but to cease operations in many parks with the budget reductions we have been handed."
The fight for Gray Whale isn't completely lost. In early October, three of the California's 70 doomed parks were saved by pooling funds from the National Park Service. Non-profits are already making some signs of jumping in to save other parks as well.
Besides donating $11 million to the California State Parks, you can help by taking a second to send a letter to Government Jerry Brown in defense of our parks.
Even if Gray Whale does shut its gates, I assume the naked people will still find their way down there. And when it's cold and the surf is heavy, surfers will scamper down its muddy cliffs to the water. A magnet for the outlandish.
Maybe I will have to reclaim it one day as well. Occupy it alone. Who is so vain as to stop me?
And when I get to the sand the road will be lost anyways. And it will be low tide and the waves will be pumping.