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Vandenberg AFB Hosts “Meet Surf Beach” Community Engagement Event

“Meet Surf Beach” attendees discuss beach access near the trail developed by Vandenberg’s Civil Engineer Squadron, which connects Ocean Park to Surf Beach entryway allowing improved access to beach visitors while mitigating the disruption to wildlife on Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021.

“Meet Surf Beach” attendees discuss beach access near the trail developed by Vandenberg’s Civil Engineer Squadron, which connects Ocean Park to Surf Beach entryway allowing improved access to beach visitors while mitigating the disruption to wildlife on Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021 (U.S. Space Force photo by Michael Peterson)

Vandenberg Leadership stands outside Vandenberg South Base gate with "Meet Surf Beach" sign following the community engagement on Feb. 25, 2021.

Vandenberg leadership and Lompoc city leaders and educators partner to bring in a new wave of opportunities for recreation and environmental education at the Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021, “Meet Surf Beach” community engagement event. (U.S. Space Force photo by 2nd Lt. Kaitlin Cashin)

“Meet Surf Beach” attendees discuss the start of Snowy Plover nesting season beside updated educational signage on Vandenberg property.

“Meet Surf Beach” attendees discuss the start of Snowy Plover nesting season, beach restrictions and access opportunities on Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. (U.S. Space Force photo by Michael Peterson)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. --

On Feb. 25, Vandenberg led a proactive effort to engage Lompoc leadership and educators with information about Vandenberg’s efforts to revitalize beach access and signage to make Surf Beach a place where the community and wildlife can thrive in preparation for Snowy Plover Nesting Season.

 

Last year, Vandenberg kept the beaches open for the entire Snowy Plover Nesting Season, which is Mar. 1- Sept. 30 and they will remain open.

 

Vandenberg leadership engaged with local elected officials, Lompoc Unified School District personnel and STARBASE representatives to discuss the nuances of beach jurisdiction, environmental recovery efforts, and conservational law enforcement as it related to the surrounding areas of Surf Beach. Attendees had the opportunity to share their concerns with base leadership, Vandenberg biologist, environmental education volunteers, and VAFB Security Forces.

 

Col. Michael Hunsberger, 30th Space Wing Mission Support Group commander, is the leader charged with maintaining the Western Range. As the group traveled over the surf beach overlook, attendees viewed the beach, the railroad, and several space launch complexes.

 

“Today we are gathering at the intersection of technology, community, and the natural world around us in an effort to strengthen partnerships and develop solutions to complex problems – something that is not new to our role in fulfilling the space launch mission at the 30th Space Wing,” Hunsberger said.

 

The location of the Western Range is what makes it special. Vandenberg is located on the furthest jetting piece of land in California, making it an ecological transition zone, according to Vandenberg biologist Samantha Kaisersatt. Kaisersatt also noted that Vandenberg is home to 12 percent of the Western Snowy Plover population as a result of the undeveloped land Vandenberg secures, which means that approximately 1 in 10 Western Snowy Plovers existing in the wild call Vandenberg beaches home.

 

“Surf is our turf,” Wayne Moses, the Conservation law enforcement lead at Vandenberg said. “Since this is federal land, we are responsible for enforcing federal policies,” he added. “I’d say that 90 percent of the people who come out to Surf Beach are doing it right and it’s the other 10 percent that cause violations, which is what has historically led to beach closures.”

 

By “doing it right,” Wayne offers two tips for what Surf Beachgoers can do to keep the beaches open:

  1. Read the signs
  2. Don’t cross the lines

 

Currently, those federal policies are the result of the Endangered Species Act of 1973. Under this act, Federal properties are required to make conservation efforts to protect endangered and threatened species.

 

“By clearly communicating the beach policies and the reasons surrounding them, we hope that people will be able to enjoy the beach and learn more about the wildlife here at Surf Beach,” said Tiffany Whitsitt, supervisor of Vandenberg’s beach keepers and docent program.

 

Whitsitt is leading the effort to bring environmental education resources to students and youth programs in the Lompoc Valley. “Surf Beach is at the intersection of biology, civil engineering, construction, rocket science, and environmental statistics,” she said. “We can work together to explore all of these things while raising awareness for community-based problem-solving and environmental education initiatives!”

 

Vandenberg and the community stakeholders expressed interest in and commitment to continuing the conversation and efforts to connecting our community to the opportunities at Surf Beach.

 

Vandenberg’s Surf Beach is open. Beachgoers are encouraged to review the updated signs and honor the Snowy Plover restrictions. See you at the beach!