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A Vision for San Onofre

Steve Long, retiring after 30 years as a state park lifeguard and administrator, plans to volunteer the day he steps down.

By FRED SWEGLES - Sun Post News

Steve Long made waves in Sacramento this month when he warned publicly that state budget constraints could jeopardize lives at state park beaches this summer.

Almost immediately, monies were freed up to put more lifeguards on the beach. Long – a 34-year veteran of Orange County state parks – spoke freely, knowing he would be raising political heat, because as sector superintendent at local state parks, he felt passionately about public safety and the parks – and because, at the end of this month, he is retiring to a small town in Oregon.

Don't expect him to be a stranger here. "The day I retire," he said, "I'm going to sign up as a volunteer."

Over the past year Long, 58, has helped establish a park support group, the San Onofre Foundation. As a park employee he can have only limited involvement. Once retired, he plans to spend ample time here and be an outspoken advocate for San Onofre State Beach

"I'm going to keep a good surfboard down here," he said.

After working from 1974-78 at Huntington State Beach, Long transferred to San Clemente. Living in staff housing at San Clemente State Beach, he and his wife Jan raised sons Rusty and Greg and daughter Heather.

"I've been blessed," Long said. "I've had 30 years here … just a wonderful community of people to work with. I will gladly donate my time when I retire."

Long said parks are in financial trouble, and society needs to figure out ways to preserve and manage them, with community support.

Among his goals with the foundation:

  • Raise money to build a safe pedestrian RR crossing at San Onofre's acclaimed Lower Trestles surf break.
  • Open a dialogue for what he sees as a possible "win-win" alternative to the controversial Foothill South Toll Road.
  • Carry out the San Onofre park's original master-planned vision of a second campground, inland from San Mateo Campground, with hiking trails, bike trails, equestrian camping and horse trails.
  • Gather resources to build a visitor center atop Pocket Mouse Hill, overlooking Trestles and San Clemente's city boundary, to tell the story of surfing, the native American village of Panhe, California's rancho period, Camp Pendleton and the role of nuclear power in civilization.

Long sees the visitor center as a place fourth-grade classes from far and wide would visit to learn California history. The view, he said, could make for a nice restaurant.

The toll road? "It's not going to go away," Long said, despite the Coastal Commission's recent rejection. He believes 241 South could come back to slice through the park.

Instead, he'd like to promote what he describes as a benign redesign of Cristianitos Road as a free-flowing but low-key arterial from I-5 to, say, Avenida Pico, connecting with the full toll road there. "A road that people could live with," he called it. He is convinced there is a workable compromise with the TCA that could be brokered and could also help fulfill the park's master plan.

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