California State Parks Starts General Planning Process for El Capitán and Refugio State Beaches and Gaviota State Park

Contact: Dena Bellman I District Superintendent I (805) 331-3395

California State Parks announced today that it is developing a comprehensive General Plan update for the future of El Capitán and Refugio State Beaches (SB), and Gaviota State Park (SP) in Santa Barbara County. This General Plan update will include recommendations for protecting significant resources, modernizing park infrastructure, adapting to climate change impacts, and providing sustainable recreational opportunities for all visitors.

With public input, these recommendations will help the department adapt, renew, and preserve these parks for visitors to enjoy future generations. An initial step to gathering public input is now available through Sept. 30, 2024, an online survey on the project website in both English and Spanish.

“This comprehensive planning effort is a tremendous opportunity to assess long-standing challenges, develop thoughtful management strategies, and maximize opportunities to engage park visitors and the community,” said Channel Coast District Superintendent Dena Bellman. “This effort will highlight these iconic coastal park’s significant natural and cultural resources and diverse recreational opportunities that demonstrate their unique value to the California State Park System and its visitors.

The planning process for the General Plan is now underway and is expected to be completed within a two-year timeframe. The plan aims to create a visionary framework for long-term sustainability of these parks by defining objectives, goals, and guidelines to direct park staff and management in making strategic decisions about park operations, improvements, and the stewardship of its natural and cultural resources.

El Capitán SB, Refugio SB, and Gaviota SP (ECRG) are all located off U.S. Highway 101 in Santa Barbara County, approximately 20-30 miles north of the city of Santa Barbara. They provide unique recreational experiences to visitors from across the state, as well as residents of nearby cities and towns like Lompoc and Goleta. These three state park units provide coastal access, developed day use, and overnight camping facilities and are rich in recreational opportunities, and natural, cultural, and tribal resources.

Additionally, the preparation of the ECRG General Plan includes an Environmental Impact Report to evaluate potential environmental impacts associated with proposals within the General Plan.

Project Background: In 1979, General Plans were adopted for Gaviota SP, Refugio SB, and El Capitán SB. These original plans included a thorough inventory of wildlife, historic, and archeological assets, and the parks’ natural features and facilities. They also outlined park-wide and area-specific issues and made recommendations to address these concerns.

All three parks have experienced many changes since the original General Plans were adopted, and the guidance provided in the 1979 plans is now outdated. Ongoing damage from severe winter storms, impending sea-level-rise and other climate change impacts, aging infrastructure, significant acquisition of new property, high-recreation demand, and the need to protect natural, cultural, and recreational resources all contribute to the need for updated plans that reflect the current realities of these three park units.

This effort aims to prepare the parks for the next thirty years by developing plans and strategies that meet state-wide sustainability goals, improve park resilience, protect park resources, and ensure visitor safety and enjoyment for generations to come.

State Parks looks forward to embarking on this journey with our California Native American Tribal partners, public and stakeholders to ensure the park remains a cherished and accessible destination for all visitors.

To stay up to date and receive notice of upcoming engagement opportunities and project updates, be sure to visit Questions and comments can be sent to

Top photos: The iconic beach at Refugio State Beach. Bottom left: Picnic tables at El Capitán State Beach. Bottom right: Train passing over Gaviota State Park.
Top photos: The iconic beach at Refugio State Beach. Bottom left: Picnic tables at El Capitán State Beach.
Bottom right: Train passing over Gaviota State Park.

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California State Parks provides for the health, inspiration and education of the people of California by helping to preserve the state’s extraordinary biological diversity, protecting its most valued natural and cultural resources, and creating opportunities for high quality outdoor recreation.