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Good News (For Now) For One Of SoCal's Most Popular Surf Spots

A nuclear power plant with distinct twin globes and other silos sits along the Pacific Ocean, where surf is rolling to shore.
The San Onofre Nuclear Power Plant looming over the beach in 2011.
(Mark Ralston
AFP via Getty Images)
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Surfers, rejoice: One of California’s most iconic surf breaks will stay open to the public.

At least for now.

With a now-decommissioned nuclear power plant as its backdrop, San Onofre is not only one of the most recognizable beaches in the state, it’s also one of the most popular.

A surfer is airborne above a long cresting wave with land in sight at the far left.
A surfer at Lower Trestles at a 2005 surfing championship.
(Donald Miralle
Getty Images)
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But visitors who brave the long lines to the parking lot are constantly reminded that they’re on borrowed land. Technically speaking, San Onofre and the nearby stretch known as Trestles are part of Camp Pendleton, the largest training base for Marines on the West Coast.

And for decades, it was all off-limits to the public — though that didn’t stop eager surfers from sneaking in from time to time.

All that changed in 1971, when the area was carved out as a state park. That's when California Gov. Ronald Reagan, President Richard Nixon (who had a nearby home that could be yours for $65 million), and the Marine Corps agreed to a 50-year lease.

That was supposed to expire this week, on Aug. 31. Fortunately for the public, the Marines and the state parks agency agreed to extend it for another three years.

It’s not a permanent fix, but it could lead to one down the road.

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Both sides say they’ll need more time to iron out some details before they can settle on a longer-term deal.

In a normal year (which admittedly we've not had for a while), about 2.5 million people visit San Onofre State Beach, which state park officials say makes it one of the five most popular state parks in California.

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