It’s frustrating to see the familiar small cadre of horsemen and their cronies surfacing once again to continue their campaign of obstruction and misinformation regarding management of our local dunes. When a trail plan emphasizing natural resource maintenance and public access was implemented several years ago, they could no longer ride everywhere. Since then, they’ve made it their personal mission to thwart any restoration progress being made in the Manila Dunes.

Visitors to this unique landscape traverse a seasonal carpet of colorful native plants alive with bees, butterflies and lizards. Tracks in the sand follow the movements of small mammals. Trails pass through patches of native blackberries and willows hiding endlessly chirping birds. The dunes are alive with beauty and bounty.

It wasn’t always like this. In the past, dune buggies ruled the land. They roared down streets and through the dunes, cutting across unfenced yards, carving deep gullies into the fragile landscape.

An equally damaging threat to the natural environment out there was the endless acres of European beach grass that had been haplessly planted in the early development of the spit. Outside of its native habitat it spread unchecked and devoured the dunes. It’s awful stuff, waist-high, stiff and pokey. It’s hard to move through, unless you’re astride a horse, that is.

Thanks to Friends of the Dunes’ multi-decade tenure, conditions today are a far cry from that once abused and unusable land.

Schoolchildren come by the busload to experience nature first hand. Local volunteers have happily labored for years to return this place to it’s original glory.Travellers from all over the world visit the Coastal Nature Center, on their way to the untrampled beach framing the mighty Pacific.

And yet, not all is well at FOD. The required ongoing restoration of these dunes is again being threatened by diligent efforts to exploit minor technicalities in the permitting process.

It’s time for all of us who enjoy the dunes to make our voices heard. Attend the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors meetings and represent the larger community’s stake in the preservation of this valuable resource. Write letters. Support Friends of the Dunes as they do the good work of protecting what we care about.

Linda Lee resides in Manila.

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