Controversy is brewing over the future of a 900-acre chunk of dunes and wetlands at the mouth of Tomales Bay in Northern California’s West Marin that is a haven for RVers.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Lawson’s Landing was acquired by a Woodland dairy farmer in 1929, and has since remained in the Lawson family.
Since the 1950s, the area has been a destination for North State campers, many of them seeking respite from the wilting heat of the Central Valley.
Today, the landing has spaces for 1,000 recreational vehicles in a glen between the dunes, as well as a trailer park with about 230 sites – and about 100 septic systems – along the bay’s shore.
But Lawson’s Landing is smack in the middle of the Tomales Dunes, home to numerous rare animal and plant species. And the family RV park has been operating all these years without requisite county and state Coastal Commission commercial-use permits.
The issue is heating up with the expected release this summer of an environmental impact report that will be used by Marin County to determine appropriate commercial uses at the landing.
Landing residents generally support the Lawsons’ operation, characterizing family members as sound conservationists.
But Marin environmentalists have long been bothered by Lawson’s Landing. They note it is the largest private RV park on the California coast, and claim that the hundreds of people who swarm into the site on busy summer weekends harm the Tomales Dunes.
Threatened with closure by the state in the early 1990s, the landing did receive a provisional California operational permit after Marin County interceded on the Lawsons’ behalf.
But even with the state operational permit, the campground has essentially operated in a kind of regulatory limbo. Without use permits from the county and state Coastal Commission, the RV campground and trailer park may not be precisely illegal – but neither are they wholly legal.
Mike Lawson, the current president of the company, said he is determined to bring the operation into full compliance.
The Lawson family also has drafted a master plan for the landing; it proposes to keep RV and trailer development at the current level, while allowing for the construction of a large leach field to deal with the sewage.
Catherine Caufield, the director of the Environmental Action Committee of West Marin, said she has problems with some of the Lawson family’s proposals, including a large septic system.
“It’s going to be big as a football field, and it will be located in migrating dune lands that have a high water table,” she said. “That could affect dune habitat, ground water quality and the wetlands. This is clearly a sensitive resource.”