June is here. That means it is summertime! Summer brings more outdoor activity time for residents, visitors, and their families. 

In Avila, there are numerous things to do, like heading down the paved, scenic Bob Jones Trail.

The Bob Jones Pathway is a friendly car-free route to Avila. The beach is the destination for many families using the trail. Little tykes on bikes weave all about as they follow the family leader down the path. There are plenty of moms and dads with strollers too. They aim for the healthy outdoors, exercise, the splendid ocean view, and the opportunity to spend quality time in a little bit of paradise. A favorite family feature that excites little ones is Avila’s beachside park, located directly across from the terminus of the trail. Have you ever wondered about the history of the pirate-themed park? It is an interesting tale.

Let us start by going back in time when a young local lawyer, Saro Rizzo, accidentally tripped on debris left on the sands of Avila Beach. The freshly minted attorney was quite annoyed by the awkward mishap that occurred during his usual morning beach jog. Rizzo concluded that the town needed a beach-cleaning machine that would take care of all the unsightly litter and hazardous materials. Saro’s persistent mission to locate funds for a beach-cleaning machine eventually drove him to seek funds from the Unocal Corporation. That idea led to one of the biggest environmental settlements in the history of California.

Most San Luis Obispo County residents are familiar with the extensive oil clean-up process that occurred in Avila Beach. The oil leaks had been happening for decades but only came to the public’s attention in the early ’90s.

Many Avilones that were directly affected by the Unocal oil leak still live in Avila Beach. But did you realize that Avila’s Community Park came about because of that environmental settlement? After a year and a half of legal challenges, Unocal agreed to pay up to 200 million dollars to remove the oil intrusion beneath the town of Avila Beach. Thanks to Saro, included in that agreement was a transfer of title for three parcels in Avila Beach to the County for a community park that would be constructed and ready for immediate use. RRM Design Group and Jacobs Engineering formulated the plans. The Avila Beach Community Park on San Juan Street came to fruition.

The well-used swings, slides, picnic tables, basketball court, barbeques, and colorful pirate ship all came about due to the Unocal Environmental settlement. During fair weather, which predominates the south-facing beach, the park is full of youngsters climbing the ship, running around burning endless amounts of energy on the playground equipment. What a delightful time they have. Joyous yells and screams can be heard from children playing. Balloons and colorfully decorated tables are often prepared for birthday celebrations. The park location is optimal for youngsters; it is just a hop, skip, and a jump from the beach. 

San Luis County Parks maintains the Avila Beach Park. County Park Rangers work diligently at keeping it in the best shape possible. Early in the morning, park rangers begin the daily clean-up. The inviting grass area is routinely groomed. During the summer months, the park is especially heavily used, and therefore more time and energy is expended. The park upkeep is constant, and unfortunately, it is occasionally visited by vandals. 

Underneath the park is many clues of Avila’s rich heritage history. 

A few years ago, while a ranger was mowing the park lawn, the mower’s blade struck something extremely hard. In fact, the object broke the blade. A rail spike from the narrow gauge railroad, which ran from about 1876 to 1940, had worked its way out of the soil. That spike was a relic from the railroad path that crossed over from the San Luis Creek to where the Avila Community Park is now. 

With Avila Beach’s parking at a premium, it is nice to have the Bob Jones Trail as a travel option for families. It is a pathway that can lead to memorable beach times. The Community Park is sweet icing on the cake for children to enjoy. 

At the start of his quest, little did Mr. Rizzo know that Avila would receive much more than a beach-cleaning machine. No matter your age, visit the park! It is yours to enjoy.