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Holiday Migration to Area Parks and Campsites Is On


Coastal parks, campsites and local freeways teemed with life Thursday as the annual pre-summer migration of beach lovers to Ventura County began in time for Memorial Day weekend.

The invasion of escapees from Los Angeles and Orange counties, inland residents and tourists was evident at Rincon Parkway, where the majority of the park's $18-per-day seaside spots were occupied by RVs.

The promise of improved weekend weather could pack the coast from Leo Carrillo State Beach to La Conchita, despite average gas prices in Ventura County of $1.68 per gallon, according to a survey last week by the American Automobile Assn. of Southern California.

The National Weather Service in Oxnard forecasts a weekend of morning clouds and fog, but meteorologists predicted sun for the afternoons and evenings. High temperatures along the coast are expected to sit comfortably in the middle 60s to low 70s, with 80s inland.

Rincon Park Ranger Drew Mashburn said more than half of the 160 camping stalls at Rincon and nearby county beach parks were filled by lunchtime Thursday. The first wave of weekenders arrived Wednesday, and Mashburn said he expected the remaining slots to be filled by Thursday night.

Twelve-year-old Ryan Chavez and his family were among those whose campers converged this week along the coast north of Ventura. The family travels four times each year from Chino to the county park, he said. On Thursday morning Ryan stacked rocks by the beach, but said he was far from bored.

"I love listening to the waves," he said.

Not far away, Ruthie and Barney Bitting, retirees from Placentia, enjoyed sharing their dog's beach experience. Herman the German III, a reddish brown dachshund, panted in the sand as the couple took a break from playing fetch.

The Bittings also came to enjoy the surf and ocean views. They first visited Rincon 12 years ago, Barney said, and the couple return for several reasons.

"We're old people," he said. "With the sheriff's patrol here, I feel safe, and this is a million-dollar view."

The rush for campsites was also on at McGrath State Park, where Judy Lewsadder of Mission Hills was setting up camp for herself, husband Greg and their niece, Jacque Coats, 11, of Chatsworth.

Judy Lewsadder, who arrived Thursday afternoon, said additional family members would soon occupy about 30 sites at McGrath, the fifth year her clan will participate in a weekend gathering of croquet, sand and sun.

"We like the beach, we like the area, and the air is clean," she said. "It's big, and we have a big family."

AAA estimates 2.3 million people from Southern California will drive long distances this weekend, breaking all previous records for the holiday. In all, 4.3 million Californians are expected to travel this weekend.

Los Angeles-area airports are also bracing for big crowds, with officials advising travelers to arrive early, a full hour before scheduled departure, to remember their photo identification and to travel light.

At Los Angeles International Airport, officials expect a daily jump of about 35,000 passengers each day through Monday. Burbank Airport officials were expecting as many as 4,000 additional travelers each day.

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