The Asilomar dunes have changed dramatically since the first Europeans came to the Monterey area. The original dune system spanned 480 acres from Pt. Joe to Pt. Pinos – about the size of 480 football fields. Development has shrunk it to only one-sixteenth of its original size: the precious 25 acres now left at Asilomar. In the 1800s, settlers used the dunes to graze their cattle. The YWCA bought the land for a summer camp in 1912, and the dunes became an active playground for women campers. They built a tennis court, a swimming pool and even a softball diamond on the dunes. Only the swimming pool remains.
By the time Asilomar became a state park in 1956, the dunes were severely degraded. Park visitors added to the damage by criss-crossing the dunes, trampling native plants and eroding the sand. State Park Senior Environmental Scientist Tom Moss:
Once the vegetation was gone, the sand began to blow. And at that point, ice plant was introduced, a plant that's been used throughout California to try to hold eroding or unstable areas.
Exotic plants such as ice plant engulfed the few native plants left. In 1984, Park staff began a massive dune restoration project. They removed non-native plants, grew and re-planted natives, reshaped the dunes, and built the boardwalk for visitors.