Tourism is both an opportunity and a threat, something Big Sur residents know well and are now trying to figure out how to maximize the positive opportunities while minimizing the threats.
It’s achieving that balance that’s at the heart of the draft Big Sur Tourism Destination Stewardship Plan, a 224-page report recently released and accepting public comment through tomorrow, July 7.
The plan which cost approximately $178,000 was commissioned last year by the Monterey County Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Community Association of Big Sur, paid for in part by CABS, donations and $150,000 from the Monterey County Board of Supervisors. A committee of stakeholders, including residents, businesspeople and agency representatives oversaw the process that included community meetings, surveys and other research, guided by consultants at Beyond Green Travel.
Covid-19 came on the scene about two-thirds of the way through preparing the draft, and in the introduction the report states that even through the early days of shelter in place, visitors were still coming to Big Sur and will continue to return in larger numbers. Because of that, “now is the time to reset tourism for Big Sur through improved visitation planning, monitoring and management,” it states.
The plan offers recommendations for short term actions (12-24 months) and long-term actions (3-5 years) on some of the most pressing challenges facing Big sur, including traffic management, the Bixby Bridge “hotspot,” restrooms, litter, backcountry monitoring and housing.
One example of short term actions include establishing a “Go Green” Day Pass that would put money into a sustainability fund that would directly benefit the Big Sur community. Others include a 12-month pilot program eliminating visitor parking at Bixby Bridge and McWay Falls and implementing a parking reservations system at Pfeiffer Beach and McWay. Reinstituting the Pfeiffer Beach Shuttle is also on the list.
Long Term actions include creating additional shuttles, building restrooms and establishing a visitor education and interpretive center or at least a kiosk. The importance of visitor education in multiple settings—on shuttles, at restrooms and other locations—is stressed throughout the document.
“There is no magic bullet that will quickly or easily address all visitation challenges and concerns facing Big Sur, but taken together, and in the spirit of compromise towards the greater good, this plan presents a bold agenda for Big Sur and for California to show leadership in destination stewardship based upon care for the local community, the environment, for visitors, and for businesses,” the report states.
The report is expected to be finalized by the end of July. The draft is attached, or find it online here along with the online comment form. It says the comment period is over, but CABS Executive Director Butch Kronlund says it remains open until July 7.