A Trail of Their Own
Unusual collaboration puts Big Sur locals in charge of Coastal Trail planning.
Thursday, May 3, 2012
An 11-year-old state law aims to create a continuous hiking trail along the entire California coast.
But in 2007, when the California Coastal Conservancy put out bids for a consultant to design the Big Sur segment, locals—worried they’d end up with a disagreeable trail path—rallied to organize the planning process themselves.
The involved agencies and community trail committee members have come up with a draft planning process that represents some rare consensus, not on the trail’s path, but the process by which to design it. “I think [the draft] is a lot better than what we would have wound up with if a contractor had been hired to plan the trail,” says committee member Mike Caplin.
Assemblyman Bill Monning, D-Carmel, got involved in 2009, facilitating meetings with committee members and state and local agencies. “It’s been painstaking at times, but I want to publicly applaud the persistence of committee members and other stakeholders,” Monning says. “There has not been dissonance about whether to do [the trail]. The focus has been how to do it. And one of the key principles has been protecting private property rights.”
The plan proposes that six to eight working groups design the path of the trail segments in their own neighborhoods, keeping to public lands, easements or rights-of-way unless private landowners invite the trail onto their property.
“It’s a pretty smart way to have organized it,” says Lee Otter, a retired Coastal Commission staffer who volunteers time for the effort.
The committee presented to the Big Sur Multi Agency Advisory Council on April 27. “Now we take it back to all the residents of the coastal zone in Big Sur and get their up or down on it,” says organizer Jack Ellwanger. “After that, we’re going to start making the trail.”