Trailed Off

The land (and trail) along San Jose Creek, which the Big Sur Land Trust began acquiring in 1993, had previous approvals from the county to turn the preexisting trail into a road.

The San Jose Creek Trail, which meanders through a narrow, redwood-lined creek walled in by ancient geologic formations, and which traverses both State Parks and Monterey Peninsula Regional Park District land, was supposed to open to the public in the spring of 2020.

But like a lot of things planned for that spring, the Covid-19 pandemic proved to be a monkey wrench, as Gov. Gavin Newsom initially ordered all California State Parks to close, and locally, at Newsom’s direction, State Parks staff scrambled to house and quarantine more than a dozen Covid-positive cruise ship passengers at the state-owned Asilomar Conference Grounds on March 10, 2020.

“We didn’t know what we were doing,” says Brent Marshall, superintendent of the Monterey District of State Parks, about quarantining cruise passengers. Then came the challenge of reopening parks.

Meanwhile, over the next year, the State Parks general plan for the Carmel area was in progress, culminating with approval by the State Park and Recreation Commission on May 21, 2021. (As part of that process, the name for the new park where San Jose Creek is located was changed from Point Lobos Ranch to Ishxenta, the Rumsen tribal village once located along the creek.)

One reason Ishxenta has not yet opened, Marshall says, is parking and safety concerns along Highway 1 at nearby Point Lobos. During the general plan process, an “emphasis on reservations was really brought home. Once [the trail] was finished, we realized a reservation system is critical for that area,” Marshall says.

The hope is to have a reservation system in place by March of next year for access to both Point Lobos and Ishxenta and to get the bugs worked out by summer. Parallel to that process, State Parks is working on parking solutions, including a lot at Ishxenta and an overflow lot at Marathon Flats, a State Parks-owned parcel along Highway 1 and Rio Road with room for 99 cars. From there, a shuttle would depart for Point Lobos, and heading back north, make a stop at Ishxenta.

The sensitive archeological and natural resources at Ishxenta are another reason for the delay – State Parks has been in frequent consultation with local tribes to ensure they’re on board with any plans moving forward. To that end, Marshall says, initial access to the trail may be limited to guided hikes so that the resources are protected.

“I know people are champing at the bit,” he says. “We just want to make sure they have an enjoyable experience.”

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