Christopher Neely covers a mixed beat that includes the environment, water politics, and Monterey County's Board of Supervisors. He began at the Weekly in 2021 after five years on the City Hall beat in Austin, TX.

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Christopher Neely here, with long-range visions on the brain

Tomorrow, the California State Park and Recreation Commission will meet to vote on the Carmel Area State Parks General Plan and its accompanying environmental impact report, marking a significant milestone for a process that started in 2012.

The "Carmel Area" includes Point Lobos Natural Reserve, Carmel River State Beach, Point Lobos Ranch and Hatton Canyon. The general plan is a zoomed out policy and long-range planning document that will guide the state's effort to preserve the area, manage its resources and make facility improvements over the next several years. Such a vision-setting effort is particularly important for a region that has seen an explosion in tourism and usage. 

The newsiness here is both in what the plan does and does not do. The state proposes to turn Point Lobos Ranch and Hatton Canyon into two new state parks, which could open up additional funding to maintain the two areas. It also proposes to keep Carmel River State Beach a state beach, and not turn it into a state park.

What it doesn't do is outline a path toward implementing capacity limits for the Point Lobos Natural Reserve, a reservation system or addressing overflow parking that often forces visitors to park off the shoulder along Highway 1—solutions many stakeholders have long sought.

Butch Kronlund, executive director of the Community Association of Big Sur, a local stakeholders organization that has been influential in planning for the area, says that level of "fine-scale planning" is necessary. However, the zoomed-in effort cannot begin without the zoomed-out view, and he says he is excited to see this general plan process, which has had its fits and starts, come to a close.

"Under the surface, everyone wants to find a better way to manage the park but at the same time protect the resource and provide a better strategy for access," Kronlund says. "It's critical the general plan be adopted because it will lead us to where we need to go."

The commission will meet tomorrow, May 21, at 8:30am. You can find the agenda here and stream the meeting here.

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