Meeting Reports

Wednesday night’s CWPP meeting was very productive, per the attendees. I will expand on that this weekend. Today, Friday, is the BSMAAC meeting, which I will also report on this weekend, both here, in this post.


Turn out was decent, for the South Coast. We did have representation from Gorda Mtn., Willow Creek, Plaskett Ridge, Pacific Valley, and Alm’s Ridge. Noticeably lacking was any representation from the Lucia/Harlan/Hermitage section of the South Coast, or Big Creek, which was represented in the last meeting.

One suggestion that Steve Daus seems to be considering is splitting off the South Coast from the North Coast Plan. I did not get a feel for whether that is feasible. One question, of course, is where to divide the coast. One suggestion was N-F Rd. and southward. Of course, that leaves out our Lopez Point and Big Creek neighbors. I would think south of Dolan Ridge might be the answer, but really unsure. Betty, Katee, and I have all sent additional suggestions to Steve via email regarding the draft plan.

Other discussions included the ratings given to different areas based on population densities, ridges, roads, fuel loads (and types) as well as other considerations. Equipping our South Coast fire brigade also was discussed.

Steve also mentioned he wanted to find the previous dozer line maps from the USFS, but was not having much luck. So, I sent him the photos I had taken of the ones I had seen.

iPhoto Library
Chalk Fire

Basin Fire

Hey, Steve — what can Big Sur Locals do that USFS cannot? Supply you with dozer maps!

It is hard to summarize a two-hour meeting in just a few paragraphs, but these are the main points, from my perspective.

The Big Sur Multi-Agency Advisory Council Meeting covered much more ground and time, lasting about 3 hours. I will report on that separately this weekend.

Billy Post, the legend

Some of you may have received this email from the Chamber of Commerce, but others not, so I reproduce it here, with permission. Also included was an incredible photograph of Billy Post.

Billy Post
August 24, 1920 – July 26, 2009

Billy Post
A man of the land returns to the land

BIG SUR – The 4th generation of a well known homesteading family, Billy Post was a respected and enormously loved “old timer” in Big Sur. A humble and gentle man, he had an old fashioned sense of courtesy and manners. Billy had a vast love and knowledge of Big Sur, his home and community, its history and environment. He knew every tree and path at Post Ranch, and paid attention to the natural world around him, the wild creatures and plants and especially horses. In his younger days he was able to combine these passions and share his experience with others by offering pack trips on horseback into the Big Sur wilderness. Billy was an expert horseman and wrangler, and was known as a horse whisperer who always gentled, never broke his horses. While in his teens and twenties he drove cattle on the three day trip from Big Sur to the cattle yard in Monterey. After the opening of Post Ranch Inn in 1992, he took guests on nature walks on the ranch and when arthritis claimed his joints he mastered the nuances of an off road Segway to continue his contact with people and nature. In his last years he shared breakfast with guests of the inn, telling stories of the bygone era of his life. Bill had a way of paying attention and taking care of others, of giving them a glimpse of a simpler and quieter time. A man of integrity, he positively influenced the lives of thousands of people with his warmhearted graciousness and generosity.

Named Joseph William Post III after his grandfather and father, Billy was born before there was a highway connecting Big Sur to Carmel. His great-grandfather, William Brainard Post, originally from Essex, CT, was among the first pioneers in Big Sur in the 1860s. His great-grandmother, Anselma Onesmio, was a native Costanoan from Carmel Valley. The family’s two-story home is a registered historical landmark, the last homestead still standing in Big Sur. It was a working ranch, and Billy was put to work at a young age. He drove out to gather firewood as soon as he was able to handle a team of horses (he was so young that someone else had to harness the team for him). Wood stoves consumed a lot of fuel, and keeping plenty of firewood on hand was Billy’s job. He spent time behind the traces of a mule pulling a plow, milked cows, took care of chickens and turkeys, gathered eggs and looked after livestock. He got up at 4:00 a.m. so he could finish his morning chores before the hour-long school bus ride to Monterey. After high school Bill studied animal husbandry at UC Davis. He hoped to become a veterinarian. To finance his education he went raccoon hunting to sell the pelts and bought a bulldozer to grade and clear building sites along the coast. World War II put an end to that dream and he joined the Marine Corps and since he was a crack shot, he became a rifle instructor at Camp Matthews. He spent time in the Pacific at Nagasaki, Okinawa, Saipan, and Tinian, and he was one of the first to see Nagasaki after the bomb was dropped.

When he returned home to work on the ranch he helped build the Rancho Sierra Mar café and campground. He was employed for many years as a highway electrician for Caltrans. Bill wed in his middle thirties, and the next few years saw the birth of his two girls, Gayle and Rebecca. When that marriage ended, he raised his daughters alone. Then he met Luci Lee, a business woman and mother of two daughters, Nancy and Linda. In 1969 Billy married Luci, his sweetheart and the love of his life. Together they created a new family with their four daughters. In 1973 they returned to Big Sur to help his ailing parents. After their passing, Billy’s family moved into the home he had built for his parents, now called the Post House. Later they moved to Carmel Valley.

As a man who lived most of his life far from town, Billy could fix, make-do, and repair practically everything. He loved equipment that could shape the earth. He operated heavy equipment before and during World War II, built roads, cut fire lines, and prepared land for construction. All the tractor work in the development of Post Ranch Inn was done by Billy, and he operated the bulldozer, backhoe, and the auger that set the foundations for the inn.

Very committed to his family, Billy was a true and devoted partner to his wife Luci. They were always together and traveled extensively. He was very close to his sister, Mary Fleenor, and after her death, Bill, who hadn’t been able to finish college, put Mary’s estate into a trust to pay the educational expenses for eleven children of family and friends. He performed in many Big Sur Revues, loved to square dance, was a founding member of the Big Sur Grange and the Big Sur Historical Society, and was an active member of the Monterey Elks Lodge and Monterey Model A Car Club. He had a private pilot’s license and delighted his family by flying them on trips with their dog, Tini. Billy donated a site on the ranch for the Big Sur Volunteer Fire Department to build their firehouse, which was named in memory of his father.

He was preceded in death by his daughter Nancy Downing. He is survived by Luci, his beloved wife of 40 years, three daughters; Linda J. Lee of Seaside, Gayle Forster of Marina and Rebecca Post of Olympia WA, seven grandchildren; Pamela Patterson (Rick), Gregory Paley (Maria), Anna Vargas, Gabriel Forster (Jessica), and Richard, Shane and Daniel Forster, and seven great grandchildren; Jessica, David and Julian Paley, Paley and Madison Martin, and Rafael and Jade Vargas.

For the large family of employees at Post Ranch Inn, Billy was a treasure. He represented the strongest redwood on the ranch. With his passing, it is as if a giant tree has fallen. On his walks Billy always pointed out the new sprouts and small trees growing in a circle where an old tree had once stood. So too, his loving legacy will live within his large circle of family and friends. The spirit of a wonderful man has flown through the window of the Ventana mountains. Billy Post will be loved, remembered and missed by all who knew him. Memorial donations may be sent to the Big Sur Grange, the Big Sur Health Center, the Big Sur Historical Society or the Big Sur Volunteer Fire Brigade. For information or to leave comments or remembrances, see The website will be active Wednesday, July 29.

Family and Friends will gather at Post Ranch Saturday August 1 from 2 to 6pm
for a celebration of Billy’s life. Please carpool, parking is limited.

Pacheco Fire

Coming home today, around 3 pm, we saw the Pacheco Fire. We had split from the 152 WB to the 156 WB, which was a good thing, as WB 152 was closed due to the fire.

Here is a shot of it:

Last word was air attack was canceled at 4:30 pm, but units on stand-by.

I have also been following the Knight Fire along the Stanislaus River, north of Twain Harte. (750 acres, 0% contained as of 7 pm 7/28/09.) The Monterey Hotshots were just assigned to this fire this afternoon. I am following it because I am interested, and there is a connection to Monterey County but, I will not generally be posting about it.

Two meetings this week

The first is the CWPP — Community Wildfrire Protection Plan — meeting. The South Coast one is Wednesday, July 29, 7-9 pm at the school. The North Coast one is Thursday 7-9 at the Lodge. A draft of the preliminary planning document is being circulated. I sent it to all on the South Coast, and some on the North Coast, for which I had email addresses. If you want to see it, but did not receive a copy, send me an email at


This old fire engine never did work the types of fires we see, but she sure is a beaut, isn’t she?

The second meeting is the Big Sur Multi-Agency Advisory Council on Friday, July 31, from 10-1 pm. This is the agenda:

10:00 a.m. I. CALL TO ORDER Congressman Sam Farr




1. Update on Los Padres National Forest Rep. Sam Farr
Big Sur Management Unit Line Item

1. New Code Enforcement Ordinance Tim McCormick, County Building
2. Prospects for Broadband on the Central Coast Arlene Krebs, Central Coast Broadband Consortium

(please bring written report)

Big Sur Resident Member
Big Sur Chamber of Commerce
Coast Property Owners’ Association
Monterey County Planning and Building Inspection
Monterey County Board of Supervisors
Monterey Peninsula Regional Park District
California Coastal Commission
State Parks and Recreation
Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary
United States Forest Service
27th District, State Assembly
15th District, State Senate
United States Congress


1:00 IX. NEXT MEETING ON November 13, 2009

(10:00 a.m. Pfeiffer Conference Room, Big Sur Lodge)

1:05 X. ADJOURNMENT In Memory of Bill Post

Passing on of an original

CPOA sent this out today as an email. I am saddened at the passing of Bill Post, a descendent of one of the original homesteaders in Big Sur. The announcement of his passing includes some of the Post Family history, which is always fascinating to read, particularly for those in love with Big Sur, but not particularly knowledgeable about the history.

I took this last year of the original Post Ranch homestead. To create something a little different of this much-photographed historical building, I used the “Orton Effect” on this photograph.

Post Homestead

Dear Friends,

Bill Post passed away last night. Born in Big Sur to a homesteader family, Bill’s passing marks the end of an era for the Big Sur Coast.

Native American, a wise and kind and gentle soul, the Gentleman of Big Sur will be missed and remembered by all who knew him.

Gary Koeppel

The following is excerpted with credit to the Post Ranch Inn regarding the history of the Post Family:

Post Ranch Inn began with a handshake in 1984, but the history of the area goes back much further. Carbon dating indicates the Costanoan Indians inhabited the region for more than 3,600 years. Most of the Indians eventually succumbed to disease introduced by soldiers and missionaries, and Big Sur remained relatively devoid of inhabitants until the 1860s, when the first western pioneers arrived on the scene.

William Brainard Post, an 18-year-old Connecticut Yankee, stepped off a ship in Monterey in 1848. A spirited explorer and entrepreneur, W.B. Post spent his early years on the California coast hunting grizzly bear and deer. He later traded in his buckskin and became a businessman, starting the first grain warehouse in Moss Landing and the first butcher shop in Castroville.

In 1850, W. B. married Anselma Onesimo, of Costanoan descent, with whom he had five children. When he took out a claim on 160 acres of land in Big Sur, he became one of the region’s first homesteaders. With the help of his sons, he built a cabin. The red New England-style house, a registered historical landmark, still stands on Highway 1 across from the entrance to Post Ranch Inn. The Post family raised cattle and hogs and exported apples from a thriving orchard.

W.B. and Anselma’s youngest son, Joe, married Elizabeth Gilkey, a neighbor of Cherokee descent, and eventually bought up claims from both of their families, accumulating nearly 1,500 acres, including the area of Post Ranch Inn. Together the adventurous couple ran the ranch and acquired the wilderness around Big Sur. Their son Bill continued the family tradition of leading trips and working as a cowboy and rancher.

While carrying mail from Monterey to Big Sur, Bill met Irene Fredericks, a city girl whose romance with Bill turned her summer visit to Big Sur into a lifelong stay. The couple opened Rancho Sierra Mar, a small resort and café near the Post family home, which they ran with their two children, Billy and Mary.

Bill Post has been in Big Sur most of his life, and there were many chores on the self-sufficient homestead. After serving in the Marine Corps in WW II, Bill came home to run the ranch. He was raising two daughters on his own when he met and married Luci.

Over the years, it grew difficult to hold onto the old style of ranching. In the early 1980s, a close friend and neighbor approached Bill and Luci with the idea of turning the land into an inn that would preserve the integrity and history of the Post family’s property. After shaking hands on the deal, they sealed the Post partnership with a shot of Jack Daniels, which has since become the Inn’s unofficial drink. When an agreement was signed years later, the partnership bought Bill a tractor, which he used to do nearly all the excavation and grading to build the Inn.

The Inn has been a Post family project in more than one way. It was Bill’s idea to honor the early history of Big Sur by using the ranch cattle brands as the logo and naming each guest room after Post family and friends. Luci put together the library. The late Mary Post Fleenor ran the Rancho Sierra Mar café until it closed in 1972. On its opening night, the new Sierra Mar restaurant was dedicated to Mary.

A couple of days a week you can find Bill at breakfast at Sierra Mar. You are invited to join him and view his photographs of the old family homestead and cattle ranch. What better way to learn about a place than with someone who has been exploring it for more than 80 years?

—— End of Forwarded Message

CPOA Board
Serving the Big Sur Coast for over 45 years.

BSVFB Fundraiser

Some of you may have seen this today, put out by CPOA, but for those who did not, I am reproducing it in its entirety. An evening in Monterey is hard for South Coast folks, but any North Coast folks might be interested. For others, who cannot attend, but would like to donate, the BSVFB makes it easy. Click on their link to the right, and when you get to their home page, there is a donate button that goes through paypal. Takes just a few minutes, or seconds, depending on your internet speed. (Sorry, the pictures did not come through in the copy & paste.)

It’s a Happening!

It’s been a year since the Basin Complex Fire.
Tom and I wanted to do something
so we’re organizing a benefit for the
Big Sur Volunteer Fire Brigade
5PM – 7:30PM
Thursday, August 6th
at Wave Street Studios

774 Wave Street, Monterey

It’s a reading and an interview

and an art show

and a celebration

Gary is pouring wine (Pinsoni Vineyards & Winery)

and Tom and Nepenthe

are cooking up lots of treats.

Bubbly will flow courtesy of McIntyre Vineyards

Hospitality and service will be provided by Big Sur Food & Wine Festival

You won’t want to miss it!

Tickets are $50 per person.
Make your check payable to Big Sur Volunteer Fire Brigade.
30% of all art sales go directly to the Brigade, too.
Space is very limited.
Call 831/646-9000 now to make a reservation or to sponsor the event

P.S if you have to miss it, catch it on line at from 6PM-7PM.
P.P.S Call Wave Street at 831/ 655-2010 for directions.

Journal excerpt, August 2, 1972

” Yesterday there was big fire at Jack Flat’s. It burned most of it up. It leapt the road and landed on the trees and started up the hill. It burned 3,000 acres. The Rangers say that by the time it stops 10,000 acres will be burned. Today it burned all the Pfeiffer Falls area. About 1,000 people had to be evacuated out of the park itself. Now it is going fast into the mountains where no human lives are in danger. I don’t know but there must be at least thousands of dead animals out there. At Nepenthe Restaurant, thousands of ashes flew on to the terrace. The ashes are gone but its pretty dusty! They have closed off the highway so the equipment can go through. Overhead I can hear the air tankers (planes, jets.) A few days ago we went to a flea market in Moss Landing. I got a doll-flower bowl. Holly got a surprise.”

Well, I was not yet 9 years old when I recorded these first impressions of the 1972 Molera Fire. What I remember now is sitting in the Hopkins pool on Partington Ridge watching the smoke billow up before we knew what was going on. Later that winter, there were terrible mudslides. The river rose up and cars were washed downstream below River Inn. I was in third or fourth grade. I remember we went down to Big Creek and planted trees to replace the ones that had burned. It seemed like they would never grow back.

During the Basin Complex Fire last summer, we talked about how things would be later, when the fire was out, when we were home again. But talking about the way it would be after the fire while the fire was still raging was eerie and unsettling. Would we be able to go home again? Not everybody did. What would we see when we made that drive south for the first time? I know I cried from Molera to Nepenthe the first time I made that drive home, after the mandatory evacuation had finally been lifted.

During that intense period of fire and aftermath, I felt incredibly grateful to the men and women who were fighting the fire. I wanted to do something to thank them. But most of my energies went into getting my life back on track, working on getting my studio up and running in Monterey, Chi’s wedding, helping Emily find a new apartment in Santa Barbara, and finally closing my studio and coming home again. Time passed, life went on.

Now it’s been a year. It’s time.

Please join me in thanking all the men and women of the Big Sur Volunteer Fire Brigade and Auxiliary by attending our upcoming fundraiser for the Brigade at Wave Street Studio August 6th. Come for the reading, the wine, the cause. Stay for the conversation, the connecting, the community-building.

It will be an evening to remember.

831/646-9000 or 667-2454
CPOA Board

Death of a Firefighter

Today, flags fly at half-mast for a firefighter lost on Tuesday.

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger today released the following statement regarding the death of U.S. Forest Service Firefighter Thomas Marovich of Hayward:

“Maria and I join all Californians in expressing our deep sadness over the passing of U.S. Forest Service Firefighter Thomas Marovich. Thomas selflessly dedicated his life to protecting our communities and saving lives and we are forever indebted to his service. Our hearts go out to Thomas’ family, friends and fellow firefighters as they mourn this terrible loss.”

Marovich, 20, died July 21 as a result of injuries sustained while performing routine rappel proficiency skill training at the Backbone Helibase in Willow Creek. Marovich was a second-year apprentice with the U.S. Forest Service at the Modoc National Forest and was working with the Chester Helitack Crew from the Lassen National Forest which was assigned to the Backbone Fire at the time of the accident.

In honor of Firefighter Marovich, Capitol flags will be flown at half-staff.

Community Wildfire Protection Plan

Here is a quick sketch of why we should take our opportunity to have input into the CWPP seriously. This was provided to me by Mike Caplin, who gave me permission to post it here.

“Here is a quick sketch of the significance of CWPPs.

I think of CWPPs as a gift from Congress to tiny communities near National Forests and BLM land.

The concept of CWPPs is a creation of the Healthy Forests Restoration Act of 2003 (HFRA, attached and highlighted).

Any “at-risk community” near federal lands managed by the US Forest Service or the Bureau of Land Management can write a CWPP, and in it the community can say how the community thinks wildfire fuels (vegetation) should be managed on the federal land to protect the community from wildfires starting on the federal land, and can say how the community thinks federal fuel reduction grant awards should be prioritized in the community’s area.

The federal agency is not required to do the fuel reduction work, but there are a number of incentives and directives once the community makes the recommendation in a CWPP.

First, the Secretary (of Agriculture or Interior) is directed to give priority to “authorized hazardous fuel reduction projects” that implement a CWPP.

Second, authorized hazardous fuel reduction projects on federal land recommended in CWPPs are provided expedited review under the National Environmental Policy Act (different degrees of red tape are cut depending upon whether the project is within the “wildland urban interface” (WUI) for the at-risk community, and whether the project is inside the WUI and within 1 1/2 miles of the boundary of the at-risk community.

Third, an at-risk community can use the CWPP to say where the WUI boundaries are for the at-risk community (wherever the community thinks it is needed to protect the at-risk community), and apparently to decide where the boundaries are for the at-risk community.

Fourth, the Secretary shall consider (authorized hazardous fuel reduction) recommendations made by at-risk communities in a CWPP.

Fifth, the at-risk community can say in its CWPP where the priorities are in its area for federal grant money to be awarded to perform fuel reduction work on private land.

Sixth, 50% of all federal fuel reduction monies must be spent in WUI areas.

Big Sur qualifies as an at-risk community. So, it can say in a CWPP, for example, where its WUI is, how it wants fire breaks maintained in the Los Padres National Forest, and how it wants other wildfire fuels to be maintained in the LPNF. It can also say which areas should be which priority for federal fuel reduction grants.”

So, send an email to Steve Daus or come to the meeting on the 29th 7-9 at the South Coast Community Center. If you do not have YOUR say about the areas of concern, I will certainly have mine. In fact, I sent my concerns to Steve already.