Foot Trail around Pfeiffer Canyon Bridge


Today at 0930 we met with California Parks, Monterey District Supervisor, Brent Marshall, and John Hiles, in charge of Parks trail work and planning for the emergency trail. Present were myself, Big Sur Fire Chief, Martha Karstens, Kate Daniels representing Mary Adams, Monterey 5th District Supervisor, and representatives from State Senator Bill Monning.

The topic was planning for the creation of a viable foot trail between the south extent of the failing bridge and a point in the park that would allow safe foot traffic access for locals and essential personnel to maintain the sustainability of the community to the greatest degree possible under the emergency circumstances.

State Park management has made the following arrangements to support the plan. They have:

1. Obtained a permit to allow the construction of a trail as described
2. Established funding sufficient to provide the labor and materials needed to construct the trail
3. Crafted a contract with the California Conservation Corps to do the work, starting at their earliest opportunity, which at present is March 15, 2017
4. Estimated work to take 5 weeks, once started, which translates to completion on or about May 3, 2017. We have agreed that this is not an acceptable target date.
5. Agreed to support the formation of a volunteer crew to assist with the work under the sponsorship of the Big Sur Volunteer Fire Brigade, and this crew can be put to work under Parks supervision starting Monday AM, 3/6/17

While Parks has done an excellent job of bending their normal process to help support the emergency, we are concerned that the time line is too long to be the total solution we need for the residents and businesses. We are pursuing alternate versions of the plan to support the Parks in their legal and liability needs and to provide a more rapid resolution of the access crisis we are experiencing as the days mount up.

Chief Karstens will be the contact person for the formation of a work detail from the community and we will continue to work closely with Parks to augment their resources and logistics to help accelerate the time line and take the pressure off those who are suffering the greatest now and into the near term before the other access plans can be implemented

We now have substantial support from our political leadership at all levels of government and hope to provide the means and motivation to help Parks accelerate their plan to strategy the work and complete it as soon as possible.

Frank Pinney

Chief Emeritus

15 thoughts on “Foot Trail around Pfeiffer Canyon Bridge

  1. Kate,

    Topography aside, I still believe stubbornly there should be a small marina or wharf design set up somewhere on this coastline that can be easily accessible by all for an alternative rescue or resupply missions. If this crazy highway could be built why wasn’t a wharf or small harbor considered?

  2. Now the area is a National Marine Sanctuary. I would imagine the rules, regulations, and permit processes are formidable.


  3. OK, the NOAA has announced El Nino damage to this entire coastline has been severe too, restoration projects sure will be in the works by some chairperson in the future. Sanctuary status or guidelines are not all hands off to progressive projects, I just feel status quo will remain regardless what future damage has in store for this region, it’s tough to provide alternative solutions when bureaucracy is ready to block emergency access projects.

  4. Get around Sanctuary rules by forbidding fishing and recreational boating, except for maydays, and use the “wharf” or landing area for emergencies only….resupply, medical, disasters, etc. If a safe harbor was located, a larger vessel could anchor offshore, and be unloaded by smaller craft.

  5. The Army Corps of Engineers has the wherewithall to construct a temporary bridge over the canyon until a permanent replacement is built. They have done this sort of thing for decades in wartime and in disasters. It would need to be upstream of the damaged structure and access roads built to it. A trail would be of little help except for very local needs.

  6. We are all familiar with Bailey Bridges. One was built just south of Rio Road in less than 30 days when the Carmel River Bridge gave out in March of 1995. That option has been/is being explored, but one problem with that is that there is no safe stable place to put the access road to such a bridge, and, as I understand it, there is little room for anything other than the replacement bridge at that particular location. A trail will definitely help with local and immediate needs in the interim, as a permanent bridge will take some time to plan and construct, even with an expedited schedule.

  7. Reading this post is very frustrating. The level of bureaucracy woven through this is ridiculous at best and pathetic at the least.
    Take away the bureaucracy, the tree hugging rules and regulation and a trail could be up and running in a week. A group of volunteers with the proper guidance, some shovels, chainsaws, and some hard work.
    That’s all that would be needed.
    If this were the 1960’s or 1970’s there’d already be a trail.
    I write this as a multi-generational individual of Monterey County.

  8. Kate,

    Could the California Coastal Commission help in aiding with such a request on a permit for a marine rescue floating pier for emergency rescue missions and resupply drop off points? Or would this be something they would be hesitant to accept because of the Sanctuary status? Whatever the case it looks like the Coastal Act policies is what governs any future projects and permits getting approval.

    I had browsed its site looking for anything related to all the storm activity related issues the past 3 months, this seems like this is not the area in which they have much authority in?

  9. The rope bridges in third-world countries: a quick and dirty solution if you have the stomach for them. Pretend you are in Nepal or Indonesia, etc.

  10. No need to pretend. You are in Big Sur, terrain that is constantly crumbling and slipping into the Pacific, so best to not have long term expectations.

  11. The ’emergency’ trail is in violation of CA law as it is not ADA compliant.

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