MoCo Visitor’s Bureau’s disconnect with Big Sur


This is from the brochure the vistor’s bureau was handing out when the TapHouse trail opened to visitors on July 1st.

Do you see the problem here?? There IS NO legal camping south of the bridge until Limekiln State Park, some 25 miles south, and until just recently, it was ONLY accessible to locals and deliveries through Paul’s Slide. So, where are these visitors being directed to? One reader found hikers with overnight packs hiking Clear Ridge. Another, found hikers who climbed over the private gate and proceeded up the private road at Coastlands. And Marcus, quoted below, has several times found campers on the property he caretakers. This is where the visitor’s bureau is direcing visitors, purposely or inadvertently – our back yards.

I sent a copy of the below reader’s comment (thank you Marcus) to the Bureau’s 3 top marketing managers yesterday, but as of yet, have had no response. I wrote to Mark, Rob, and April at and sent this:

“”Just to point out the disconnect the County Visitors Bureau has with the realities in Big Sur. They are advising people to stop at Bixby Bridge and take pictures when there are 20 parking spots and 200 cars trying to park there on weekends. Maybe that’s a bad idea? Also, on their 4 page brochure they were handing out to tourists on the Southside ,when they opened the trail, the second paragraph was telling people “to stay for an unforgettable sunset and sleep under the stars” when there is not one legal campsite to do that. Dangerous!”

Feel free to send them your concerns, as well.

17 thoughts on “MoCo Visitor’s Bureau’s disconnect with Big Sur

  1. I agree with your post about the brochure. But, I think the point should be made that the reason you are finding people hiking/backpacking along places like Clear Ridge and Coastlands is because all the places they would normally go are still closed, not because a brochure told them to. Why are Andrew Molera and Pfeiffer Beach still closed? Is the road/storm damage in there so great that it can’t be fixed in this amount of time – it’s nearly August! And I know you’ll hate this comment, but the Ventana should be open too. It’s been a year since the fire. Tons of work needs to be done to the trails, and it’s volunteers that will do most of it. The State Parks and Forest Service’s new approach of excessive closures is to blame for the backpackers in your backyard, that’s the reality.

  2. Thanks, Kate. I was going to make the identical point: for outsiders, there is a very mixed (and confusing) message. Chamber of Commerce & MoCo are urging tourism; residents are opposed. Friends have remarked: “Should we go, or not?”

    Lisa Krieger
    San Jose Mercury News

  3. Molera State Park is now open. The reason it took so long is all their resources were working on the bypass trail to make it a Class 1 trail so public could use it.
    I don’t think it’s so much the wording on Visitors Bureau that leads to some of the bad behavior we are seeing. I think it’s more the fact that that they are not emphasizing that most businesses, State Parks and trails are all closed. If they would let people know that Deli/Taphouse area and Nepenthe are the only places open to the public that may help.
    Two people were cited last night for illegally camping at Julia Pfeiffer Park which is closed due to storm damage and lack of resources on this side. They did have a campfire and was reported by a visitor who saw them and reported it. Big thanks to them for being aware of the dangers and letting a resident know.

  4. Kate, I understand the concern you, and many others have regarding responsible tourism. I can assure you the MCCVB cares about it as well. When I read this brochure, I see no promotion of any illegal or irresponsible behavior. Some have posted damning comments to this post, admitting they haven’t read the brochure. There are many places in Big Sur where “camping under the stars” is possible, appropriate and legal. Those places are listed In the MCCVB brochure. The paragraph referenced is talking about ALL of Big Sur – not just the places one might be able to walk to on the south…
    Additionally, the MCCVB has been producing a series of “Responsible Tourism” pieces, designed specifically to educate our visitors on the proper care of Big Sur and the rest of Monterey County. Here is the one for Big Sur:
    We’re all in this together, and most of us want the same outcome – responsible visitors who care about Big Sur. The staff of the MCCVB are good people, ready and willing to do whatever they can to that end…
    Here are a few more things the MCCVB is doing:

    • homepage has a link to a Big Sur microsite that is loaded with the latest information, maps, tips and suggestions ranging from fire/smoking restrictions to FAQs on responsible tourism. See that page here:
    • We’ve also created a special Travel Like a Big Sur Expert page with “Dos and Don’ts” –
    • We created a Sustainable Moments video series that features Big Sur –
    • Our Visitor Center is getting about 4000 people a week right now – more than half inquire about Big Sur and we use it as an opportunity to educate them on experiencing Big Sur in a safe and responsible way
    • We work with a handful of regional partners ranging from Visitor California to the Central Coast Tourism Council to other CVBs and agencies – attached is an example of a Market Situation Report (MSR) we regularly distribute. With Visit California we update on a weekly basis.
    • We constantly update and monitor social channels. On our Facebook page we reach over 100,000 people (and by extension tens of thousands more) with messaging about Big Sur, how to visit and how to do so responsibly. Below is a recent post.
    • We’ve been running a significant amount of advertising and paid social posts to promote how enjoy Big Sur in safe and responsible ways. And we’re running paid advertising within Monterey County to reach visitors already in our destination.
    • Supervisor Mary Adams is heading up the developing situation and working with Caltrans, Parks and others. MCCVB has been a part of that working group since day. We supported and helped facilitate and promote the new shuttle service designed to mitigate single car traffic – and we support carrying this on beyond the road closures.
    • Our PR team is proactively reaching out to journalists around the globe to push a balanced message – Big Sur is open and visit smartly, safely and responsibly.
    • An example of getting the message out about balanced tourism growth is this article in Edible Monterey –
    • We’ve created a ‘resource kit’ for all our members with a variety of tools and tips designed to promote responsible tourism throughout Monterey County -

  5. I know about all that, and did a very favorable piece on the Bureau just recently, highlighting these positive steps. I watched the great video you did for them on Big Sur. I do think they are trying, but…
    Rick, my biggest concern until the bridge opens is the one way in and out on a very difficult road that is crumbling. What if one irresponsible visitor (like last year) starts a wildfire? How do we evacuate the tourists while trying to get firefighters in here? With only one very dangerous way in and out, were it a private property owner, the fire fighters would not be inclined to save the house. I know all the arguments that businesses have made, and I understand that position. But the conversation needs to be around the possibility of wildfire from now until the bridge opens. Just look at Marcus Foster’s comment below. That could have been the Soberanes Fire 2 if a conscientious visitor had not spotted a careless one.

  6. Kate. AND EVERYONE! this is something to be aware of! While coming over to big sur to my home thru Ft Hunter liggit my dear friend was stopped for exceeding the speed limit. Ok. That’s fair HOWEVER did this warrant a complete car search, including her food container , 2 squad cars, and a pat down! This person doesn’t smoke, drink, do any drugs , is a home owner in big sur and a business owner in Carmel! She is a mature woman. Of course she was very gracious and complied with their requests and at one point she couldn’t find her insurance card and was accused of not producing her ID. WHEN they had her drivers livense. IN MY BOOK ID CALL THIS Intentional intimidation.

  7. Right now there is MP training going on, so must be even MORE vigilant than usual. I was subjected to the same conduct. Kept for 20 minutes, guns drawn, etc. but this was in the mid to late 80’s. I went to dispatch and demanded they keep the dispatch tape as I was going to fight it. Never got notice, just a notice of the suspension of my right to drive on FHL from a federal court in FL. Didn’t need to drive on FHL back then anyway.

    As I said earlier, I was stopped LEAVING the base at the main gate and requested to do a full and complete random car search. They wanted me to “step out of the car” which when I explained was not possible due to having only one leg, they let me go.

    Oh, just realized I need to put my new tags on my truck before end of August. Don’t want to give them ANY excuse!!

  8. MCCVB, in spite of all their efforts to visit Big Sur responsibly, still misses the point that they are over-marketing the area at a sensitive time.

  9. The Tourism bureau says on their website, that it is funded ” in cooperation with the Monterey County Board of Supervisots and the communities of …”
    Maybe this is an issue for the Board of Supervisors to address?

  10. Rick Aldinger stated that ” there are many places in Big Sur where camping under the stars is possible, appropriate and legal”
    And these places are accessible on foot, when walking in on the bypass trail? Really?!!
    Suggesting that misinformation on a handout given to people in a rural area with no internet, can be clarified by looking it up for further detail on the internet is just ludicrous. Also, to suggest that the Tourism Buresu has the same interests as the majority of people who live in this area is insane. Unless you own a business, profiteering from the destruction of the wilderness, then NO, there are no common interests; Especially since Big Sur gets very little if any of the $$$ from the tourist taxes from the County

  11. Wow. Just wow. What a dilemma. Different interests is all fine and good, but the sheer disregard for SAFETY and serenity in the pursuit of business is boggling. And I would add: the disregard of (and arguing against) LOCALS’ concerns is just sad. I lived in Big Sur when there was exponentially LESS tourist traffic…and sometimes NONE due to slides, etc…and businesses survived as well as people/employees. This drive to insure maximum tourist accommodation during such an EMERGENCY is unfortunate, and IMO, speaks of greed…or, at the least, addiction to/dependence on a “too high” level of tourist traffic. I feel for all of you locals who are dealing with this, and support you Kate and all others who are addressing things. Thank you for paying attention to what MOTHER NATURE is trying to say: slow the roll, or else.

  12. Makes me remember back in the 60’s when the “hippies” were coming down the Coast and refusing to acknowledge private property. They’d come in and camp under the redwoods, making their fires. Grandma (Esther) Ewoldsen carried her 22 with her whenever she went down the hill. She’d roust out the illegal campers, make them put out their fires and follow them as they walked out. We’d come back with containers of water and Mcclods to make sure the fires were out, not lurking in the duff. For those of you who didn’t know her – she was barely 5 feet tall, her long grey hair braided and circling her head, dress with denim apron, heavy stockings and tennis shoes. But she know how to use the 22 – she could hit a blue jay in the fruit trees from the back of the house. Those that walked all the way up were greated by her and the 22 (due to the dog’s barking) and she’d tell them to turn around and walk back down as she’d be coming down to make sure they were back on the other side of the fence. Wonder if she could do that today…..

  13. HOW TO PAY FOR TOILETS ONE HWY 1? I suggest it is paid by those who use it. And let it NOT be stinking porte-potties but proper HWY rest stop facilities.

    Here are some web snippets to help that suggestion to manifest.


    “Road Pricing Defined

    Road pricing refers to a fee related to the use of a roadway facility. Revenue from these fees can be reinvested in capacity expansion or used to pay for operations and maintenance. Toll revenue, specifically, is also the primary source of repayment for long-term debt issued to finance a toll facility itself.
    In general, tolling involves the imposition of a per-use fee on motorists for a given highway facility. Historically, these fees have generally been flat tolls that may vary by number of axles and distance driven, but not by time of day. Their primary purpose is to generate revenue.”


    “A toll road, also known as a turnpike or tollway, is a public or private roadway for which a fee (or toll) is assessed for passage. It is a form of road pricing typically implemented to help recoup the cost of road construction and maintenance.”

    May I add here that HWY 1 in Big Sur is scenic because it is a cliff hanger and therefor repair and maintenance costs are extraordinary.

    Below, capitals are my doing.


    “Also ROAD CONGESTION pricing schemes have been implemented in a limited number of urban areas as a transportation demand management tool to try to reduce traffic congestion and air pollution.”

    I also read but can no longer find the website something to the effect that highways can be managed as a franchise of some kind. So could HWY1.

    Of course, locals and their guests travel free and may have their own gate a la Pebble Beach 17 Mile drive.

    In summary, the primary purposes of the TOLL ROAD Option are: Generating funds for toilet facilities, gate keeping, patrolling and set limits on traffic/number of visitors.

    Also of importance would be to create a fund to cover business income and private property loss damage caused by the road users, especially fire damage in view of the fact that insurance companies usually will not issue policies for properties in the Big Sur area!

    There is so much more that can be written here, but I think this is the core of my proposal.

    Thanks Kate for the opportunity to voice the above, here on your site.

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