COVID-19 Community Meeting

COVID-19 Community Response Group Meeting Notes

May 27th, 2020

Attendees (via Zoom):

20th Congressional District, State Senate District 17, Cal State Parks, US Forest Service, 5th District Supervisor, Parks Management Company, Ventana Wilderness Alliance, Big Sur Chamber of Commerce, Big Sur Health Center, Esalen Institute, Big Sur Fire, Big Sur CERT, and the Community Association of Big Sur 

Big Sur Health Center:

Executive Director Sharen Carey reports:

  • There are still no known cases of COVID-19 in the Big Sur planning area.
  • The BSHC will begin offering COVID-19 testing to EMPLOYEES of BIG SUR BUSINESSES. The health Center will provide this service at no cost.  There is also no laboratory charge. Insurance or CA State will pick up the cost of the lab test. Testing will be by APPOINTMENT ONLY, beginning on June 2nd . Results are available in 48 hours on average. Testing will be conducted Tuesday and Wednesday afternoons and all day Thursdays and Fridays.

The Health Center expects to initially be able to test 25 people per day.

  • The health center plans to open the testing to families and others in Big Sur at a later date. 
  • Testing is also available at 3 other locations in Monterey County. EMPLOYEES RESIDING ON THE PENINSULA ARE ENCOURAGED TO USE MPC OR OTHER TESTING SITES to minimize impact on the health center. 
  • Bottom line defense against contracting the virus: Assume it is in Big Sur and take all precautions recommended : wearing facemasks in public, social distancing, frequent handwashing.

Big Sur Fire, Chief Matt Harris:

Chief Matt Harris reports:

  • Big Sur Fire experienced heavy increase in visitation over Memorial weekend, including a carry out of an injured hiker on the closed Salmon Creek trail.
  • BSF is utilizing their cache of PPE on each call out.  Supply is currently adequate.
  • Annual Muster is postponed indefinitely.
  • Expressed support for increased control of dispersed camping areas through utilization of locked gates on access roads (PLaskett Ridge, Los Burros etc.).
  • Butch and Tim cited a Visitor Use Management process that could lead to that outcome.

Fifth District Supervisor. Yuri Anderson for Supervisor Mary Adams.

  • The BOS submitted a letter to the State of Ca. supporting the Monterey County Health Departments attestation stating the county has met the metrics necessary to transition to late stage level 2 of the state SIP order. This means an easing of the state restrictions on some business activities.
  • The county attestation indicates that local businesses will follow guidelines and protocols created by the state.   

Big Sur Chamber of Commerce, Rick Aldinger Diana Ballantyne, and Mike Higgins report:

  • Despite state SIP orders, visitors arrived over the Memorial weekend.  
  • Top priority is to keep staff and community safe while being partially open.
  • Paradoxically, by having more options for visiting public, community and staff can maintain proper social distancing.  
  • A key to being able to conduct business safely is messaging to visitors on what they can expect when they come to Big Sur.  As an example, Post Ranch Inn (projected to open on July 5th) is providing potential guests with a pre-registration list of policies and expected behaviors, transparency on their state of the art cleaning procedures and reduction of numbers of in restaurant diners.

Community Emergency Response Team, Martha Karstens:

  • Zoom trainings continue.
  • Hands on training scheduled for the end of June.

USFS, LPNF Monterey District Ranger Tim Short:

  • A new Forest Order is slated to take effect on June 1st.  This new order will likely open the coastside trails but continue to keep closed the developed campgrounds and dispersed camping areas on the south coast of Big Sur.
  • USFS continues to monitor State and County C-19 guidelines and strives to coordinate accessibility by the public with what State Parks and County Parks is allowing.
  • Butch expressed gratitude for the Forest’s effort to coordinate with State and County Parks to sync up each jurisdiction’s status.

Ca. State Parks, Superintendent Brent Marshall:

  • Introduced Sector Superintendent Marcos Ortega.  Marcos grew up in Big Sur and is filling a vacant high level management position devoted to Big Sur State Park properties.
  • Parks continues to open select day use areas that it deems possible to maintain safe social distancing. The public and the Big Sur community can expect that a few select day use areas will continue to be available for outdoor recreation this upcoming weekend.
  • Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park as well as Point Lobos will remain closed for the foreseeable future.
  • 25 citations for violation of the park closures were written with 250 verbal warnings given as well.
  • Kirk thanked Brent for continuing to work toward further opening of the Parks properties.

Parks Management Company, Brian Cushman, CEO:

  • Day Use Areas (Pfeiffer Beach, Willow Creek, Sand Dollar and Mill Creek) were open over the weekend. Attendance was heavy on the south coast and at capacity at Pfeiffer Beach, but below typical highs for the period.
  • Lime Kiln Beach was opened, adding to the inventory of day use areas open to the public.
  • Poised to opening developed campgrounds once the County, State and USFS SIP guidelines allow.

Ventana Wilderness Alliance, Mike Splain, ED:

  • VWA had 9 Rangers conduct 7 patrols (92 volunteer hours). 4 of those patrols were on closed coastside trails.
  • 161 visitor interactions.  
  • Encountered 28 people on the closed Salmon Creek trail.
  • Hauled out 8lbs of trash and removed 4 fire rings.
  • Had an encounter with an illegal mountain biker on the Kirk Creek trail.
  • South coast trail head signs and cones vandalized. (Sigh).

Esalen Institute. Lacy Shannon:

  • Targeting reopening of the campus on July 5th, subject to local and state SIP guidelines, at reduced occupancy.
  • Shared accommodations (Bunk beds and sleeping bags in communal rooms) will no longer be offered.
  • Although there is no timeline, local bathing opportunities are on the radar and hope to make that available soon.

17th State Senate District, Colleen Courtney for Senator Bill Monning:

  • Senator Monning is currently working on legislation that enhances accessibility and affordability of health care (SB977) as well as creating a strong environmental mitigation plan for an endangered toad that could facilitate widening Highway 156 between Prunedale and Castroville.
  • The Senator is also working with his peers to create a state budget that takes COVID-19 in account.  Important to his rural constituents and a major focus of the budget conversation is wild fire preparedness. More details on the state budget process during COVID-19 can be found here:

20th Congressional District, Katie Moon on behalf of Congressman Jimmy Panetta. 

  • Congressman Panetta is back in D.C. voting on new legislation. 
  • One piece is the bi-partisan PPP flexibility Act. It will ensure that businessowners have more time to use their PPP loan funds, as well as allow more of the loan be forgiven. It will extend the program to 12/31/20 and forgiveness period of the PPP beyond the initial 8 week period to 24 weeks.
  • Participated in a Ways and Means Committee hearing on the disproportionate impact of C-19 on communities of color. Rep Panetta focused on the need for expanded food assistance programs and protections for farm workers
  • The congressman, along with Senator Monning, Supervisor Adams and Assemblyman Rivas are concerned about a lack of outreach to all concerned parties regarding the proposed south coast surveillance tower.  They have met and communicated with Ca. Coastal Commission staff.  As a result, the deadline for public comment has been extended beyond June 15th.  To make

comments regarding the CBP surveillance tower contact: Larry Simon, Ca. Coastal Commission Manager, Federal Consistency Unit

  • Katie reports that the proposed tower would be installed temporarily (1year pilot project). That the height of the tower may be reduced in height from 80’ to 30’ tall and that the surveillance would only be capable of looking out to sea.
  • The congressman is working to support USFS and ensure that FS personnel have the tools and resources needed to safely mitigate and fight wildland fires during the pandemic.

Community Association of Big Sur, Butch Kronlund. ED:

  • Butch reported that our Executive Board has been working hard with the Big Sur business community to identify those community members most financially vulnerable.  Due to the generosity of the Community Foundation for Monterey County and Twitter Founder Jack Dorsey, among others in the Big Sur community, CABS has distributed over $135k to 109 Big Sur families.
  • CABS continuing to make incremental progress in bringing land based Broad Band internet into Big Sur. (Not 5G!!!).