COVID-19 Community Response Meeting Notes

COVID-19 Community Response Group Meeting Notes
June 10, 2020

Attendees (via Zoom):

20th Congressional District, State Senate District 17, 30th Assembly District, 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 the Big Sur Health Center:
• There are still no known cases of COVID-19 in the Big Sur planning area.
• Is making testing available to all MEMBERS of THE BIG SUR COMMUNITY emphasizing employees of Big Sur businesses.
• Has budgeted funding to provide health care services for those most financially hard hit by the pandemic. No one will be turned away for inability to pay for services.
• 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:
• Emergency Services are operating at status quo.
• Participated in an interagency response to the 25 acre Plaskett Ridge Fire.
• Reiterated the need for Forest Service enforcement of the ban on open fires.
• Has responded to a recent spate of vehicle fatalities. BSF has benefited from and is appreciative of First Responder emotional counseling provided by Monterey County.
• Has a small wildfire Academy training session under-way.
• Expects that by August 1st there will be 30 Operational members with 10 members in training.

Fifth District Supervisor. Yuri Anderson for Supervisor Mary Adams reports.
• That BSMAAC meeting will be held as a Zoom call on Friday, June 19th from 10am to noon.
• Participated in general discussion centered on re-opening of Big Sur businesses.

Big Sur Chamber of Commerce reports:
• Kirk Gafill reports that Ca. will further open on Friday June 12th giving leisure travel the green light, allowing Campgrounds and overnight lodging to join other businesses that are open with protocols to limit the spread of COVID-19.
• The hospitality industry is coping with reduced occupancy which is as much a product of social distancing as it is reduced demand.
• MCCVB is messaging “responsible travel” to Monterey County.
• BSIM full and half marathons have been canceled due to COVID-19. This will likely have a negative impact on grant funding from BSIM to local non-profits
• Big Sur River Run organizers to decide on whether or not to hold the event this year in the next few weeks.
Community Emergency Response Team, Martha Karstens:.
• Final hands on testing for new group on 6/20/20. (one day shy of the 12th anniversary of the Basin Complex Fire).

USFS, LPNF Monterey District Ranger. Tim Short:
• Monterey District is attempting to coordinate timing of reopening of developed campgrounds with State Parks and Parks Management Company.
• The current Forest Order expires on Sunday June 14th.
• Plaskett Fire was successfully suppressed last week. Burn area still being monitored for hot spots.
• The fire gave personnel their first live incident response under COVID-19 conditions.
• Butch Kronlund asked rhetorically, what Tim thought the cost to suppress the Plaskett Fire was? With no ready answer, Butch speculated that the cost to mobilize men, equipment and Air Assets would certainly exceed $500k and more than likely the taxpayers spent more than $1M to fight a fire that did not have to happen. Butch stated that it is baffling that we have money to suppress fire but not prevent it. Butch went on to posit that the cost to maintain a Forest Service Law Enforcement Officer, dedicated to patrolling the Monterey District could not possibly exceed $200k per year. He went on to encourage Katie Moon and Phil Deppert to communicate the idea of reallocating the Forest Service’s financial resources in a way that better serves our management needs on the Monterey District of the Los Padres National Forest.
• Tim acknowledged that fire suppression costs are high, that we do need more enforcement and that he hears the community on this issue and will continue to engage toward a solution.

Ca. State Parks, Monterey District, Big Sur Sector Superintendent Marcos Ortega:
• Parks is opening PBSSP Day Use areas on Friday June 12th. Lodge Store will open as well.
• MAF visitors lobby to open Friday or Saturday.
• A target date of June 29th to open PBSSP campground.
• JP Burns Trails are open for day use hiking. Parking lot remains closed but bathrooms are open.
• Tan Bark, Partington Cove, Buzzards Roost and Pfeiffer Park trails open on Friday.

Parks Management Company, Brian Cushman, CEO:
• Prepared to open the developed campgrounds once State Parks and Forest Service give the go signal.
• Initiated a productive conversation around Unemployment Insurance and the Federal financial supplement’s role in recalling workers laid off or furloughed due to C-19.

Ventana Wilderness Alliance, Mike Splain, ED:
• 6 Volunteer Wilderness Rangers & Trail Crew Leaders contributed 156 hours on 3 outings designed to remove trail closure signage, greet visitors, impart fire safety & LNT information, & clean up trails & camps. Volunteers made 23 visitor contacts, 2 of which were backpackers in a closed area (Terrace Creek Camp).
• The pilot self-registration Wilderness permit system is moving forward- A final draft of the permit form is under USFS review. Infrared trail counters have been ordered. With input from the USFS, LPFA, & State Parks, new informational/interpretive/regulatory signage is now in the design phase.
Esalen Institute. Lacy Shannon:
• Esalen is targeting July 5th opening.
• Does not yet have a timeline for allowing local bathing.

17th State Senate District, Colleen Courtney for Senator Bill Monning:
• Acknowledges the challenges associated with extended EDD benefits on the business community, as well as the other issues discussed at these meetings and is relaying those to Senator Monning.

20th Congressional District, Katie Moon and Phil Deppert on behalf of Congressman Jimmy Panetta.
• Katie expressed gratitude for the good response to the Plaskett Fire by the Agencies and Big Sur Fire.
• Congressman Panetta co-sponsored the Justice and Policing Act which has passed the House.
• Reported that the PPP flexibility Act passed, extending the period to utilize PPP ot to as much as 24 weeks from receiving funds.
• Phil expressed appreciation for being able to participate in these calls and will be taking his notes back to the Congressman for comment and a response back to the group.

30th Assembly District, Dominic Dursa for Assembly Member Robert Rivas:
• Also expressed his gratitude for the response to the Plaskett Fire.
• Heard loud and clear about the need for more funding for enforcement.
• Assembly Member Rivas is in continuing negotiations leading to a vote on the Ca. State budget next week.
• Dominic reported that the full scope of budget concerns will become more apparent in July, causing further adjustments to State finances.

Monterey County Sheriff Department, Deputy Villasenor via text:
• County Sheriff’s are observing C-19 precautions (masks) with Dispatchers asking screening questions prior to contact with an incident.
• Illegal roadside camping continues to be a major issue. Jesse is citing these offenders and suggesting that they share their experience on Social Media.

Community Association of Big Sur, Butch Kronlund. ED:
• CABS is considering the timing to distribute a third tranche of financial aid to help support those unable to access State unemployment insurance or Federal assistance. To date, 109 Big Sur families in this category have received $135k in direct financial aid.
• A local 501c3 “This Club Saves Lives” is addressing food insecurity in Big Sur. The organization distributes food staples to 117 Big Sur families on a weekly basis.

• CABS is keenly anticipating the release of the draft DSP (Destination Stewardship Plan) for Big Sur. The plan could potentially lead to a source of revenue to support implementing solutions that address impacts from visitation.

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