COVID-19 Community Response Group Meeting Notes
August 5, 2020
Attendees (via Zoom):
20th Congressional District, State Senate District 17, 30thAssembly District, CA State Parks, US Forest Service, 5thDistrict 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
USFS, LPNF Monterey District Ranger Tim Short, John Eifert sitting in:• Announced that the Monterey District has requested a COVID-19 Emergency Road Closure on the following roads to the public: South Coast Ridge Road, Central Coast (Cone Peak) Road, Los Burros (Willow Creek) Road, and Plaskett Ridge Road.• This Emergency Road Closure will go into effect this Friday, August 7th and will stay in effect through October 19, 2020.• The Monterey District is working collaboratively with other agency partners and private property owners for solutions to complex problems.• The Strategic Fuel Break Project has been awarded from funding from the Joint Chiefs and California Climate Initiative Grants. It is undergoing planning efforts for implementation in Fiscal Year 2020, 2021 and 2022. For Fiscal Year 2020 work will be implemented on approximately 157 acres along the North Coast Ridge Road.• Butch asked how the Great American Outdoors Act will impact funding projects in the Monterey District. John replied LPNF will get some funding and will report more next week.• Kirk sought clarification if there will be restrictions on the Nacimiento/Ferguson Road with the Emergency Road Closure Order. John replied there will be no restrictions.• Butch, Martha Karstens and Matt Harris thanked John and the LPNF for taking this action to address the impacts of visitation on the south coast ridges.
Big Sur Fire, Chief Matt Harris reports:• Matt sought clarification on Forest Order and confirmed the following: that the Forest Service closes the roads only and Trailheads remain open; Big Sur Fire will have access to the proposed gates in case of fire; and residents on the south coast ridges also have access with the gates. • Big Sur Fire remains busy with rescues and car accidents.• Big Sur Fire graduated a class of 10 new fire fighters.• Butch wanted to acknowledge Marcus and Trey’s reporting on the conditions on the south coast last weekend. Butch pointed out that their data helped make the case that the visitation on the south coast needed to be addressed and was out of control. Matt goes on to say that Big Sur Fire appreciated the quick collaboration with the Forest Service that led to the Emergency Road Closure.• Matt touched on the need for Monterey County, State and Federal to have a uniform fine structure across jurisdictions.• In later remarks Matt suggested that all firewood at point-of-sale have an insert with clearly stated fire restrictions outside of developed campgrounds. Matt to work with Big Sur Chamber on this messaging.
Ventana Wilderness Alliance, Mike Splain reports:• Since our last call, 2 Volunteer Wilderness Rangers spent 21 hours patrolling the Cone Peak Trail, greeting 34 visitors, packing out a pound of trash, dismantling 4 fire rings, and placing social distancing signage at nearby trailheads.• VWA Trail Crew Leaders and American Conservation Experience contract crews (supported by USFS packers) are currently working on the Pine Ridge Trail between Barlow Flat and Sykes Camp. The trail is tentatively scheduled to re-open in the fall, with a pilot permit system in place to educate visitors on fire safety and Leave No Trace ethics, and to monitor the volume of visitation.• The hope is that restoring this access will serve to more safely disperse visitation and alleviate resource damage currently impacting other extremely popular coastal trails.
Parks Management Company, Jeremy Waggoner:• The developed campgrounds are full.• Day Use areas are below capacity which is rare for this time of year.
CA. State Parks, Big Sur Sector Supervisor Marcos Ortegareports:• Marcos was unable to attend.
Big Sur Health Center:• There are currently 10 positive cases of COVID-19.• The Health Center has performed 14 new COVID tests this week bringing the total to 328 tests. There is a 6 day turn around for positive tests and a 3 day turn around for negative tests.
Big Sur Chamber of Commerce, Kirk Gafill reports:• Kirk Gafill reports overall business in Big Sur is down 20-25%.• Monterey County businesses have multiple challenges including turn-around time on COVID-19 testing results and an already diminished labor pool.• Kirk states that the Big Sur Health Center has been an extraordinary resource for the Big Sur business community in meeting the challenges of COVID-19.
Fifth District Supervisor. Sarah Hardgrave for Supervisor Mary Adams reports.• Sarah acknowledged Kirk’s comments on the challenges in multiple sectors of the economy and distance learning of children this fall.• Mary Adams and Chris Lopez coordinated getting message boards installed at the east and west ends of the Nacimiento / Ferguson Road. The message mirroring the Cal Trans message board stating: No Campfires Strictly Enforced.• Supervisor Adams is looking at both short term and long term solutions to deal with the illegal roadside camping issue. • Sarah screen shared the County Health Department dashboard showing where the County is in terms of the metrics driving our operational status under COVID.• 3 of 10 metrics are in the red. These are: 14 day cumulative COVID incidence per 100k residents = 361, Percent of Nursing Facilities with no new COVID cases in last 14 days = 50% and 7 day average positivity rate of those tested = 14.8%• Monterey County is working closely with hospitals and also seeking alternative housing sites for those needing to be quarantined.
20th Congressional District, Katie Moon on behalf of Congressman Jimmy Panetta:• Katie reported that she and Phil Deppert had a conversation with Butch regarding strategy on how to address cross jurisdictional enforcement challenges on the following: illegal camping, illegal campfires, resource destruction, trespassing, etc. • Great American Outdoors Act passed. The bill has been signed into law. This results are $9 billion dollars available for public lands. Addressing deferred maintenance is a high priority for this funding.
30th Assembly District. Dominic Dursa for Assembly Member Robert Rivas.• Following up with last week’s suggestion that the local electeds work on a responsible recreation message. Dominic, Colleen Courtney, Katie Moon and Sarah Hardgrave met to start this conversation.
17th State Senate District, Colleen Courtney for Senator Bill Monning reports:• Colleen was unable to attend.
Community Emergency Response Team, Martha Karstens:• CERT is working with Monterey County to upgrade their repeater.
Esalen Institute. Lacy Shannon:• Lacy was unable to attend.
Monterey County Sheriff Department, Deputy Villasenor:• Jesse was unable to attend.
Community Association of Big Sur, Butch Kronlund. EDreports:• The Sunday morning illegal roadside camping sweep revealed 109 vehicles using Highway 1 turn outs, from Mal Paso Bridge to the SLO county line, to illegally camp.• Pacific Valley continues to be busy with illegal roadside camping (20 vehicles) and 9 tents counted out on the bluff.• Illegal campfires on Prewitt Ridge and Alms = 21 this last weekend. With 3 illegal campfires reported on Los Burros and San Martin.• During the course of the meeting the issue of who has authority to cite under which code is an on-going impediment to changing unwanted visitor behavior. For example, the USFS has a fine structure of $5,000 for an illegal campfire. The County on the other hand has a fine that is far less. The enforcement for illegal roadside camping is dependent upon which jurisdiction the camper is on. For instance, if a roadside camper is across the street from Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park and is cited by a State Park Ranger the procedure for issuing the ticket and the cost to pay the fine are significantly different than the procedure and the cost to pay the fine if issued by a Monterey County Sheriff or CHP. In order for the public to be forewarned and in order for law enforcement to have an easily enforceable action the jurisdictions need to be on the same page regarding legal language and fine structure. Sarah, with Supervisor Adams Office, thanked Butch for clarifying what the challenge is.