BIG SUR & COVID-19 REPORT

Big Sur Chamber of Commerce, Big Sur Health Center, Esalen Institute Community Liaison, Big Sur Fire, Big Sur CERT, Monterey County Sheriff and the Community Association of Big Sur met today to continue coordinated efforts to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. Each organization provided an update on their current operations and preparations for continuing to shelter at home.
 
It is important to note that as of this moment, there are no known cases of COVID-19 in the Big Sur planning area.
 
Big Sur Health Center:
Sharen Carey reports the Health Center has rescheduled regular non-essential exams and is conducting more telephone medicine.  There is a triage tent set up in the front parking lot for people with potentially contagious illness. Staff are equipped with the necessary PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) to safely see patients. The Health Center requests that if you are sick for any reason, please call ahead to see if a visit or a telephone call is needed. Patients with symptoms of COVID-19 will be assessed and testing will be arranged if appropriate, then sent home for quarantine until results are available or routed to CHOMP if necessary. So far, there have been no known cases of COVID-19 in the Big Sur area.
 
Big Sur Fire:
Matt Harris reports that 20 members of Big Sur Fire are currently operational and equipped with PPE needed to continue their first responder mission. The Fire Station at Post Ranch is in lock down with access limited to all but key personnel. Many of the volunteers are now unemployed, creating financial uncertainty.  Matt is asking the community to consider hiring members of Big Sur Fire for property maintenance and fire clearance projects.
 
Big Sur CERT
Hal Latta and Dick Ravich report that a resident survey has been sent out to the CERT Team leaders responsible for each of 7 enclaves that CERT has a presence. The survey is intended to establish the segment of Big Sur’s population that is sheltering at home.
 
Monterey County Sheriff:
Jesse Villasenor reports that all Deputy’s are equipped with PPE and the SO is operating and responding normally (24/7, 365). Recent calls involve burglary of unattended parked cars. Notably, all Law Enforcement agencies continue with active mutual aid including officers from the Fish and Wildlife Service, State Parks, US Forest Service and California Highway Patrol.
 
Big Sur Chamber of Commerce:
Kirk Gafill, Rick Aldinger and Diana Ballantyne report that business activity has slowed appreciably. A list of businesses, from north to south and their current status, hours of operation and telephone contact information may be downloaded HERE. (PDF, 2 Pages, 92.8 KB) Top of mind for all of the businesses is the continued good health and safety of employees sheltering on property as well as those employees sheltering at home.
 
Esalen Institute:
Lacy Shannon reports the property is closed at least until April 12th with that date to be re-evaluated at the end of March. Esalen admin. is supporting out of work staff in helping them to secure unemployment benefits, as needed. A current challenge is maintaining a ‘shelter in place’ status while at the same time supporting off property employees who regularly rely on services like laundry facilities, mail deliveries and meals. Some employees are working from home and those sheltering on property are fulfilling their job duties, and, in some cases, have adapted job functions to maintain employment and income.
 
Community Association of Big Sur:
Butch Kronlund reports his appreciation for those organizations above answering the call to coordinate efforts during this rare moment in modern human history.  As needs emerge, CABS intention is to utilize all of the combined ingenuity and resourcefulness of its Board of Directors and many Associate members in support of the Big Sur community.

Misc. Updates & Info

From the USFS:

Los Padres National Forest offers
virtual services in response to Covid-19
GOLETA, Calif. – Los Padres National Forest is limiting public access to its offices and implementing virtual services beginning today to protect the health and safety of employees and members of the public during the COVID-19 outbreak in accordance with guidance from federal and state authorities.

Customers needing information, permits and maps are encouraged to call the Supervisor’s Office or Ranger District Offices during regular business hours for prompt customer service, or by visiting the Forest website at

https://www.fs.usda.gov/main/lpnf for additional updates.

“As we work through an unpredictable and rapidly changing situation, health and safety is our number one priority,” said Los Padres National Forest Supervisor Kevin Elliott. “We are committed to continuing to support our communities and fulfill our mission as we all work together to minimize the impacts and spread of COVID-19.”

These actions have been taken based on the best available medical advice to limit gatherings of large numbers of people and to promote social distancing.
Members of the public are encouraged to call the following Los Padres National Forest offices:

Supervisor’s Office – (805) 968-6640
Santa Barbara Ranger District – (805) 967-3481
Santa Lucia Ranger District – (805) 925-9538
Ojai Ranger District – (805) 646-4348
Monterey Ranger District – (831) 385-5434
Mt. Pinos Ranger District – (661) 245-3731

Visitors to our National Forests are urged to take the precautions recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). For tips from the CDC on preventing illnesses like the coronavirus, go to:

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/about/prevention.html.

I also got a notice they were suspending controlled burns, but cannot find it.

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PEBBLE BEACH CO. CLOSES HOTELS 

In a statement on its website, the P.B. Co. announced it was closing The Lodge at Pebble Beach and the Inn at Spanish Bay. The closure also applies to the company’s four golf courses and goes into effect at 5 p.m. today

“The health and well being of our guests, employees and their families is of paramount importance,” the statement said. “In light of the evolving COVID-19 pandemic, Pebble Beach Resorts has temporarily suspended our resort operations. For more than 100 years, we have welcomed guests from near and far to enjoy legendary golf and world-class accommodations along a backdrop of stunning natural beauty. Once the world is ready to travel again, we look forward to welcoming you to Pebble Beach.” 

The company said it was continuing to take reservations for arrivals after April 17. It also announced that “in order to provide essential services to Pebble Beach residents, our Gallery restaurant and Pebble Beach Market will both be open for take-out meals only.” 

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Governor Newsom Signs Order to Protect Public Health by Expanding Vote-by-Mail Options and Extending Deadlines for Presidential Primary CanvassPosted: 20 Mar 2020 09:00 PM PDTSACRAMENTO – Governor Gavin Newsom today issued an executive order to permit vote-by-mail procedures to be used in three upcoming special
Governor Newsom Deploys California National Guard to Help Distribute Food at Food Banks & Protect California’s Most VulnerablePosted: 20 Mar 2020 08:07 PM PDT  Food banks are seeing a shortage in volunteers and experiencing greater need due to COVID-19   Governor calls for
Benefit programs available to help California workers who are losing wages due to the impacts of the CoronavirusPosted: 20 Mar 2020 06:24 PM PDTSacramento – Workers who have lost their jobs or have had their hours reduced due to the impacts of COVID-19
SBA Offers Disaster Assistance to California Counties Small Businesses Economically Impacted by the Coronavirus (COVID-19)Posted: 20 Mar 2020 04:48 PM PDTSACRAMENTO, Calif. – The U.S. Small Business Administration is offering low-interest federal disaster loans for working capital to Oregon small

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I highly recommend reading this article in VOMB for Under the Sheltering Skies to get a first hand report for what this sheltering in place has been like to our service industry employees. httpshttps://voicesofmontereybay.org/2020/03/19/my-last-paycheck-at-a-santa-cruz-restaurant/

And from McWeekly: “What a week this has been. In many ways, our lives and community have been transformed by the arrival of a pandemic in Monterey County. Hour by hour and day by day, all of us have been forced to adapt and let go of routines, plans and expectations. This is true right here at the Weekly, where a dogged and dedicated team has tirelessly pursued breaking stories while publishing our annual Best Of Readers Poll (our biggest issue of the year) and launching this new daily e-newsletter, Monterey County NOW. While taking on that work, we lost seven beloved staff members to layoffs this week in an effort to respond to a major malfunction in the economy. What a week this has been.” Amen. Is 2020 over, yet?

Get take out, when you can, from your local restaurants. Tip well, if you can. Buy gift certificates for use later. Shop your local stores and markets. They are doing everything they can to provide you with what you need. Donate to your local news outlets, if you can, as advertising revenue is drying up. Stay home, wash your hands, and most of all, be kind.

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I think there were a couple other notices buried somewhere in my inbox, and if I find them, I will either add them here, or post another post after the photo tomorrow. BTW, I encourage you to send me any photos from your time of solitude for my photo Sunday posts. I think this is the only time when I wish I were married again so I would have someone to talk to and commiserate with…then I recover my sanity and smile.

Big Sur: Overtourism to Ghost Town

I published the following article in Voices of Monterey Bay, tonight.

One day Big Sur locals are complaining about the invasion of tourists in our formerly peaceful little village, and the next we are struggling to survive. Mother Nature has decided to put the brakes on tourism everywhere, including Big Sur.

Big Sur is no stranger to natural disaster, and we have had our share in the last few years. Just in the last four there was the Soberanes Fire that started July 22, 2016 and lasted until October, and we had  assorted Highway 1 closures that stranded us for weeks at a time. So this is not new to us. We have ridden out similar scenarios many times, and we are good at it. It is always during a disaster that Big Sur really shines and takes care of its own.

“We as a community simply can’t help but work harder and try our very best to persevere,” Kurt Mayer, owner of Big Sur Deli and Big Sur Taphouse, once said.

In Big Sur, like elsewhere, businesses scrambled to figure out how they would handle this latest natural disaster. What did it mean for staff, employees, and customers? By Wednesday, businesses were in compliance with the county order and our local Big Sur markets and stores were busy contacting locals to find out what they wanted so they could stock appropriately.

Diana Ballantyne, general manager of Fernwood Resort, Rick Aldinger, general manager of Big Sur River Inn, and Ken Harlan, owner of Lucia Lodge, are soliciting input from locals about stocking their stores to help residents avoid town trips. Fernwood is also offering a 10 percent discount to all locals — except on alcohol and tobacco. River Inn is still dispensing propane and gas, paid for at the pumps. Best to call for hours, though. Just got word from Big Sur Bakery that they are open for take-out and are exploring available options.

Mayer’s Big Sur Deli has a history of stocking the store for locals, as he did when the bridge was out and Paul’s Slide was closed. The area in between became an island. Locals should give the store a call and let them know what you want them to stock for you. Also, those businesses that carry propane, like River Inn, will have it available but with limited hours.

River Inn, Fernwood, Riverside  Campground and Gorda are all still accepting guests as of this writing. Gorda’s gas station (pay at pump only) and general store are likewise open, as is take-out from the restaurant.

As we all know given the speed of this virus, and the orders being issued, this could change tomorrow, or even by the time this is published. All are implementing deep cleaning and sanitation routines. Other businesses have temporarily closed completely. Treebones is closed for the duration of the shelter in place. Esalen has completely closed for four weeks. Deetjen’s and Henry Miller Library have completely closed temporarily as well. Just heard from Nepenthe, and they say they are also completely closed for the duration.

The State Parks have closed all their parks to overnight camping. The Monterey District of the Los Padres National Forest has also closed off all its developed campsites in compliance with Monterey County’s shelter-in-place order.

If you are a Big Sur local and have any special needs, I urge you to call one of our local businesses and see if they are able to accommodate you.

It is always during a disaster that Big Sur really shines and takes care of its own.

Another unreported side effect of this current situation is what is happening with people who have second homes outside of major cities and the impact on their tenants/caretakers. Here in Big Sur, these owners are coming to hide out in their second (or third) home. One South Coaster told me that “I can’t speak for all of Big Sur, but our landlord just told us he’s coming up with his kids for a few weeks. He asked me to do a huge grocery shopping trip for him, his nanny, and three boys and it feels hugely unfair and dangerous. We spent the last few weeks stocking up just so we could stay home during this time.”

There are probably other similar stories out there I have not yet heard about.

The South Coast of Big Sur is unusually positioned. We live like this, particularly in winter. We sometimes spend a good deal of our summer getting ready for winter. Yes, we tend to be a bit squirrelly. Some make town runs weekly, others monthly, and a few only go every six months or so.

We once used CB radios to communicate. Now it is Facebook, DM, or email and text. Tuesday night, a neighbor and I were communicating this way and we shared that we were both going to King City the next day. She was refilling her stock of gasoline and propane and picking up some food while she was at it. Her husband was away, and she only had the back-up vehicle, which had a battery problem. She was glad to know a neighbor would be around in case she had trouble. She did, and we found her being assisted by two guys in a Subaru and so we followed her home. We stopped and shared stories.

Big Sur can have a wicked sense of humor as evidenced by this gem from Diana at Fernwood: “But seriously, let me know if there is something in particular, other than the basics.  I’m thinking a case of asparagus, so the entire Big Sur valley starts smelling like asparagus pee at the same time.” She says it is arriving on Thursday.

It is the way we come together as a community that always makes me proud and honored to be a part of it. We are like small towns all over America who come to the aid of neighbors during times of crisis, and usually with a sense of humor. We may freak out momentarily, but then the shirt sleeves get rolled up and we have at it. Be safe, be healthy, be patient, but most of all … be kind. https://voicesofmontereybay.org/2020/03/19/from-over-tourism-to-ghost-town/

Garrapata Volunteer day

State Parks will be hosting their monthly volunteer program at Garrapata State Park on Saturday, 3/21 from 10 am – 1 pm. Volunteers will be removing non-native, invasive weeds around Soberanes Creek to preserve native coastal scrub habitat.

Meet at the Soberanes Point Trailhead on the west side of Highway 1 across from the Soberanes Canyon trailhead. Please bring water, a hat, a snack, and perhaps a lunch to enjoy mid-program. We will provide tools, loaner gloves, water, and training. All ages welcome. No experience or commitment necessary.

For more information, please contact volunteer.monterey@parks.ca.gov or call 831-574-9008.

Thank you.

Ruby Kwan-Davis, Forestry Aide, Volunteer Program Coordinator

California State Parks, Monterey District

The Lookouts of Big Sur

Here is my latest article for Voices of Monterey Bay:

In the fall of 1984, Soaring Jenkins and future husband Isa Starkey climbed up Cone Peak for the first time. She made it up the 2¼-mile trail — cussing, sweating — and there met Ruth Albee, who’d been a lookout in various places for a decade.

Ruth “was in her 60s and loved the trail I’d just sworn at,” Jenkins said. “But I looked around and fell deeply, instantly in love with the tiny glass room and the wide expanse of ocean and mountain views. I told her I wanted to be a lookout and she said, ‘Go ahead and apply here; I’m going to work next year at Chews Ridge Lookout.’”

It was that easy. Jenkins was a lookout there for the next six years and she says she did it for the love of the place. Other Big Sur fire lookouts I know say they do it out of a feeling of service and duty. It’s a way to give back to Big Sur.

Though it was one of the most difficult and isolated lookouts in California, Jenkins-Starkey told me that “I wanted that job more than anything, I felt a strong magnetic pull to be there, yearned for it, and learned everything I could through the Fire Brigade training, to prepare for it.”

For the rest of the article, including interviews with Nadine Clark, of Big Sur, and Scott McClintock, of the Federal Fire Lookouts Association, on the Chew’s Ridge Lookout Program, see https://voicesofmontereybay.org/2020/01/02/they-look-out-for-us/ :

“I had a May Sarton quote taped next to my desk: ‘Loneliness is the poverty of self, solitude is the richness of self,’” said Jenkins-Starkey. “It got me through a lot. After I’d been there several years I began to feel that everyone ought to have a long, long period of solitude to learn the contents of their mind, to learn how to exist, to just be, instead of always doing something.”

Learn the contents of one’s mind through solitude. I like that.

Christmas Story — Esselen tribe to get their land back…

…At least some of it. “Although the history of Native American indigenous peoples have unquestionably been filled with hardship, the Esselen Tribe in California—maybe the smallest native tribe in the country—has perhaps struggled the most. But now, thanks to a historic deal, it has gotten its land back.

“Forcibly converted to Christianity by Spanish missionaries, pulled into missions for tutoring, and exploited for forced labor, the number of remaining descendants from their tribe located in Big Sur is so small that in 2010, the Bureau of Indian Affairs denied their request to be recognized as a tribe and given tribal status.

“Recently, however, California authorities managed to raise $37 million for 21 different cultural and city projects, including a $4.5 million grant to buy a large tract of ancestral Esselen land as part of the Esselen Tribal Lands Conservation Project.

“The 1,199-acre ranch, once owned by a Swedish man named Alex Adler, runs along the Little Sur Coast near the Central California shore where the Santa Lucia Mountains rise above the Pacific Ocean.

Tracts of old-growth oak and redwoods, grasslands, and chaparral cover the area where the Spanish missionaries first encountered the Esselen during their travels north through California. Thanks to the grant, the Esselen are no longer landless; the forests and fields where their ancestors lived are theirs once more to continue the traditions of the past.

“This is one of the first times a tribe has gotten its land back,” Tom Little Bear Nason told Monterey County Now. “We consider the place sacred and we intend to protect it. We will use it to preserve our traditions.”

“Nason, who heads the Esselen Tribe of Monterey, a nonprofit set up in June to accept ownership of the ranch, also added that there will be no commercialization of the land and their culture, although they do plan to allow small tour groups to visit and learn from their settlement a few times a year.”

For the rest of this article click on: https://www.goodnewsnetwork.org/smallest-native-californian-tribe-gifted-their-own-land/

Special Screening — short film on Big Sur, responsibility, and tourism

The screening will begin at 7:30 sharp. 
The film is about twenty minutes long. 

Directly following the screening will be a public Q&A session with the film makers along with a panel of selected community members –about the film, the future of Big Sur, the interaction with visitors, responsible travel and more!

*This is a FREE screening*

The event starts at 7pm
The screening starts at 7:30
Come as you are. 
Tea, coffee, and light snacks will be provided