Tourist Tuesday — The Rights of Nature

I give you something a bit different for my Tourist Tuesday column today. Later, this afternoon, Community Association of Big Sur hosts a meeting here on the South Coast about developing our Destination Management Plan, specifically beginning with data collection. It is a follow-up of the ones held in a whirlwind series of meetings in August by CABS. Those meetings introduced us to what we have been planning and doing since last year. I will report on this meeting later. But for today, I would like to concentrate on what overtourism does to our local environment, and to the greater environment of our world and its impact on Climate Change.

I have been concerned about this for years, and have expressed my frustration in this blog about what some of our tourists/visitors have done, particularly at Bixby, McWay, and here in my backyard of Plaskett Ridge Rd. The destruction is visible and disturbing. From the wildfires started by abandoned campfires:

Mill Fire, July 2019

To the denuding of all the ridge tops:

Plaskett Ridge Rd.
Last Spring, this is completely nuded now.

There isn’t a single ridge top left on Plaskett that hasn’t been denuded and the wildflowers destroyed in order to create a new off-road road and campsite. The escalation of this destruction just this summer has been unbelievable. I have never witnessed anything like it.

I was inspired by the 5- minute speech given by Greta Thunberg to the Climate Change Summit of the U.N. yesterday. It is quite moving. One can find it here: https://twitter.com/CNN/status/1176159504288886785 And realized that our overtourism problem in Big Sur is just one example or manifestation of the destruction of this planet. We can watch the destruction for ourselves right here. But it is happening all over the world in various degrees and in various ways.

There is a very interesting article at https://www.vox.com/future-perfect/2019/8/18/20803956/bangladesh-rivers-legal-personhood-rights-nature

It discusses the granting of “Personhood” or legal status to various parts of nature. It begins with the new declaration in Bangladesh granting “rights” to all the rivers in that country.

It is a thorough article that discusses other areas that have done the same thing, including Ohio and the granting of legal status to Lake Erie. It ends with this discussion:

Granting the status of personhood to a natural environment may seem like a bizarre legal fiction, but it’s no more bizarre than the idea that corporations should enjoy that same status, which has been with us since the 1880s.

If we find it strange to view nature the way we view people, that may just be because we’ve grown up in an anthropocentric intellectual tradition that treats the natural world as an object to be examined and exploited for human use, rather than as a subject to be communed with and respected.

“The idea that we can be separate from nature is really a Western reductionist way of looking at the world — we can trace it back to Francis Bacon and the scientific method,” said Price.

He told me that just as women’s suffrage and the abolition of slavery were once unthinkable but gradually became accepted and normalized, the rights of nature idea seems odd now but will eventually gain social currency. “For the rights of nature to be understood and become something we’re comfortable with is going require a paradigm shift, just like the end of slavery did,” Price said.

That paradigm shift may entail nothing less than a total rejection of capitalism, according to Eduardo Gudynas, the executive secretary of the Latin American Center for Social Ecology in Uruguay. He argues that attempts to reduce environmental devastation while staying within a capitalism framework won’t be enough to address the climate crisis.

“The debate around the rights of nature is one of the most active frontlines in the fight for a non-market-based point of view,” Gudynas told me. “It’s a reaction against our society’s commodification of everything.”

I think it is important to emphasize that a paradigm shift must happen for us to end the destruction of Big Sur, a microcosm of the rest of the world, and Mother Nature. How that shift manifests may be completely unexpected.

Climate Change and Overtourism


This story is part of a weeklong series on climate change and sustainability. It’s in partnership with Covering Climate Now, a global journalism initiative to cover climate change in the week leading up to the U.N. summit on climate change in New York on Sept. 23. Click here to learn more about the initiative and read all of Adweek’s coverage on how sustainability and marketing intersect. 

Once one of Norway’s most accessible glaciers, the Nigardsbreen has receded to reveal a difficult trek across hard slabs of rock. Instead of 50 tourists at a time, guides now take as few as six people, even though business couldn’t be better.

Steinar Bruheim, a guide who’s led tours across glaciers for over 30 years, knows why tourists flock to Norway’s rural, western countryside in the summer.

“They want to see it before it disappears,” Bruheim said.

The Nigarsbreen, like over 90% of the world’s glaciers, is melting. And while the planet is experiencing record temperatures, global travel and tourism, which researchers believe represent at least 8% of carbon emissions, couldn’t be healthier. In 2017, there were 1.32 billion tourist arrivals internationally, with Norway earning almost $19 billion from tourism representing 4.2% of the country’s gross domestic product, according to Innovation Norway, a government entity focusing on business growth.

Norway, like most countries in Western Europe, is experiencing record numbers of tourists, especially during the peak summer months—more than half of all overnight stays traditionally happen from May to August. And most of those tourists, according to Innovation Norway, come to see the fjords and the famous Northern Lights in northern Norway.

That influx of tourists is putting a strain on its natural wonders, especially glaciers.

“They [we] are part of the problem”

To read the rest of this article, see: https://www.adweek.com/brand-marketing/climate-change-overtourism-glaciers-norway-marketing/

Sustainable Destination Stewardship Plan for Big Sur

Big Sur Sustainable Destination Stewardship Plan Update
And A Request for Input

Dear Big Sur Community Members,

Many thanks to all the community members who participated in meeting with Costas Christ of Beyond Green Travel during his visit in August.  CABS has now entered into a contract with Beyond Green Travel to move forward on a Destination Stewardship Plan for Big Sur. To learn more about this process, go to the “Initiatives” page on our website.

An important component of this work is collecting data on traffic.  CABS is coordinating with traffic engineers, Cal Trans and TAMC to consolidate existing data sets and reports on traffic volume as a preliminary step to establish where we are going in terms of gathering data for overall vehicle impact on the Highway. 

Residents from up and down the coast have expressed that capturing traffic counts in real time, 24-7, 365 days a year for multiple years is an important place to start. Three locations stand out as initial gathering locations: Mal Paso Creek Bridge, Nacimiento Rd and Highway 1 intersection and the southern county line. 

We believe that the residents who travel the highway on a regular basis may have insights that could inform the scope of this study. You can help us with the following question. Aside from these 3 locations, above, where else along the Highway or side roads would data on traffic volume be of value?

Please email your input on this question to info@cabigsur.org

Thanks!
CABS

STRs in Big Sur

I have covered this issue before — last month before the end of the public comment period here: https://bigsurkate.blog/2019/05/16/vacation-rentals-tourism-and-big-sur/ but it comes before the Planning Commission next Wednesday, and I wrote an article for the Voices of Monterey Bay website published today.

Here is part of what I wrote:


“The special characteristic of the Big Sur Coast should also be recognized as a primary resource. Man’s presence along this coast continues to reflect a pioneering attitude of independence and resourcefulness; and the environment has been a special nurturing ground for individual and creative fulfillment. The community itself, and its traditional way of life are resources that can help protect the environment and enhance the visitor experience.”
— Big Sur Land Use Plan

By Kate Woods Novoa

Big Sur is raw, rugged, and humbling. It has been said that she can — and will — spit you out, if you don’t belong here. Longtime locals speak of her as if she is an entity. Visitors think of Big Sur as idyllic, and it is in many ways. But this romance does not have a place for short-term rentals.

Those who live here know the difficulties that are a part of the life here: the instability of the road, town trips and school days that must be canceled due to the ever-changing road conditions of Highway 1; storms that take out power lines and telephone lines; slides that take out our main artery, water systems and private roads, not to mention critical bridges; the isolation and the lack of any of the amenities most people have come to not just expect, but need. Get away from the highway, and you may see no services, except what landowners or neighborhoods provide. Here, it is still possible to live up close and personal with Mother Nature. That is why it is humbling. Those who survive the lessons that she has to teach become a community with shared values and a love for this place and one’s place in it.

Fabian Pfortmüller, a Swiss community builder and entrepreneur, defines community “as a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.” But community, to me, is more than that. We care about each other, help each other, and care about the places where we live. “This is where the magic of a community happens,” Pfortmüller said. “When people care about each other, they develop trust. And trust unlocks collaboration, sharing, support, hope, safety and much more. While most organizations in the world optimize their performance towards external goals, communities optimize for trust.”

Tales of collaboration, sharing, support, hope and trust are legendary in Big Sur. From the early settlers to the last fire, road closure, or bridge collapse, tales of neighbor helping neighbor abound.

For the rest of my article, please see: https://voicesofmontereybay.org/2019/06/20/big-surs-str-problem/

US Open traffic, parking, and alternatives by Caltrans

Today’s Date: Wednesday, June 5, 2019

District:           05 – Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, Monterey, San Benito and Santa        

                         Cruz Counties                                                  

Contact:          Susana Z Cruz (bilingual) or Colin Jones

Phone:            (805) 549-3138 or (805) 549-3189

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

U.S. Open Traffic and Transit Information

In preparation for the 119th U.S. Open Championship, the United States Golf Association (USGA) and Pebble Beach company unveiled a comprehensive transportation plan to ensure the safe and efficient movement of traffic and pedestrians during the championship, scheduled for June 10-16.

More than 16,000 satellite parking spaces have been secured to help ensure that the anticipated 250,000 fans at the U.S. Open experience trouble-free travel to and from the Pebble Beach.  Local traffic representatives from the California Highway Patrol, Monterey County Sheriff’s Office, and California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) have been involved in the 18-month-long planning process with the USGA and Pebble Beach Company.

All fans traveling by car during U.S. Open week should follow event trailblazing signage to California State University Monterey Bay (CSUMB) in Marina, CA, where complimentary parking and shuttle transportation will be provided to and from Pebble Beach. Shuttles will run continuously beginning at 5:30 a.m. PDT each day and continue for one hour following the conclusion of play. One-way shuttle times are expected to take approximately 30-35 minutes, depending upon traffic.

There is no general parking for fans with disabilities available in the immediate vicinity of Pebble Beach Golf Links. All other parking is by permit only. Parking restrictions surrounding the championship grounds and within the Del Monte Forest will be closely monitored and enforced. 17-Mile Drive will be closed to tourist traffic June 9 through June 16, 2019.

Handicapped-accessible parking spaces will be available at all championship parking areas for vehicles displaying appropriate HP/DP license plates or placards. Individuals requiring lift-equipped transportation are encouraged to contact the USGA Admissions Office at 800-698-0661 for more information. 

The cities of Carmel, Monterey and Pacific Grove are offering express shuttle bus services to the U.S. Open for residents and community guests. For more information on fees, daily schedules, frequency, and locations of service, please visit the Carmel Chamber of Commerce (carmelchamber.org), Cannery Row Company (canneryrow.com) and Pacific Grove Chamber of Commerce (pacificgrove.com) websites.

Fans and local residents wishing to utilize ride-share options to be dropped off at the championship should utilize the designated Passenger Drop-Off area along Forest Lake Road, located near Gate 1 within the Del Monte Forest. There is no parking or staging for vehicles, so pickup times will need to be coordinated accordingly. Vehicles proceeding to the Passenger Drop-Off are instructed to enter the Del Monte Forest through the Pacific Grove Gate or Morse Gate located on CA-68. Please follow directional signs and attendants to the appropriate pickup and drop-off location. Due to traffic restrictions, access is limited to vehicles no larger than a 12-passenger van or limousine. Passenger Drop-Off vehicles are not permitted to pick-up or drop-off at any other location around the championship grounds.

For the week of Monday, June 10 through June 16, local residents and through traffic are encouraged to adjust travel around peak U.S. Open arrival and departure times (7-11 a.m. and 3:30-7:30 p.m.) if possible. The local residents and area commuters from Castroville Blvd. to eastbound Hwy. 156, there will be no left turn out of Castroville Blvd. onto eastbound Hwy. 156 from Wednesday, June 12 at 10 am through Monday, June 17 at 10 am. There will be a detour to turn right from Castroville Blvd. onto westbound Hwy. 156 traffic will exit at SR-183/Merritt Street then a left at Merritt Street and a left turn back onto eastbound Hwy 156.

Local residents and area commuters from the Salinas Valley are encouraged to follow alternate routing and trailblazing signage to General Jim Moore Boulevard, avoiding CSUMB and CA-1.  Due to U.S. Open traffic, delays can be expected along the primary routes of CA-1 from Exit 399A (Pebble Beach) to Exit 414 (Nashua/Molera Road). Monterey and Pacific Grove commuters should avoid the use of Exit 399A and CA-68 during peak times.

Caltrans will be conducting overnight maintenance work on Hwy 101 at Market Street beginning at 9 pm to 5 am each night: Sunday, June 9 through Tuesday, June 11 (into Wednesday morning).

Caltrans and the California Highway Patrol remain on call 24/7 to respond to traffic issues during the week-long U.S. Open Championship.

ALTERNATE COMMUTER ROUTES

Alternate Commuter Routing Inbound from Salinas traffic using Blanco Road

  • Proceed westbound on Blanco Road to Reservation Road.
  • Turn left onto Reservation Road for 1.0 miles.
  • Turn right onto Inter-Garrison Road for 0.5 miles.
  • Turn right to stay on Inter-Garrison Road for 2.2 miles.
  • At the traffic circle, take the second exit onto 8th Avenue for 0.8 miles.
  • Turn right onto Gigling Road for 1.1 miles.
  • Turn left onto General Moore Boulevard, proceeding southbound into Seaside, CA and towards CA-68.

Alternate Commuter Routing Inbound from Salinas traffic using Reservation Road

  • Proceed westbound on Reservation Road towards Inter-Garrison Road.
  • Turn left onto Inter-Garrison Road for 0.5 miles.
  • Turn right to stay on Inter-Garrison Road for 2.2 miles.
  • At the traffic circle, take the second exit onto 8th Avenue for 0.8 miles.
  • Turn right onto Gigling Road for 1.1 miles.
  • Turn left onto General Jim Moore Boulevard, proceeding southbound into Seaside, CA and towards CA-68.

From the North using CA-1 Southbound

  • Follow CA-1 South. Take Exit 406 for Lightfighter Drive for 0.5 miles.
  • Turn left onto 2nd Avenue for 0.9 miles and follow signage to the parking lot.

From the South using CA-1 Northbound

  • Follow CA-1 North.  Take Exit 406 for Lightfighter Drive for 0.3 miles.
  • Turn left onto 2nd Avenue for 0.9 miles and follow signage to the parking lot.

From the North using US-101 Southbound

  • Follow US-101 South.  Take Exit 336 towards Monterey Peninsula.
  • Merge onto CA-156 West continuing for 6.1 miles.
  • Merge onto CA-1 South continuing for 7.9 miles.
  • Take Exit 406 for Lightfighter Drive for 0.5 miles.
  • Turn Left onto 2nd Avenue for 0.9 miles and follow signage to the parking lot.

From the South using US-101 Northbound

  • Follow US-101 North.  Take Exit 326C towards Monterey Peninsula.
  • Turn right onto Sanborn Road for 0.8 miles continuing onto East Blanco Road for 1.6 miles.
  • Turn left onto CA-68 West/S. Main Street for 2.3 miles proceeding to Exit 20 for Reservation Road.
  • Turn right onto Reservation Road for 4.4 miles.
  • Turn left onto Inter-Garrison Road for 0.3 miles.
  • Turn right to continue onto Inter-Garrison Road for 2.5 miles (continue straight through traffic circle).
  • Turn slight right onto 8th Street for 1.0 miles and follow signage to the parking lot.

USGA will have more information about the championship, please visit usopen.com.

Caltrans has real-time travel conditions; please visit http://quickmap.dot.ca.gov/

Tourist Tuesday, Bixby Bridge Memorial Day weekend

Most of you have heard, by now, of the fiasco that was Bixby Bridge this weekend. This was Saturday, by Adam Slawter. At 6:30 pm, it was backed up from Bixby to Palo by cars going south. That is 2.2 miles of idling vehicles.

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This is the video taken by Tim Huntington on Saturday at 2 pm of the cars headed south, as he was heading north: https://vimeo.com/338490145

This was what it looked like early – as in 9 am – on Sunday, in the rain. Martha Diehl took these photos. Note the door opening into traffic immediately before another vehicle in the last photo.

21723613-3DFB-4A4C-8854-237C944035AE718BCED9-AF9B-4A58-B8D5-84EDE0F3767EAF24D402-B09D-4902-916A-A5E4906156E7

Imagine that there is an emergency, which is much more likely with the influx of clueless people from out of the area. What happens then? How do emergency vehicles navigate through this quagmire? They can’t. How are the Cal Fire engines and others supposed to get to us when there is a fire this summer? Or cliff rescue, or serious injuries? This is a life-threatening situation that must be resolved.

Monday, a temporary solution presented itself. MCSO stationed THREE officers here at Bixby and they managed to keep traffic moving, at least until early afternoon, one source told me. So we need to pressure the County to assign 3 officers every weekend and holiday to manage the traffic at this bottleneck.

On the brighter side, CABS was there educating and interacting with the tourists on Monday morning, raising the awareness of our visitors to treat Big Sur with respect.

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(Photo by Patte Kronlund)

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(Photo by Lisa Kleissner)

Let us start preppering our Supes to take action, now! We don’t need to come up with a “perfect” solution, I don’t have one. But we could try a variety of things to see what will work, short of painting the bridge puke green. We could experiment with running shuttles, or the current MST buses, allowing only them to park, or to drop off and pick up visitors to the bridge from a staged area north and south. The County of Monterey could pass an ordinance, for health & safety reasons, prohibiting parking on both eastern and western sides and OCR, assess BIG fines, and enforce it! If you have another idea, I am all ears. Toss those ideas out there, no matter how crazy they seem. It might just give someone else the inspiration they need to find a solution that will work.

 

The Dangers of Illegal Off roading

This was taken last year, but as the prolific grasses are drying out, I am reminded of this, and how dangerous it is. Besides destroying the environment, causing erosion which washes out the road below (not shown in photo), off roading can cause a wildfire if the grasses catch from your muffler or catalytic converter. Why take a chance? Stay on the roads please.

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And now, a growing number of “Subaru Ambassadors” have found these spots (the one below is just up the road from this one above) and more and more Subarus are coming every weekend. A month ago, it was a group of 4 Subarus. This past weekend, it was those four, plus four more, and at least two more want to join the group on the next trip.

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May 1, 2019 SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) – The National Interagency Fire Center is predicting a heavy wildfire season for areas along the West Coast of the United States this summer.

The Boise, Idaho-based center said Wednesday that most of the country can expect a normal wildfire season in the period from May through August.

But the states of California, Washington and Oregon are an exception.

The agency says a heavy crop of grasses and fine fuels has developed across California and should elevate fire potential as it dries through the summer.

 

Draft (STR) Vacation Rental Ordinance now online

I realize I have surpassed my self imposed posting limit for today, but I know many of your are interested in this, so I wanted to get it out to you asap:

Vacation Rental Draft Ordinances and associated environmental analysis are available for public view at the following link:

http://www.co.monterey.ca.us/government/departments-i-z/resource-management-agency-rma-/planning/short-term-rental-ordinances-coastal-ref130043-inland-ref100042

In the link above you will find the following:

  • Notice of Public Availability of Proposed Vacation Rental Regulations [PDF]
  • Draft Ordinance Amending Title 20 (Coastal Zoning) Relating to Vacation Rentals [PDF]
  • Draft Ordinance Amending Title 21 (Non-Coastal Zoning) Relating to Vacation Rentals [PDF]
  • Draft Ordinance Amending Section 7.02.060 and Adding Chapter 7.110 Relating to Vacation Rental Activities [PDF]
  • Environmental Analysis