Like many iconic global destinations, Big Sur’s existing infrastructure is strained beyond capacity by a significant surge in visitation. At the same time, agencies representing Monterey County, California State and U.S. Federal Government are reducing management resources critical to the health and safety of Big Sur’s visitors and residents.
The good news is that this escalating trend can be met head on.
Countries such as Bhutan, Iceland and Peru have developed destination stewardship plans that identify challenges and provide solutions for the impacts of visitation. Solutions strive to reach a balance between public access, environmental protection, successful business strategies and a sustainable quality of life for the resident population.
The California Coastal Act and our own Big Sur Land Use Plan espouse the ethos of balance, but neither of those foundational documents provide guidance on how to achieve that goal. A Big Sur Destination Stewardship Plan could be the tool that builds a future reflective of our shared vision of economic prosperity, environmental health, enhanced visitor experience and the well-being of the residents who inhabit Big Sur.
This planning process aims to bring together county, state and federal jurisdictional stakeholders, as well as representatives from the local business community, emergency first responders, outdoor enthusiasts, environmental nonprofits and the resident community. The effort to address this growing imbalance in our community will require curiosity, reliable data, a collaborative spirit and a willingness to innovate.
The Board of Directors of Community Association of Big Sur, along with our knowledgeable Advisory Board Members researched successful DSPs in other communities and we believe that we have been able to engage the best team on the planet for this task.
Costas Christ (Costas Christ | Beyond Green Travel) is one of the founders of the eco-tourism movement and is considered to be the foremost authority on Destination Stewardship Plans. Costas deeply believes that the powerful opportunities for prosperity inherent in the tourism industry can dovetail seamlessly with the needs of a community inhabiting a fragile environment. Beyond Green Travel has an impressive list of communities and countries that have benefitted from their leadership and insight in solving for destination management challenges.
Destination Stewardship Project update:
This past August, the Monterey County Board of Supervisors voted to provide significant funding to support the creation of a sustainable tourism plan for Big Sur. During that same month, Costas Christ and CABS conducted a series of outreach meetings with the Big Sur business community, residents of Big Sur, representatives of local, state and federal government and a cross section of the environmental / conservation community. These meetings were to further educate attendees on global visitation trends and to lay the groundwork for planning a response to what will potentially be a doubling of visitors in 10 years. In all, over 200 engaged listeners voted, by a show of hands, to move forward with a process to create a sustainable tourism plan. This plan will put a renewed emphasis on protecting Big Sur’s natural resources, identify and propose needed infrastructure improvements while at the same time meshing with the existing Big Sur Land Use Plan and the California Coastal Act.
The Destination Stewardship Planning Team is currently being assembled. Along with the expertise of Costas Christ and the staff at Beyond Green Travel, a local steering committee is also being formed to vet ideas and provide feedback on the plan as it takes shape. Outreach from Beyond Green Travel will include dozens of public and private meetings with a comprehensive group of stakeholders as well as online and face to face surveys with business leaders, residents and visitors. CABS Annual Meeting on December 10 th from 6 to 8pm at the Big Sur Grange will feature an update on the plan’s progress by Costas Christ from Beyond Green Travel.