Big Sur Coastal Trail IMPORTANT Update

Dear Big Sur Neighbors,

It is with deep gratitude that I share the letter below from Senator John Laird about an important development regarding the alignment of the Big Sur portion of the California Coastal Trail.

After almost 15 years of deliberation within our community, with our partner agencies and conservation nonprofits about the trail alignment, Senator Laird has successfully negotiated an important first step that honors our community’s input to this process.

The success of this first step, though, will rely on our continued partnership with the California Coastal Commission, the State Coastal Conservancy, U.S. Forest Service, California State Parks, Ventana Wilderness Alliance, CalTrans, our elected officials, and most importantly members of our community, especially the members of the Big Sur Coastal Trail Working Group.

I look forward to engaging with all of you to tackle the remaining scope of work that once addressed should deliver a world class trail alignment to the California Coastal Trail project – an alignment that benefits our community, our agencies, our visitors and most importantly honors Big Sur’s wild coastline for generations to come.

With gratitude,
Butch Kronlund, ED
Community Association of Big Sur

March 7, 2022
Butch Kronlund
P.O. Box 59
Big Sur, CA  93920
Subject:  California Coastal Trail Alignment through Big Sur

Dear Members of the Big Sur Coastal Trail Working Group:

For at least fifteen years, there has been much work and controversy over a possible alignment of the California Coastal Trail through Big Sur. It is one of the issues that I worked on during my State Assembly tenure that I found still on the table when I was sworn into the State Senate just over a year ago. The controversy boils down to a desire by residents of the greater Big Sur Community for a single alignment of the California Coastal Trail through Big Sur and a different vision, promulgated by the State agencies responsible for this issue, for a larger network of trails.

I am pleased to tell you that I believe we have a resolution to this controversy. The resolution comes in two parts. The first part is that the California Coastal Commission and the State Coastal Conservancy have agreed to a single designation of the California Coastal Trail on all maps and public documents. This designation will be the Big Sur Coastal Trail Working Group’s single alignment. I hope that this will be pleasing to the Working Group. It is a tribute to the years of volunteer work on this effort.

The second part is what helped the agencies agree to this resolution. We all now have to move on to the work of developing this single alignment. It will involve discussions with the U.S. Forest Service and possibly with some private property owners to make sure that this alignment can be executed. We will have to work together to ensure that the necessary amenities, whether they be restrooms in certain locations, signage, mapping, collateral, and basic trail development, provide for the clarity and the safety of the trail. I have pledged to work on the state budget issues to address these needs over my remaining time in the State Senate.

Additionally, of concern to the agencies, is that this agreement for a single alignment of the California Coastal Trail does not take away from efforts to improve existing trails in the region. Whether it is lobbying CalTrans in some instances, or improving trail connectivity, there was concern that these efforts would be weakened by the agreement on a single alignment. I assured them that as part of the general agreement, I would support these future strategic improvements, and I would hope that the community would join me in this.

It is my hope that in getting to an agreement on the Big Sur Coastal Trail Working Group’s single alignment that we all work together to make good on what it takes to both develop the single alignment and to support the California Coastal Commission and the State Coastal Conservancy’s future efforts to improve existing trails outside of the California Coastal Trail.

Getting to an agreement on this issue is no small victory. I hope that the community appreciates the recognition of their own efforts over the time that this issue has developed. I certainly do and believe that this outcome is a good one for all local residents who have worked on this issue for so long.

I also know that this was not an easy process for the state agencies. They moved off of historic positions in getting to this result. I really hope the community can support their concerns about continuing their efforts to improve the existing trail system in Big Sur. I hope the community also will engage in the support for the amenities to develop the single alignment so that the agencies don’t feel alone in that effort.

Overall, this is a good outcome. I look forward to talking about it with you all in person. I also want to note and thank Kate Daniels of my staff for her significant work in getting us to this place.


Senator John Laird

California Senate District 17

California Coastal Trail in Big Sur: A brief History & Update

In 2001, the California Legislature enacted Senate Bill 908 (SB 908) with the intention of creating a coastal hiking trail through California, from Oregon to Mexico, the California Coastal Trail (CCT). SB 908 specifies that the California Coastal Conservancy, in consultation with the California Coastal Commission and the California Department of Parks and Recreation, will coordinate development of the CCT.

You can read SB 908 here

In April of 2007, the Coastal Conservancy asked for proposals from trail planning contractors interested in planning the portion of the CCT that passes through Big Sur, from the Carmel River to San Luis Obispo County (Big Sur CCT). The following month a meeting was held in the Big Sur Grange Hall to discuss the Conservancy’s trail planning process. During that meeting concern was expressed that a contractor-based planning process would likely result in a plan that did not adequately reflect input from the Big Sur community. A community-based planning process was advocated for as having the best chance of planning a trail that would be noncontroversial and work for both the visiting public and the Big Sur community.

A committee of interested Big Sur residents formed and invited public agencies to participate. They worked for about a year writing a planning process that would be inclusive of various stakeholders, including community landowners and residents, government agencies, and the general public, to be used to write the Master Plan for the Big Sur portion of the California Coastal Trail.

However, after that planning process document was completed, unstated public agencies were said to have unstated problems with the planning process.

Then-Assemblymember John Laird brought public agency representatives and representatives for the trail committee to the table and headed discussions to resolve disagreements. After Assembly member Laird termed out, Assembly member Monning stepped in and continued to lead negotiations. With Assembly member Monning’s support (ultimately Senator Monning), after some 6 years of negotiations, an amended community-based planning process document was developed.

Five community meetings were then organized over the course of about a year, from south coast Big Sur to Carmel Highlands, to give a presentation on the proposed planning process to Big Sur community members and then ask for a show of hands of support. At each of those meetings the planning process received an overwhelming show of community support.

You can read the Big Sur CCT planning process document here

The planning process divides the almost 80-mile-long Big Sur CCT into six planning segments, and provides that a Local Workgroup comprised of people who live in and/or own land in the planning segment will decide where the trail will go and what it will be like in that planning segment, in collaboration with public agencies with land in the planning segment, and determine which public agency will be responsible for policing and maintaining each portion of the trail.

The planning process includes development of a website, to facilitate communication between Local Workgroups and enable participation by people who cannot attend Local Workgroup meetings. On the website each of the six Local Workgroups has a blog page to report on progress, and on which anyone in the world can post comments.

The website is here

Hard copies of maps being used by Local Workgroups can be printed from .pdf files on this page Those maps will be updated as needed.

To sign up to be notified by email of Local Workgroup meetings and other information you can go to the website and use the signup form for the Local Workgroup(s) that will be planning the portion(s) of the Big Sur CCT you are interested in.

A map showing the location of the Planning Segments is on this web page

Though the planning process has faced delays from wildfires, floods, landslides, bridge failure, and glitches, it is working. That is outstanding given it is the first known trail planning process of this kind.


PO Box 59 Big Sur,
CA 93920



Subscribe to our newsletter for the latest news!