Managing the 65-slot parking area and restrooms on behalf of the USFS is Parks Management Corporation (PMC), a for profit concessionaire. Part of the terms and conditions of their management agreement include an operations plan that spells out how the parking lot, restrooms and traffic are managed. Over the years, as visitation to Pfeiffer Beach has exploded in popularity, that plan has had to undergo changes. Although PMC has a contract with the USFS, their operations plan must also be approved by the California Coastal Commission for compliance with the access, health and safety and resource protection provisions of the landmark California Coastal Act. A shuttle service designed to address the underlying issue of traffic safety must also be shown to not impede access to the public’s right to visit Pfeiffer Beach.
Of course, besides a destination, a shuttle service must have a parking lot and terminal headquarters. In this case, the “Back Country” Pine Ridge Trailhead parking lot at the Big Sur Multi-Agency Facility (MAF) has been available for a period of time while that trail undergoes repairs.
Undaunted, the following group of collaborators met to hammer out an operations plan that satisfied each concern.
- Congressman Jimmy Panetta (Kathleen Lee)
- Senator Bill Monning (Tobias Upton)
- Supervisor Mary Adams (Kate Daniels, Yuri Anderson)
- California State Parks Monterey District Superintendent Brent Marshall, Ranger Sean James
- USFS Monterey District Ranger Tim Short, Recreation Officer Tom Murphey
- California Highway Patrol, Commander Kelly Cardoza, Officer Chris Paredes
- Parks Management Co. Mike Hartley and Debbie Waggoner
- Department of Transportation Jacques Van Zeventer
- Sur Transportation Weston, Brian, Galen and Andrew Call
- Los Padres Forest Association Tim Bills
- California Coastal Commission, Michael Watson
- Community Association of Big Sur, Butch Kronlund
With the help of the Monterey County Convention and Visitors Bureau in the form of a $36K subsidy, the Sycamore Canyon/ Pfeiffer Beach shuttle project commenced on Memorial weekend 2018 and ran successfully through Labor Day weekend of the same year. Tragically, Weston Call, the visionary owner of Sur Transportation, died in his sleep at the age of 32, of natural causes in August, shocking the community and leaving a void in the hearts of all of those who loved him and came to know him for the fine man he was. In his memory, the effort continues.
The 2018 shuttle demonstration project was a success but improvements to PMC’s operations plan are needed to address the fundamental problem of too many vehicles on Sycamore Canyon Road. Utilizing an adaptive management strategy, including a proposed fee increase to park and a reciprocal decrease in the cars allowed to park in the PBDUA parking lot, have been submitted to both the USFS and the Coastal Commission for approval. The Shuttle operations plan has also been submitted and includes changes in rate structure and ridership. Both plans are undergoing review. One thing, however, has been made clear to the collaborative group. The Big Sur community will not further support the shuttle demonstration project unless the operations plan results in a significant reduction in vehicle traffic on Sycamore Canyon Road to Pfeiffer Beach.
More as it becomes available.