Executive Summary Excerpts:
Purpose of the General Plan
The 1979 Point Lobos State Reserve and Carmel River State Beach General Plan recognized that dramatic changes had occurred since the Reserve and State Beach were established as public lands decades earlier. Visitation had grown considerably, risking damage to “one of the most beautiful spots in the world.” Landscapes were shifting with the encroachment of Monterey pine forest into coastal meadows. Parking problems were increasing on the Caltrans highway right-of-way of SR 1 at both Point Lobos State Reserve and Monastery Beach (then called San Jose Creek Beach), causing local traffic congestion and safety issues. At that time, the public expressed the strong desire to protect the native qualities of the coast, including its scenery, habitats, wildlife, and “quietness.”
Dramatic changes affecting the parks have continued since 1979. Visitation to the Reserve, recorded in the 1979 plan as 270,000 people per year, now exceeds 500,000 visitors arriving by auto, plus potentially several hundred thousand additional walk-in visitors. Point Lobos has become popular with both national and international tourists. Carmel River State Beach has become another popular destination, including for special events such as weddings, which take advantage of the spectacular scenery.
Public input during the preparation of this General Plan emphasized the urgent need to address how the unique resources of the parks are being “loved to death.” The addition of the Point Lobos Ranch Property and Hatton Canyon Property provides new opportunities to reduce resource degradation by redistributing visitor use, in conjunction with other visitor management strategies.
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The Declaration of Purpose for the CASP units as a whole (called “parkwide” herein) describes the role the combination of parks will play in meeting the CSP mission. The Declaration of Purpose defines the purpose of a unit as determined by its prime resource values, opportunities, and relationship to the larger context of the State Park System. The proposed Declaration of Purpose for CASP addresses the intent to achieve the delicate balance required to provide high-quality recreational opportunities and resource protection in the sensitive marine and terrestrial setting of the central California coast. Declarations of Purpose are also provided for the Reserve and New State Park addressing the specific resources and recreation opportunities of each unit. Section 4.2 contains the full narrative of the purpose statements.
Visitor Use Management, Sustainable
Use, and Resource Protection
The appropriate visitor capacity of the Reserve has been a topic of both CSP management focus and public input for decades. Because of the national and international renown of the Reserve, large numbers of visitors arrive every year and create numerous peak visitation days. The high level of visitor use continues to have an impact on sensitive marine resources in the Reserve and coastal natural and cultural resources within both the Reserve and New State Park – Coastal Area. High levels of visitation also substantially diminish the quality of visitors’ experience. Managing visitation levels and reducing resource degradation from overuse continue to be critical issues for agencies, stakeholders, and the public.
Traffic and Parking
While not an issue limited just to CASP as a destination, transportation and parking issues have become more urgent as the popularity of parks, reserves, National Forest lands, other public open space, and tourism in the Monterey-to-Big Sur region has grown. Interrelated issues include traffic congestion, vehicle circulation, parking adequacy, and pedestrian access and safety. Currently, the vast majority of visitors must rely on personal autos as the primary transportation mode to reach CASP units and other similar destinations in the region. SR 1 becomes heavily congested during periods of substantial visitation and peak local commute times, causing mobility problems for local residents and visitors alike. Parking on the highway shoulders within the right- of-way of SR 1 near the Reserve and Coastal Area contributes to traffic congestion, creates pedestrian risks, and adds to excessive uncontrolled walk-in visitation to the Reserve.
Protection of Natural Resources
CSP considers the needs of the native flora and fauna, rare and endangered species, sensitive habitats, the natural processes and functions that support sensitive marine, aquatic, and terrestrial communities as critical when defining approaches to manage the recreational uses and operations of CASP. The many special natural resources of the CASP units include, but are not limited to, marine mammals and birds, underwater kelp forests, freshwater lagoon and wetlands of the Carmel River, south- central California coast steelhead and California red-legged frog habitat of San Jose Creek, one of the world’s largest native Monterey pine forests, one of only two places supporting the rare Monterey and Gowen cypress, maritime chaparral, and broad areas of mountain lion habitat.
Natural resource protection strategies include the appropriate classification of the CASP units and designation of natural preserves. The Reserve will retain its State Natural Reserve classification with an emphasis on natural resource protection. Within New State Park, existing and new natural preserves will help protect resources, including the Carmel River lagoon and wetland, San Jose Creek corridor, and broad expanse of coastal terrace and mountain slopes. In addition, goals and guidelines focus on identifying, protecting, restoring, monitoring, and managing visitor use around sensitive natural resources. The Park Plan is designed to achieve protection of natural resources, while providing for high-quality outdoor recreation experiences, interpretation, and education for park visitors.
Protection of the Native American Heritage and Prehistoric Cultural Resources
The central coast of California was the home of indigenous peoples for many generations prior to European contact. Within the CASP units are several places that are sacred and support invaluable prehistoric resources related to the region’s Native American heritage. CSP emphasizes the importance of protecting the sacred places, prehistoric resources, and heritage of the tribes affiliated with the region in its management of visitors to and operation of CASP units.
Facilities and Operations
The Reserve and New State Park – Coastal Area have been in operation for decades, so their facilities and operational staffing are well established. The most significant constraints related to facilities and operations are restrictions on water supply, limitations in drainage and sewer infrastructure, and limitations in available parking, compared to the level of visitation. Also, CSP has recognized and has received substantial public feedback that the staffing level is not adequate to effectively protect resources, control visitation at sustainable use levels, and keep up with maintenance needs for trails and other facilities.
Facilities and operations strategies in the General Plan emphasize achievement of sustainable visitor use levels in CASP units, improving operational support, and establishing environmentally compatible and logistically convenient facilities to meet visitor, staff, and park management needs. Site selection criteria are established to help guide the location of trails, scenic viewpoints, parking areas, day use areas, and operational facilities. Public safety is a key emphasis in park operations with the focus on protecting visitors’ life, health, and property, just as importantly as protection the natural and cultural resources in the parks. A key goal is the pursuit of improved staffing, equipment, and procedures to provide adequate maintenance, visitor support, and resource protection.
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The Reserve will continue in its current classification as a State Natural Reserve, as defined by Public Resources Code (PRC) Section 5019.65, and will continue to be managed specifically to preserve the terrestrial and marine habitats, ecological processes, sensitive species, cultural resources, and scenic qualities exemplified by the unique land and seascape of Point Lobos.
Management zones are established for each park unit based on the distinct features, resources, geographic location, interpretive characteristics, and the desired visitor experiences and uses of each zone. The management zones are as follows:
Point Lobos State Natural Reserve
Coastal Bluff Zone Upland Reserve Zone
New State Park – Coastal Area
Coastal Margin Zone
Ohlone Coastal Cultural Preserve Zone
Carmel River Lagoon and Wetland Natural Preserve Zone Lagoon/Wetland Zone
Caltrans Mitigation Bank Zone
Odello Farm Zone
New State Park – Inland Area
A.M. Allan Ranch Zone
Tatlun Cultural Preserve Zone
Point Lobos Ridge Natural Preserve Zone San Jose Creek Natural Preserve Zone
New State Park – Hatton Canyon Area
Upper Hatton Canyon Zone Lower Hatton Canyon Zone
Table ES-1 Summary of Impacts and Guidelines