CEQA EIR Required? Recreation – Deterioration due to increased use of Point Lobos, etc.

XIV. RECREATION

a) Would the project increase the use of existing neighborhood and regional parks or other recreational facilities such that substantial physical deterioration of the facility would occur or be accelerated?

b) Does the project include recreational facilities or require the construction or expansion of recreational facilities which might have an adverse physical effect on the environment?


 

Point Lobos and Highway 1 south of the Carmel River have seen dramatic increases in the number of visitors and vehicle traffic on the last couple of years.  It is impossible to xay how much this is due to the visitors staying in STRs.  If they hadn’t stayed in STRs perhaps they would have stayed in licensed hotels.  Either way, mitigation is needed to resolve these very serious problems

Generally

“A growth management program regulating the rate of recreational and residential development should be instituted in Carmel based upon natural resource protection constraints, the limited road capacity of Highway 1, and limited water systems capacity.   – –

– –  Carmel Area Land Use Plan sec 6.2.2, page 116

The LUP’s all call for a high quality of experience on the Coast and in Carmel Valley, as opposed to maximizing the total number of people who may visit.   For example:

“The quality of experience offered by the Carmel coast should have precedence over the number or extent of any permitted uses, whether residential, recreational, or commercial. Any new development should complement the area and be compatible with the objective of careful resource protection and conservation. Conflicting uses should not be introduced. The achievement of these goals must involve restraint and continued responsibility. Both public and private interests will be best served by the continued preservation of the unique natural and cultural resources that make the Carmel coast a scenic jewel.”

The management objective of Highway 1 should be to optimize visitor use levels rather than maximize them. Future decisions pertaining to Highway 1 in the Carmel area must consider current recreational and residential use patterns and future demands for recreational use.

 – – Carmel Area Land Use Plan, page 22 



Point Lobos

 

The Carmel Area State Park General Plan states:

  • [Including walk-ins] “The annual rate of visitation is approaching a million per year.  In 1984 it was about 387,000.  Since then we’ve had an exponential increase here at the reserve.”  [He was at Point Lobos in 1987, and returned in 2012] “I was pretty shocked to see what had happened.” – the bluffs were stripped of vegetation by visitors.

Steven Bachman, California State Parks  (see KSBW broadcast)

 

“Point Lobos – The preserve is being degraded by over-use. Initial reports set a maximum daily attendance at about 2000 in order to avoid further degradation. Peak days last year saw upwards of 5000 visitors per day. This is unsustainable.”  – CA State Parks Regional Supervisor, Brent Marshall

 

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.  – – Carmel Area State Parks General Plan:[10]

The Reserve will continue in its current classification as a State Natural Reserve, . . .  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. Carmel Area State Park, State Natural Reserve, Public Resources Code (PRC) Section 5019.65

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.

 – – Carmel Area State Park Proposed General Plan

  • 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.  – – Carmel Area State Parks General Plan:  – – Carmel Area State Park Proposed General Plan


Big Sur Coast Highway

Big Sur Coast Highway Protected Status as a State and Federal Scenic Road and the California Coastal Act

The Big Sur Coast Highway is required by the California Coastal Act to be maintained as a scenic two-lane road in rural areas (south of the Carmel River). As a state and federal scenic road,

 

Highway 1 was designated a State Scenic Highway in 1965. In 1996 it was designated the first All American Road under the Federal Highway Administration National Scenic Byways Program.

 

 

o      Short-Term renters add to traffic both directly and by taking long-term housing off the market, thereby forcing longer commutes for workers.

o      The Big Sur Coast Highway was declared the first State Scenic Highway in 1965. In 1996 it was designated the first All American Road under the Federal Highway Administration National Scenic Byways Program. Its role in providing affordable, readily available coastal access to millions of annual visitors is recognized in the Big Sur and Carmel Highlands Land Use Plans. The mandate to protect the quality of the recreational driving experience is likewise addressed in the Big Sur and Carmel Highlands Land Use Plans. Management of the use and capacity of Highway I is essential to achieving the goals of the Big Sur and Carmel Highlands Land Use Plans to provide public access to the Big Sur Coast along this scenic route and the protection of the environment and quality of the visitor experience.

o      The Big Sur Coast Highway is required by the California Coastal Act to be maintained as a scenic two-lane road in rural areas (south of the Carmel River). As a state and federal scenic road, the Big Sur LUP addresses vehicular capacity of the highway and public access to protect environmental quality and visitor experience. Similarly, the Carmel Highlands-Riviera Master Plan seeks to preserve the scenic, rural character of that community through the use of scenic easements, retention of native vegetation, and maintenance of Highway 1 as a scenic two-lane road. However, vehicular capacities are already being exceeded on Highway 1, and visitor damage to roadside habitat is routinely reported in the press.