Big Sur Parks Remain Closed from '08 Fires

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March 30, 2009 by   - () Leave a Comment

Businesses in California's Big Sur area continue to suffer after last year's wildfires ravaged the area.
A number of trails and campsites remain closed to tourists, and access to some seasonal attractions, like the wildflowers now in bloom, is limited, according to
"If we can't have this bridge, can't have this campground open, then this community stands to lose a lot," said Jack Ellwanger, a Big Sur Lodge naturalist. "All businesses here are affected. The state of California will lose millions of dollars. So, what this represents is really a lot of bad luck."
Like a proud father, Ellwanger showcases Big Sur daily to tourists the world over. But after last year's wildfires, safety concerns led officials to tear down a bridge connecting Highway 1 to the Pfeiffer Big Sur Campground.
The Big Sur Lodge, wholly dependent on an influx of visitors to survive, suffered as a result.
"This is like an open wound," Ellwanger said. "This just exacerbates all the trauma that people have felt from the fire, and now, this bridge represents us not having the engine that drives the economy here."
Robin Olinto, of San Francisco, and her family drive from the Bay Area to Big Sur regularly to revel in its splendor.
"It's such a beautiful area. It's magnetic," she said.
But the trip wasn't an option for the Olintos last summer.
"I know there's a lot of benefit from having the fires. I guess the wildfire proliferates after a fire and the redwoods, the seeds, are able to germinate. So, there's some benefit to it as well, but in general, I think it's sad," Olinto said.
State parks officials said budget constraints are the reason work on a new bridge in another area is frozen. Ellwanger said there must be another way.
"We're in a tough place here. We're scrambling," he said. "If there's a resolution to be found in order to get this park open by, say, Memorial Day for the summer season, this community will find that way."
No timeline is in place to reopen the eastern part of Pfeiffer Big Sur Park and the site of the campground.
Meanwhile, private campgrounds are benefitting, but KCRA 3 saw a number of tourists looking to stay in the area turn around since virtually all of the sites in the region were already booked.
In the spring, state parks officials hope to open Andrew Molera State Park's East Molera Trail, which was closed due to fire damage.

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