Fine for illegal camping in Big Sur goes up to $1,000


The fine for illegal camping along California‘s Big Sur coastline quintupled last month, as local officials hope to crack down on the people who set up tents and sleep in cars on pullouts along Highway 1.

Renegade campers leave behind trails of trash and feces after their overnight stays and light campfires for cooking and heat that can spread into dangerous wildfires. 

The Monterey County Board of Supervisors passed an urgency ordinance July 26 that increased the fine — from $200 to $1,000 —for camping in the right-of-way along 72 miles of highway between the Carmel River and the Monterey-San Luis Obispo County line. 

“In any given point, especially over weekends in the summer, we were seeing as many as 200 illegal campers on the side of the road in a single 12-hour period,” said Butch Kronlund, executive director of the Community Association of Big Sur, which has collected data on illegal camping and pushed for the fine increase.

“The fine was frankly less than a campsite in Big Sur. It wasn’t a deterrent at all,” he pointed out.

There are fewer than 300 campsites in Big Sur’s state parks, and less than 100 U.S. Forest Service sites in the Big Sur area. These fill up months — and even up to a year — in advance. Private campgrounds that may have last-minute spots available can cost more than $100, even $200, a night.

The fine for camping along Highway 1 in Big Sur rose to $1,000 on July 26, 2022. 

The fine for camping along Highway 1 in Big Sur rose to $1,000 on July 26, 2022. 

Big Sur State Parks

Marcos Ortega, Big Sur sector superintendent for California State Parks, called illegal camping in Big Sur a “huge problem.” The problem arises, Ortega said, when people show up to the area in summer with the intent to camp — but no reservations.

“The cost of an overnight at some of these private campgrounds was more than the price of the ticket for illegal camping,” said Ortega. “A lot of people would just take the ticket and enjoy the view they were getting by camping illegally.”

Ortega said the issue isn’t only people setting up camp in a place where it’s not allowed. “It’s often coupled with litter, and a huge problem is most of these campers are not fully self-contained, so that means they don’t have a restroom to use,” he said. “So when we have dozens and dozens of campers along the highway, they are using these pullouts to go to the bathroom. If you go to these areas where people camp, you’ll find feces and trash.”

Illegal fires are another issue. Big Sur is one of California’s riskiest areas for wildfires, with unique challenges for firefighters. Ortega said this summer, people camping illegally have inadvertently sparked several wildfires; thankfully, firefighters have been able to get all of these under control quickly.

But that wasn’t the case in July 2016, when the Soberanes Fire was started in Garrapata State Park by a person who lit an illegal campfire and left it unattended. The blaze grew out of control, tearing through 132,127 acres, burning 57 homes, killing a bulldozer operator and ultimately costing about $260 million to fight.

Less than 2,000 people live in the Big Sur area, but the area sees millions of visitors annually, leaving behind trash and causing traffic jams. The overtourism problem has caused such strain, some residents were delighted when a debris flow took out part of Highway 1 in early 2021, making the area inaccessible for months.

Signs alerting visitors of the $1,000 fines are going up around Big Sur, and California State Parks posted a reminder that illegal campers can be fined to Facebook on Aug. 11. 

“A reminder for visitors as we near the end of summer in Big Sur,” state parks said. “There is no roadside camping allowed along Highway 1. Please plan your trip well in advance and make camping reservations at one of our parks or local campgrounds.”


Source link

Scroll to Top