Announcing the next great parks and conservation landscape

Heads of the Big Sur Land Trust, Monterey Peninsula Regional Parks District, the Point Lobos Foundation and the Monterey District of California State Parks signed a memorandum of understanding on April 9 to further parks between Carmel and Big Sur.

The integrated multi-agency effort is for the benefit of the public and the preservation of parklands and open space in the region between Carmel and Garrapata State Park. The four entities signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to advance their joint working relationship identified with the working title Lobos-Corona Parklands Project. The group envisions the area to be among the next great parks and conservation landscapes in California, akin to the Golden Gate National Recreation area near San Francisco. The overarching aim of the effort is to significantly enhance public recreation, outdoor education and stewardship opportunities.

“It does not take much effort to recognize that humans, typically rather than nature, have created boundaries that detrimentally fragment our magnificent landscape. Our multi-jurisdictional collaborative effort understands this, thus we are working together to provide a seamless experience for the public while integrating our land and natural resource management practices,” said Rafael Payan, General Manager for the Monterey Peninsula Regional Park District. “This will serve as a model, reinforcing the fact that the public does not so much care about who is managing what, rather that we manage their lands responsibly while providing high quality experiences.”

Years of planning, land acquisition and parks preparation, as well as millions in public and private dollars have been invested in the Lobos-Corona Parklands Project area. The project area encompasses nearly 10,000 acres and includes Palo Corona Regional Park, the former Whisler Wilson Ranch, and High Meadows Open Space (Monterey Peninsula Regional Park District); Point Lobos State Natural Reserve, the former A.M. Allan Ranch, Carmel River State Beach, Hatton Canyon and Garrapata State Park (California State Parks); and the Coast Ranch and South Bank Trail (Big Sur Land Trust). These lands host some of California’s most spectacular coastal areas and vistas, abundant wildlife, diverse habitats and profound historical and cultural resources. 

“For more than 20 years the Land Trust and our partners been working to conserve these exceptional lands with the ultimate goal of providing healthy parks for people and nature,” said Bill Leahy, Executive Director of the Big Sur Land Trust. “We are excited to join with our partners to build on this extraordinary legacy of land conservation and create safe pathways for people to more fully experience these magnificent parklands that are so vital to the health of our communities. This work mirrors our own journey as an organization, from one focused on land acquisition to one with a broader mission of inspiring love and stewardship of the land.” 

The two park agencies and two private conservation groups are collaborating to build upon and leverage the work that has been done in recent years to put the pieces in place that will help integrate these properties into a larger parklands landscape. For example, the Big Sur Land Trust’s South Bank Trail, completed in 2011, serves as a wheel-chair accessible eastern entrance to the Park District’s Palo Corona Regional Park. The former Whisler Wilson Ranch was acquired by the Land Trust in 2010 to help knit together Regional Park District lands and state parklands at the former A.M. Allan Ranch and Point Lobos State Natural Reserve. Improved visitor serving trails have been completed at Point Lobos with the assistance of the Point Lobos Foundation. The Regional Park District, with assistance from the Land Trust, constructed new and improved trails at the front of Palo Corona Regional Park in 2011 that, along with signage funded by the Land Trust, greatly enhance the park visitor experience.

The Land Trust has secured state and federal funding and is currently working with Monterey County and other agency partners to plan and permit a large-scale floodplain restoration project on the lower Carmel River that, once completed, will result in significant environmental, flood reduction and public access benefits. And “California State Parks is excited about this new partnership. This is the way we should be managing contiguous parklands that provide a seamless experience and combined stewardship for the people of California,” said Mat Fuzie, Monterey District Superintendent for California State Parks.

While the four entities have a history of working together, formalizing their relationship with an MOU is an important touchstone, communicating their commitment to purposeful, proactive collaboration and cooperation for the benefit of the public and preservation of the Lobos-Corona Parklands. The groups have been meeting regularly since 2013, and have developed a shared long term vision that will guide their work together. They are collaborating on an online, interactive map that will be used for planning purposes and to ensure that individual projects on the landscape are well aligned. And over the next 6-12 months the groups intend to implement additional projects to help connect people with the land and ultimately increase the region’s prominence as a world-class visitor destination.

"These public lands have been largely unexplored or even closed to the public while Point Lobos is setting record attendance. This working group can offer so many new and different experiences for the public by opening some of these parklands—from secluded redwood groves to incredible views—it’s a very exciting project," said Augie Louis, President of the Point Lobos Foundation.


Lobos Corona Parklands News Release

Lobos Corona Map 

Executed Memorandum of Understanding