Pfeiffer bridge work still in doubt despite budget agreement
By KELLY NIX
Published: February 27, 2009
DESPITE THE approval of a budget in Sacramento last week, it’s uncertain whether state funds will be freed up in time to install two bridges in Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park that would allow the park to be reopened by Memorial Day weekend.
In December, financing was frozen for numerous infrastructure projects around the state, including plans to replace an old bridge at the entrance of Pfeiffer park which is needed for the park to be open to campers and other visitors.
Despite recent news reports that work on the bridge was expected to be resumed right away, C.L. Price, superintendent of the Big Sur sector of the California Department of Parks and Recreation, said installation of the new bridge is still very much in limbo.
“I certainly don’t want to give the public false hope or expectations that we know more than we know now,” he said.
Until the bridge is replaced, the campground won’t open, which could hold down the numbers of visitors to Big Sur, hurting numerous area stores and restaurants which depend on the thousands of people who visit the park in the summer.
The Pfeiffer park campground has 200 sites, with a combined day use and camper population of approximately 1,000 people per day during the summer season.
After the budget was passed Feb. 19, Price said he contacted the state parks construction manager for the project, but there was still no news when funds will be available for the bridge work which includes fabrication in the Midwest, transportation to California, and installation.
“They have to build the bridge, ship it out here, and then the contractor would install it,” Price said.
People who visit the park sometimes plan their vacations weeks or months in advance, which means people may have to cancel their plans if the bridge isn’t there.
Reservations not accepted
Meanwhile, the state’s website for the park, and another site called Reserve America that books reservations for campgrounds across the country, indicates Pfeiffer is closed.
The lengthy steel vehicle bridge and a smaller wood pedestrian bridge within the campground were removed after studies showed the bridges could be undermined by potential mudslides caused by erosion from last summer’s devastating Big Sur fires.
Kirk Gafill, president of the Big Sur Chamber of Commerce, said the park is one of Big Sur’s biggest draws for tourists. Its closure would further hurt businesses affected by last summer’s fires, he said.
Until the state determines what will happen with the park, Price said its status is unclear.
“We are holding our breath it opens soon,” Price said.