Your recent Publisher’s Note, Appetite for Destruction, is spot on for the reality many of us see in Nevada and Placer counties, in which each season delivers an ever more frenetic crescendo of tourism. It does seem that we are loving our favorite places into destruction, or at least to a point of compromised reality that makes the pristine wild places we know and love in threat of being unrecognizable.
From my personal view, this is in part due to the overall population, part is increased recreational time, and part is the incessant drumbeat of writers and social media sharing their favorites places — it almost seems like the photos in beautiful places which result in the photographers falling to their deaths is an allegory for the risks of racing to the edge and sharing in words and photos. Only in this case, treasured wilderness is suffering the most losses. More often than not, the publication of a hidden swimming hole ends its specialness with crowds.
In Nevada County, people celebrated the Yuba Shuttle which takes people from Nevada City directly to the South Yuba River. At first glance, this seems like an excellent way to reduce traffic and provide safe access while also minimizing road hazards. Actual observation tells a slightly different story: By bringing busloads of people to a destination, there is very little being done to limit the number of people that visit a state park or recreation area. Is it time to think about limits? Sure looks to me like it’s time to consider measures for preservation, quality of place, and integrity of experience, not to mention safety and common sense.
This summer I was shocked and somewhat horrified to visit Sand Harbor midday, midweek in June. We could barely navigate around the tour buses. When we did, we found beaches so crowded I thought more of Monaco than the place I once loved to drop by to watch a quiet sunset and wade in clear cold water with my son. Are tour buses just a more pedestrian version of cruise ships, which wreak havoc on the environment at every port? Is it possible to say no to this kind of high impact, often uninformed type of tourism?
It is a good sign that Visit California, the state agency that oversees tourism for our Golden State, is thinking about this too. Its recent survey is peppered with questions about quality of experience being compromised by overcrowding.
Let’s think and act creatively to cultivate sustainable tourism — tourism that supports nature and social equity. We may come to a better understanding of what that might look like through conversation with government agencies and sharing our personal examples of overuse with policy makers.
Mayumi’s discussion in her note of Maya Bay in Thailand holds a lesson for our Jewel of the Sky, Lake Tahoe. Truly, by the time everyone has experienced our greatest treasures without limits or methodology, will there be something left that is great?
~ Pamela Biery is a public relations professional (see thumbler.net) and freelance writer living in Grass Valley.