Carmel Magazine

CM Nov 1, 2016 Barrymore HO16_DigitalEdition

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48 C A R M E L M A G A Z I N E • H O L I D A Y 2 0 1 6 LOCALKNOWLEDGE Kate Novoa, aka Big Sur Kate Retired Attorney, Blogger, Activist O n Monday, July 25, 2016, the Soberanes Fire was three days old. Fire officials held an informational meeting at Carmel River School to inform the public about efforts to fight the con- flagration. During a Q & A section, a young woman, newly arrived to the area, raised her hand and inquired what would be the best and most timely source of information. A chorus of voices rose from the packed house: "Big Sur Kate." Big Sur Kate is Kate Novoa, a 31-year Big Sur resident. A retired attorney, she makes her home on a majestic mountaintop five miles from Highway 1. The blog she assiduously maintains (big- was a source of vital and immediate news to Monterey County residents from the Carmel Highlands to Carmel Valley to Big Sur in the dark days of the Soberanes Fire, but it wasn't the first disaster she covered. The blog was started in 2008 during the Basin Fire. Though she has reported on every subsequent fire and her pages are filled with information about the area's recent, dramatic uptick in tourism, it was the Soberanes that threw a spotlight on her. "In the previous eight years, I had one million visits," Novoa says. "I had one and a half million in the first month of this fire." In addi- tion, Novoa has earned a well-deserved reputation for providing fast and accurate information. She's a fixture on the Big Sur coast, treated like royalty whenev- er she ventures out to favorite spots such as the River Inn, where everyone knows and adores her. Big Sur is her adopted home, and it—and its people—clearly hold a huge spot in her heart. That's why she spends untold hours maintaining her blog, not because of any monetary gain, but because she wants to help—and she wants to help protect the place she loves. Q: What brought you to Big Sur? A: I grew up in Orange County, when it was strawberry fields and orange groves. I first visited here on a honeymoon in 1969, then returned in the early '80s for seminars at Esalen. I determined that I had to find a way to move here. In OC, I was part of a women's group called the Magic Circle. We each developed a "wish list," and mine contained three items: sell my Fullerton house, buy one in Big Sur and get a job up there. I applied for a job at the Monterey County Public Defender's Office and got hired. All three wishes came true within three months. My first house was in Palo Colorado Canyon and I drove to Salinas daily—that was an easy commute for a Southern California girl— then four years later I moved to the south coast, where I am today. Q: How did the Big Sur Kate blog come about? A: During the Basin Fire, I felt that then-Sheriff Mike Kanalakis was being rather heavy-handed in his handling of things. When a res- ident was arrested for setting a backfire, trying to save his family proper ty, I felt I had to do something to get the word out that this was wrong. It was vital to me that I be as true to myself and my community as I could be. That night, I star ted learning how to blog and had my first post up within 24 hours. After the Basin Fire, I thought I would shut the blog down, but then the Chalk Fire happened, then everything flooded. Now I'm seeing the same places threatened again Q: You also blog about what you call "loving Big Sur to death?" A: Yes. I've lately started blogging about another danger facing Big Sur : the overuse issue. We've been talking behind the scenes for years about it, but since I started last spring, many residents have contributed photos and data about the problem. Illegal camping is one of the biggest problems— remember the Soberanes was started by an illegal campfire. I'm hoping that getting this informa- tion out there has an impact. We don't want to keep people out; we just want them to care about Big Sur as much as we do. And that means educating young people. Telling them that this place isn't for graffiti or tagging or leaving trash lying about—this is a place where you respect Mother Nature. — Michael Chatfield

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