22 JUL 2019: The first week in July a banner was hung at the Bixby Bridge in Big Sur, stating the words, “OVERTOURISM IS KILLING BIG SUR.” Last week the same words were written in gold paint on Highway 1 in the bridge parking lot. Authorities searched Thursday for the person (people) responsible for the graffiti on the scenic stretch of rugged California coast that is a major destination for visitors travelling between San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Big Sur is dealing with anti-tourist sentiment amid local frustrations that tourists are negatively impacting the area, which features dramatic interactions of land, sea and sky with little of the development that blankets much of the rest of the California shoreline.

Authorities immediately removed the banner on July 6, but the gold paint proved more difficult and costly. The Monterey office of the California Highway Patrol said its removal would cost taxpayers around US$1,700 ($2,219) and that those responsible will face felony charges.

Highway 1 near Big Sur was reopened last year, 14 months after it was blocked by a massive landslide. After months without access, tourists have flooded the area. The 87-year-old Bixby Bridge is also featured in the opening credits of HBO's popular series “Big Little Lies,” drawing even more visitors.

Locals in the Monterey County community have expressed their frustrations about problems they say are caused by tourists. “People disregard signs, they disregard the environment, they're just trampling all over the place,” Butch Kronlund, the executive director of the Community Association of Big Sur, told the San Francisco Chronical on July 5.

“There's been an increase in negative impacts and poor visitor behaviour that's being felt by the community,” said John Olejnik, a Caltrans transportation planner.

An Instagram account called ‘bigsurhatesyou’ was created earlier this year to shame visitors' bad behaviour in the area. It was renamed ‘bigsureducates’ and now features a link to a pledge created by locals in December. The Big Sur Pledge asks tourists to honour the land.

“The recent increase in the number of visitors is challenging the safety and wellbeing of residents, visitors and the fragile natural environment. All of us can make a positive difference to protect and nurture Big Sur,” the introduction reads.

Those responsible for the vandalism in the Bixby Bridge parking lot have not been found.

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