BIG SUR, Calif. - When a bridge leading into Big Sur crumbled two years ago, store keepers made a detour and traveled up to six hours just to stock their shelves for tourists. Restaurants offered unheard-of-deals on meals and cocktails to lure customers in and the posh hotels in the iconic coast hamlet flew guests in by helicopter for weekend stays.
They did those things and more because tourism is the mainstay of the Big Sur's economy. What a difference two years can make. Residents who are fed up with the bottleneck tourist traffic, out-of-towners using the roadsides as bathrooms and visitors trampling onto closed trails to get the perfect selfie are on a campaign to stop bad tourist behavior.
Earlier this month, a group called "Take Back Big Sur" put up a large black and yellow banner on the famed Bixby Bridge that reads: "Overtourism is killing Big Sur."
A permit is required to hang signs and the Monterey County Sheriff's Department removed the banner even before Caltrans could respond to reports about the sign.
Efforts to reach the group were unsuccessful Monday, but according to SF Gate, the group has two dozen members who are all Big Sur residents.
But even before the sign went up, the group started shaming poor tourist behavior in Instagram posts and pictures. The posts showed people parking illegally, trudging through fields of wildflowers and on closed trails, flicking cigarette ashes out of car windows and standing in the middle of Highway 1.
The account has since changed its name to Big Sur Educates on Instagram with a mission to "keep this area beautiful for all future visitors."
Butch Kromland with the Community Association of Big Sur said tourists have been misbehaving for years, but because of social media, the behavior has become more visible and oftentimes worse.
"The barrier between appropriate and inappropriate behavior, that barrier has melted away in a lot of ways and I think that is a result of normalizing things in way via social media," Kromland told KSBW.
No one knows for sure why tourists are disregarding the rules when visiting the coastal community or why traffic has seemingly increased, but some are blaming Hollywood. HBO's hit "Big Little Lies" includes sweeping shots of cars rolling over the Bixby Bridge and it seems everyone wants to see the bridge in person.
But those who love the waterfront community are asking tourists to take the "Big Sur Pledge," and honor the land while in town.
"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 to the 8-step pledge reads. "Help us by taking and activating the Big Sur Pledge."
That means sharing coastal roads in a safe manner, camping only where allowed, being fire safe, and honoring "the spirit of Big Sur as it honors me."