The COVID restrictions are over. Why is this California treasure still closed? – Monterey Herald

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When the biggest storm of winter washed away part of Highway 1 and poured about 20 inches of rain over parts of the central California coast, another major road was also destroyed – that to Hearst Castle.

Now, this 2.25 mile long damaged sidewalk will keep the landmark closed until next year, just as the Golden State is welcoming the world back to its famous tourist attractions after 15 months of pandemic restrictions.

To adapt, Hearst Castle is turning to Hollywood-themed virtual tours starting July 13, along with the likes of Kris Jenner and the Dogs of Chernobyl on Airbnb’s online experience platform.

While guests cannot stroll along the famous Neptune Pool, where Clark Gable and Cary Grant swam, a state park guide leads visitors through the grounds – sometimes in period costume – to recreate the experience from the time of William Randolph Hearst .

Tracy Kosinski, guide from Hearst Castle, points to the gold-soaked glass tiles in the Roman indoor swimming pool. (Photo credit: © Hearst Castle® / CA State Parks)

The virtual tours are likely to be the castle’s “new normal” by the end of the year – a disappointment for potential visitors looking to see the landmark, which drew 750,000 visitors annually before the pandemic.

Lorienne Schwenk, the executive director of the Cambria Chamber of Commerce, recalled a disappointed couple who had traveled from New York only to find out the lock was closed – they told Schwenk that the lock was the main reason they got into it Küstendorf had come.

“Her feeling was that of course the lock would also be open because everything else opened,” she said.

This reopening may not happen until early 2022. State park officials believe it will take six to nine months to repair the damaged section of Hearst Castle Road, according to spokeswoman Gloria Sandoval.

The timeline might come as a surprise to those who monitored the washout of Highway 1, which reopened almost two months ahead of schedule in April after a storm system in late January that ripped through the region, causing flooding and killing you. But when it comes to Hearst Castle Road, repairs can be more of a hassle. All 27 culverts need to be repaired or replaced to ensure that the road is structurally sound and can withstand the weight of coaches.

“We recognize that the road damage is unfortunate and that the public’s patience is being severely tested,” said Sandoval. “Everyone involved understands the need to move quickly.”

In the meantime, the virtual offer could satisfy some Hearst fans. Tara Stephenson, Foundation development director at Hearst Castle, said she was confident the virtual tours will find a market.

“I get calls and emails from the public every day asking when the lock will be opened again. ‘How can I see it, can we get a private tour, are there videos, what are you doing online?’ “She said. “We already know that the demand is there.”

Liz DeBold Fusco, an Airbnb spokeswoman, said the virtual tours will open the lock to the curious still stuck in COVID-restricted countries, and tells how she took a tango class in Argentina from her home in New Jersey Visited Airbnb.

“This enables people from all over the world to be part of a piece of history that they might not otherwise know or enjoy,” she said.

Wildfire smoke rises from a ridge line behind the iconic facade of Hearst Castle, August 20, 2016. (Joe Johnston / The Tribune (of San Luis Obispo) via AP)

The castle is initially offering eight tours per month, the price is $ 20 per person and is limited to 10 people per tour. All ticket revenue goes directly to the foundation, which Stephenson says will help support their conservation and educational efforts. “This is in no way intended to make up for lost revenue while the lock is closed,” she said.

In this rugged stretch of California’s coastline, Hearst Castle is no stranger to danger. Storms and forest fires are common hazards in the surrounding community. At least the companies in the area are not holding their breath for the road to be repaired and castle visits to resume.

According to Schwenk, traveling to Cambria has remained pretty constant throughout the pandemic, although she said some hotels have suffered a blow when visitors cancel or shorten their stays as soon as they learn the lock is closed.

Bob Benjamin isn’t worried. Working at the Cambria Beach Lounge front desk, he said there is more to this stunning corner of the California coast than the castle.

“All of the hotels here are doing great,” he said. “People just want out of Bakersfield, LA and San Francisco. It has nothing to do with the lock, it has to do with the escape. “



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