Sean Parker threw a fantasy wedding in the woods of Big Sur five years ago, but it turned out this predictably expensive and over-the-top gathering wasn’t permitted by the California Coastal Commission. The billionaire and former president of Facebook later reached a settlement with the state agency, agreeing to fork over a total of $2.5 million and develop an app to provide information to beachgoers. That mobile app, YourCoast, finally went live this week.
The app helps users find access to over 1,600 beaches, trails, and parks on the California coastline, and includes information on parking, disabled access, bike paths, restrooms, campgrounds, and other details. Users can share photos of a location within the app. It is described as the “official app of the California Coastal Commission” in Apple’s App Store.
“It’s great. I downloaded it,” Jennifer Savage, California policy manager with the Surfrider Foundation, told Mercury News. “I love that it makes it so easy for people see what beaches are near them, along with information about how to get there and parking. It reinforces people’s sense that he coast belongs to them.”
Parker certainly behaved as if the coast belonged to him when, in preparation for his 2013 cosplay wedding, he constructed a cottage, a pond, a bridge, a dance floor, and various fake ruins, all without receiving the required permits. The wedding was an extravagant affair in which all 364 guests were given outfits designed by famed Lord of the Rings costume designer Ngila Dickson to wear during the festivities. But the development of the Big Sur campground for the Parker wedding negatively impacted the local ecosystem.
According to a report from the CCC, “The unpermitted development has thus impacted the existing redwood forest habitat and has likely caused sedimentation of Post Creek.”
A transcript of the settlement proceedings revealed that the CCC found “that although the construction was not insignificant, the environmental damage from the wedding-related construction work was less serious than we had originally feared.” Though they noted that where Parker’s new construction directly interacted with the surrounding forest—for example, in one photo contained within the original CCC report, a fake ruin wall can be see directly abutting up to an actually ancient redwood tree—significant harm arose. The new construction did impact the landscape such that the committee ordered its removal and restoration of the site.
Neither Parker nor the Ventana Inn—the property that maintained the campground Parker build his wedding wonderland upon—had the proper permits for the construction that unfolded in the forest, and the Inn was also found guilty of past violations. Parker settled the dispute outside of court and agreed to pay for his violations as well as those of the Inn, to the tune of $2.5 million. He also committed to the creation of the YourCoast app as additional restitution.
As of Friday afternoon, there are only three reviews of YourCoast in the app store—one user described it as “Very Glitchy,” noting that it kept crashing, another said that they didn’t see any points on the map, while another said that they found out about the app on a local LA news channel. “I love the beach and every summer i drive up the PCH and this will come in handy!!!”
Whether the app has some kinks to hammer out remains unclear—I was able to use it just fine. In fact, the app is a pretty cool tool for those looking to access public beaches in California. But it’s disappointing that in order for such a resource to come into existence, a billionaire had to recklessly treat a priceless natural landscape as his own play area.