On its face, the proposal to designate that section of Highway 101 between Atascadero and Pismo Beach as a “scenic highway” seems reasonable and desirable. As a former San Luis Obispo councilman elected as an environmentalist back in the 1970s, I too came into office with that agenda.
Yet it was my mentor, Harold Miossi — owner of Miossi Ranch south of Cuesta Grade and one of the greatest environmentalists San Luis Obispo County has ever seen — who convinced me that this was not the battle to fight. Rather, we should be battling to keep ranchers in ranching and not removing a source of income that keeps them in business. He showed me how income from billboards could help preserve open spaces. I have believed him and his silenced voice ever since. Billboards never bugged me again.
Harold showed my son and me the first county billboard painted on a rock on old Cuesta Road used by stagecoaches in the 1800s. It’s faded and barely recognizable now, but must we repudiate our history and our ranchers in the names of those self-appointed opinion-makers who tell us that beauty is in the eye of their beholders?
T. Keith Gurnee, San Luis Obispo