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Hearst guides and visitors can now only scratch the surface of the magic 

Shell Beach

I agree completely with the sentiments expressed in the opinion piece by Steve E. Miller regarding the ruination of the tours at Hearst Castle (“Less isn’t better,” July 14).

I also worked nearly 18 years giving tours at Hearst Castle. When I was hired in 1992, the castle was attracting more than one million visitors a year, and it took approximately 120 guides to handle the tour workload. In fact, the economy of the Central Coast was heavily dependent on the tourist income generated by the tours. In addition, the guided tour program stood on its own as one of the most highly regarded historical interpretive programs in the nation.

Now the present park administrator, Nick Franco, under pressure of cost cutting from Sacramento, has gutted the tour program, reducing the scope and duration of time spent on the guided tours and leaving the once-touted interpretive program in the hands of a skeleton crew of about 50 guides who barely have enough time, with the reduced tour duration, to scratch the surface of this most unique and magical destination.

Eventually the loss of both quality and quantity in the guided tours is bound to be reflected in the tourist visitation numbers, resulting in greatly reduced tourist spending in our area. And this major overhaul of the tours has been done to accomplish the tiniest of financial benefit. Even Administrator Franco admits the savings to the state would amount to only about $50,000 a month for July and August (the most heavily visited months), and would expect even less savings in other months—hardly enough savings to offset the loss of guide jobs, tourist dollars, and national prestige.

The original tour program worked well for decades. Couldn’t another option have been found? How about elimination of a few nonessential mid-management positions? The salaries of a few of the eight guide supervisors (who oversee only about 50 guides between them) might be a place to start.

-- Mary J. Kocher - Hearst Castle guide (retired), Riverside

-- Mary J. Kocher - Hearst Castle guide (retired), Riverside

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