HELICOPTER RESCUES INJURED BIKER IN ROMERO CANYON

A Santa Barbara resident was seriously injured on April 15 when he lost control of his mountain bike and tumbled 150 feet into Montecito’s Romero Canyon.

Glen Fritzler, 47, was flown to Santa Barbara Airport before he was transferred by ambulance to Cottage Hospital, where he was treated for multiple trauma injuries. Fritzler, who is president of Truth Aquatics, a dive-boat company that operates scuba diving trips out of Santa Barbara Harbor, was released recently from the hospital.

“He’s very lucky to be alive,” said Deputy Scott Norris, of Ventura County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue Unit. “He’s lucky he had his helmet on, as it saved his life.”

Norris said Fritzler told his family he was planning to bike the Romero Canyon trail before setting out on his solo ride in the late afternoon. When he didn’t return home after dark, his worried family notified Santa Barbara Search and Rescue, which initiated a ground search, Norris said.

Knowing that other mountain bikers had fallen there in the past, Norris said the ground team correctly focused its search on a particularly narrow portion of the old fire road. Although he had been knocked unconscious by the crash, Fritzler had awakened and was able to respond by voice to the rescue squad. He had been stranded for about six hours before being found.

Because the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s rescue helicopter was unavailable, the Ventura County Search and Rescue Unit was called in. Due to darkness and the ruggedness of the terrain, rescuers used night vision gear and a powerful searchlight to locate Fritzler. He was spotted lying on the steep mountain face.

The helicopter hovered approximately 100 feet above the victim as a helicopter rescue specialist and a flight medic were lowered to the scene to determine the extent of Fritzler’s injuries. It took about 20 minutes to place him in the rescue basket, after which he was hoisted up into the hovering chopper.

The Santa Barbara County Search and Rescue Incident Log lists several mountain bike accidents in Romero Canyon over the last five years. In March 2001, a mountain biker fell 80 feet below the trail. Two separate accidents occurred during June 2001, with one mountain biker falling 150 feet down, and another plunging 250 feet into the canyon.

In February 2002, two mountain bikers were rescued from Romero Canyon. More rescues of mountain bikers are recorded there in the following years – one in July 2003 and the other in May 2004.

These rescues do not include those that have been carried out by the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department.

State Trails Conference

The 21st Annual California Trails & Greenways Conference, held in Agoura the first weekend of May, brought together professional staff and volunteers from a variety of park and trail groups throughout the state.

A highlight was the pre-conference workshop tour of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. Workshop participants were able to hike two portions of the Backbone Trail, which needs just a few more miles of construction to extend from Will Rogers State Historic Park to Point Mugu.

The morning hike was a 4.2-mile stretch beginning at the Yerba Buena Trailhead, which is located in the western portion of the Backbone Trail system. We detoured off the trail just enough to be shown a proposed backcountry camp location in Triunfo Pass. The camp is slated to include pipe corrals and water supplies for six to eight horses, as well as environmentally sensitive restroom facilities. We continued on to the Mishe Mokwa Trailhead, where a waiting shuttle bus transferred us to Malibu Creek State Park for a barbecue lunch.

Like all newer sections of the Backbone Trail, this stretch was built to modern trail standards for multiple users – hikers, equestrians and mountain bikers. Other parts of the Backbone Trail were old animal paths that became narrow trails that are not open to mountain bikes, and fire roads that are open to mountain bikes, only if posted as open.

According to park service ranger Melanie Beck, there are problems with mountain bikers entering trail segments where they are not allowed. Traditional trail users are advised to remain alert and use caution when traversing those segments.

Most trails in this system are open to equestrians, but a few are too narrow for horses and are limited to hikers only. Interested horseback riders should check for safety with the appropriate agency that oversees each segment of the Backbone Trail. There is excellent parking for horse trailers at both Topanga and Malibu Creek State Parks, with trails that extend out from each.

After lunch, workshop participants were shuttled several miles to an eastern segment of the Backbone Trail system, where we marveled at the view from the future Lois Ewen overlook. From there we made a two-mile roundtrip hike to another proposed backcountry camp location at Saddle Peak.

When the Backbone Trail is finished, it will extend 65 miles, unifying parklands in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. So far, about 60 miles have been completed toward the goal. While future plans call for a series of overnight camps that will be spaced along the Backbone Trail, it is currently open for day-use only.

For anyone who has not experienced the beauty and breadth of the Santa Monica Mountains, a daylong excursion into this terrain is well worth the effort. Detailed maps are available at the following source:

National Park Service

Santa Monica Mountains

National Recreation Area

401 West Hillcrest Drive

Thousand Oaks, CA 91360

805-370-2301

www.nps.gov/samo

Mark Your Calendar

Wednesday, May 17

Sierra Club Program Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History Sierra Club Outings Chairman Tony Biegen and Jim Childress, veteran backpacker and hiker, share “the good, the bad and the funny” experiences of exploring Santa Barbara and Ventura county trails. Gather at 6:30 pm; slide show and anecdotes begin at 7 pm. For more information call 965-9719.

Saturday, May 20 – Sunday, May 21

“So You Want to Be a Mountie?” Police Horse Clinic Riverview Ranch, Ojai Ride with Royal Canadian Mounted Police trainer Ken Kaip. Test your skills in challenging sensory course. Bring home awards for yourself, your mount and your team. For more information call Jim Barrett at 646-5721, or visit www.policehorsepros.com.

Friday, May 26 – Monday, May 29

Lompoc Valley Riders Memorial Day Campout Bring your horse for weekend of trail riding at private ranch near Lompoc. Open to Lompoc Valley Riders members only. For membership information contact Lompoc Valley Riders secretary Elly Robb at 733-4040, or visit www.lompocvalleyriders.org.

Sunday, May 28

Los Padres Trail Riders Member’s Horseback Ride Restoration Oaks Ranch Saddle up and ride 1,000-acre private ranch in Gaviota. Ride out at 10 am, lunch back at trailers (bring your own grub). For Trail Riders membership information and detailed ride information, contact Dick and Sara Tidd at 964-9852.