Task Force Focuses on Management, Ignores Safety

On March 7, the Front Country Trails Multi-Jurisdictional Task Force met to approve a 2007 Work Plan and Topic Schedule. But the plan left many in the audience questioning what direction the task force seems to be taking. The staff-prepared plan is focused heavily on trails management and maintenance issues, rather than the safety questions that prompted formation of the task force in the first place.

“I don’t see the word safety anywhere in this document,” said Jim Hickling, Third District County Parks Commissioner and a task force member.

“Safety has to be a primary concern,” said Suzanne Perkins, the First District County Parks Commissioner who is vice-chair of the task force.

The task force was created in reaction to public outcry for trail safety reforms that arose after Rocket, a family riding horse, fell to his death on Cold Spring Trail after being spooked by mountain bikers in October, 2005.

During the meeting, County and City staff presented a chart identifying Trail User Stakeholder Groups, most of which are mountain bike advocacy organizations. The idea is to invite each of the 12 listed groups to make a presentation to the task force in the coming months. The chart listed only one public equestrian organization, Los Padres Trail Riders, which has never been involved in trail politics. When contacted by telephone and asked what she knew about the task force, Maggie Robles, the equestrian group’s president, said, “I’ve never heard of the task force.”

Ray Smith, president of the Mission Canyon Homeowners Association, requested that his organization be added to the list of stakeholder groups. Tunnel Trail, which is particularly popular with downhill bikers, falls within this homeowners association district.

Several audience members addressed the plan’s lack of safety topics during the public comment period. Tony Biegen, outings chairman for the Sierra Club’s Santa Barbara Group, pointed out that last year, the Sierra Club led more than 200 hikes on Santa Barbara trails, comprising about 2,000 participants, all without incident. However, Sierra Club hike leaders are reluctant to take groups on Tunnel Trail, after one of their members was injured there in 2002 when hit by a mountain biker who was practicing for a race.

“The Sierra Club has consciously avoided trails that are known to be dangerous,” said Biegen. “The absence of incidents does not mean the absence of threat.”

Addressing the issue that most hikers and equestrians are independent trail users, Montecito resident Stephen Dougherty stated, “We’re going to see an unfair representation of mountain bike usage versus other usage, and if one group is over-representing their usage over the other, they really have an opportunity to frame the argument.”

Chris Orr, president of Santa Barbara Mountain Bike Trail Volunteers, admitted that not all trails currently hold up to multiple use safety standards. “There are policies that indicate that many of our trails are outside these standards,” said Orr, “but with work and maintenance, we can push our trails to sustainable standards.”

But in reality it’s not possible to bring all trails up to multiple use standards, according to John Venable, president of the Montecito Trails Foundation. Venable has testified at other public meetings that one problem in Montecito is that trails are on private easements of a set width, which cannot be widened enough to accommodate mountain bikes in addition to hikers and equestrians.

Staffs from both the County and City indicated they would revisit the plan to incorporate safety concerns in time for the next Task Force meeting, which is scheduled for 5:30 pm on Wednesday, April 4 in City Hall Council Chambers.

Mark Your Calendar

Thursday, March 15

Lecture, 7 pm “The Anza Expedition and the Settling of California”

The Santa Barbara Trust for Historic Preservation presents Vladimir Guerrero, a lifelong student of Spanish language, literature and history who holds a Ph.D. in medieval Spanish from the University of California, Davis. Guerrero’s book, “The Anza Trail and the Settling of California,” is the basis for this lecture, which chronicles the 1775 trek of Juan Bautista de Anza and 250 men, women and children from the modern Arizona-Mexico border to present day San Francisco. Guerrero will recount tales of this historic expedition through the uncharted expanses of New Spain. Tickets available at the door of the Presidio Chapel, 123 East Canon Perdido Street. Admission for Trust members and children under 16 is free, others are $10.

For more information contact the Trust at 965-0093, or visit www.sbthp.org.

Saturday, March 17

Horse Sculpture Workshop

9 am to 4 pm

Judith Hale Gallery

2890 Grand Avenue

Los Olivos

No previous sculpting experience is necessary, but participants should have either a background in art or knowledge of horses. Artist Laurie Brecheen Ballard will teach how to translate a concept and build an armature, how to breathe motion, personality and spirit into a horse sculpture, and how patinas are created. Step-by-step, participants will get an overview of the bronze sculpture process. Fee is $150, which includes all materials, including armature, clay and basic sculpture tools you may take home. Participants are asked to bring books, magazines or photos of possible subjects, and to wear comfortable clothing.

To register, call Judith Hale Gallery at 688-1222.

Wednesday, March 21

Los Padres Trail Riders Tack and Tog Sale

5:30 pm to 8:30 pm

Earl Warren Showgrounds

Admission $3

Free parking

This annual trails fundraiser is the place to find “recycled” riding clothes and boots, horse blankets, saddles, bridles and lots more. Tri-tip sandwiches and other goodies will be available at the food booth.

Thursday, March 22

The Secrets of Rattlesnake Canyon

9 am to noon

Skofield Park Area B

1819 Las Canoas Road

In a program sponsored by the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden, Karen Telleen-Lawton, author of “Canyon Voices: The Nature of Rattlesnake Canyon,” will tell stories of the area’s ecology, culture, history and geology. Afterwards, the author and Cathy Rose, a naturalist profiled in the book, will lead an easy hike along the trail. Fee is $20 for garden members, $30 for non-members.

Register online at www.sbbg.org, or by telephone at 682-4726.

Sunday, March 25

Sierra Club Hike

Ballard Canyon


10 miles round-trip

Starting near the Ranger station on Figueroa Mountain, participants will hike downhill through a beautiful canyon, along a stream to the Boy Scout Camp for lunch. Bring lunch and water. Meet at 9 am behind Bank of America on upper State Street at Hope Avenue.

For more information call Diane at 687-1929.

Friday, March 30

Purisima Hills and Burton Mesa

8 am to 4 pm

Registration ends March 28

Steve Junak, herbarium curator at the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden, will lead a field trip to explore the annual wildflowers found in the sandy soil of Burton Mesa, as well as the maritime chaparral and Bishop pine communities near Lompoc. A stop will also be made at Jualachichi Summit to see some relictual endemics that are more typical of redwood forests. Bring a sack lunch, water, a hand-lens and wear good walking shoes (no sandals allowed). Meet at the north end of the Gaviota rest stop on northbound Highway 101 at 8:30 am. If the rest stop is closed, meet at the intersection of Highway 101 and Highway 1.

Fee is $30 for garden members, $40 for non-members. Register online at www.sbbg.org, or by telephone at 682-4726, ext. 102.