San Ysidro Bridge Ribbon Cutting
Last Thursday, February 11, several community leaders and nearby residents came out to a small ribbon cutting ceremony to mark the opening of the new bridge across San Ysidro Creek at East Mountain Drive. Public Works Director Scott McGolpin, First District Supervisor Das Williams, Public Works Deputy Directors Julie Hagen and Chris Sneddon, Bucket Brigade co-founder Abe Powell, Montecito Trails Foundation president Ashlee Mayfield, and several others were in attendance.
The bridge, which was and will continue to be used primarily as a bicycle and pedestrian access, was a well-used connection between the San Ysidro Ranch and the San Ysidro Trailhead before being washed away on the morning of January 9, 2018. This was the second time the bridge had been destroyed by debris flow; the first time was in 1964, following the Coyote Fire. “Our hope is that the third time will be the charm for this bridge and this community,” McGolpin said. The bridge, which sits 1/4 mile below the San Ysidro Debris Basin, was built higher and with better materials, McGolpin explained. It provides better pedestrian and bicycle safety, with higher guard rails. The 75-foot-long structure will be closed to vehicular traffic except during emergencies, when first responders will have access.
Neighbors John and Teri Keating, whose property is just east of the bridge, were also in attendance at the ribbon cutting. McGolpin thanked the Keatings and several other neighbors for their patience during the construction project. John Keating was asked to give a brief account of their experience on the morning of January 9, 2018. The Keatings had set an alarm for 3:30 am that morning, in order to check the drainage during the storm that was predicted to bring significant rain to Montecito. At 3:45 am the Keating home was destroyed by a series of fiery explosions when a boulder in the creek bed ruptured a gas line near their home. The couple both suffered severe burns; Teri broke both feet while jumping out of a two-story window. John thanked the first responders who saved their lives that morning, including Montecito Fire Protection District Wildland Fire Specialist Maeve Juarez, who gave Teri the clothing off her back before summoning an emergency helicopter to airlift them to safety. The Keatings are in the process of rebuilding their home, and say the new bridge is a sign of hope during the rebuilding process.
The $285,000 bridge was paid for with Southern California Edison settlement funds and constructed by Peter Lapidus Construction, a local vendor.
County Public Works will proceed with additional projects as part of the Thomas Fire and 1/9 Debris Flow recovery. Work is in progress on the Hot Springs Shoulder Improvement project, which includes improving walking shoulders from the Santa Barbara City Limits to Middle Road, that will increase connectivity and enhance recent work by the Santa Barbara Bucket Brigade and Montecito Trails Foundation. Other projects scheduled for 2021 include the Hot Springs Triangle, and the Sheffield Drive Bridge at Ortega Hill Road and North Jameson Lane.