Concern Over Hot Springs Trail Project

By Kelly Herrick   |   March 11, 2021
A new pedestrian path on Hot Springs Road has sparked some controversy, with some community members feeling like there was not enough discussion or transparency on the project (photo credit Santa Barbara Bucket Brigade)

A newly built pedestrian pathway along Hot Springs Road has sparked some neighborhood controversy, which was discussed at the Montecito’s Land Use and Transportation Committee meeting this past Tuesday. 

Bucket Brigade founder Abe Powell, who was an integral part of the County-led road enhancement project, explained to the Committee that the impetus for the trail was from a survey of the community following the 1/9 Debris Flow. In that survey, according to Powell, members of the community stated that bike and pedestrian access improvements were a top priority during the recovery process. “We’ve been working to connect the community since 2019, and have repaired multiple trails after the debris flow including the Ennisbrook Trail, Peter Bakewell, Sheffield, East Valley, and Cold Spring, just to restore what we had before,” Powell said. In 2019, a new trail was constructed on North Jameson Lane, which was extended on Olive Mill Lane. The decomposed granite pathway was well received by the community, Powell said, especially from parents who felt it added much-needed safety for their kids. “In talking with the County, we saw an opportunity on Hot Springs as well,” he said. 

Listed in the 1992 Montecito Community Plan as a top priority for Montecito, the idea of building walking paths to make Montecito a walkable community had been unrealized until the San Ysidro Road walking path was approved and built in 2011, after nearly three years of neighborhood discussion and a price tag of over $500,000. “In 32 years we have struggled mightily to achieve this goal,” Powell said. 

On the Committee Zoom call were many members of the community, including MPC Commissioner Susan Keller, MBAR member Claire Gottsdanker, and heavily involved residents Jack Overall and Bob Short, among others. Many concerns were raised about the pathway, which is mostly made of decomposed granite, save for the portions that include curb cuts, as they were required to be concrete in order to be ADA compliant. The pathway was built entirely in the public right-of-way; concerns were raised about its aesthetics and the lack of public participation. 

“The next pathway that gets proposed, a plan needs to be created by an architect or a landscape architect, and presented to the Montecito Association. If we are going to have these pathways, then let’s figure out a way to do them so that the community knows about them and can put their input in. It’s all about talking to each other and communicating with one another. Let’s get together and figure out how we are going to create them,” said Gottsdanker.  

“Respectfully, you are looking a gift horse in the mouth,” said Public Works rep Chris Sneddon, who explained that nearby property owners were notified of the work and changes were made to the project if neighbors had concerns. “We don’t have the resources to spend $500,000 and three years of work to get half a mile of path,” Sneddon said. “It’s not good stewardship of public funds.”

MA Board President Megan Orloff and Executive Director Sharon Byrne said they had received many calls regarding the project, with questions as to why it was not discussed more openly and with community input. “I think there is some work to be done with communication,” said Byrne. “People are asking us: ‘who is maintaining these?’ and ‘who is going to be trash collection? Are there going to be trashcans?’ There are things that we need more communication about.” 

Sneddon maintained that neighbors were noticed about the work, and residents on upper Hot Springs are being noticed now for the expansion of the pathway. “We are willing to work with people within the parameters we have, and the community has been asking for this for years,” he said. 

The Land Use Committee will form a subcommittee to further discuss upcoming pathway projects in Montecito. For more information, visit www.montecitoassociation.org

 

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