Hot Springs Pathway Project
Over the weekend, volunteers with the Santa Barbara Bucket Brigade were out in full force beautifying a newly-built pathway on the lower portion of Hot Springs Road. The next phase of the project, which will start at Casa Dorinda and end at East Valley Road, is set to begin in early May and will take about six weeks to complete.
Public Works Deputy Director Chris Sneddon traversed the area with us recently to discuss the project, which is being funded through a FHWA (Federal Highway Administration) grant related to debris flow recovery. The bigger picture project includes replacing the bridge railing at Oak Creek, repaving a section of Hot Springs Road, and shifting and replacing curbs to build a pedestrian pathway. At a recent Montecito Association Land Use and Transportation Committee, members of the community asked that the pathway plans be shared with both the Association and the public, so residents would have an opportunity to weigh in on the look of the pathway. “This is an opportunity to add a much wanted pathway into a project that was already in progress – replacing the bridge railing and repaving the street,” said Sneddon. “There wasn’t the time nor the resources to have the entire community weigh in,” he added, as he recalled that the last pathway project to be built, on San Ysidro Road, took three years and $500,000 to build, and was fraught with much neighborhood controversy and delay.
The pathway portion of the project includes narrowing the roadway for vehicles, and shifting the bike lane and curb so there is room for a pathway. “This has the added benefit of narrowing the lanes, so vehicular speeding will be reduced,” Sneddon said. The County will build the curb and make room for the pathway, and the Bucket Brigade will lay the decomposed granite and plantings, making it aesthetically pleasing. The pathway is required to have ADA accessible curb cuts and ramps. “What the Bucket Brigade is doing for this community, bringing in the resources, labor, and experience, is really incredible, and we are lucky to be partnering with them,” Sneddon said.
Bucket Brigade founder Abe Powell told the MA that a survey conducted post-debris flow showed that connecting the community through pedestrian pathways was a priority to community members. In 2019, a new pathway was constructed on North Jameson Lane, which was extended up Olive Mill Road. The most recent pathway was just completed from Montecito Country Mart to just past Middle Road; Sneddon reports there are still a few “tune ups” to be done to that pathway, mainly reduction of some of the asphalt that was poured near driveways. “We are required to re-asphalt the driveways as part of the project so that drainage remains intact and that water won’t erode the decomposed granite,” Sneddon 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 “meandering” walking path was approved and built in 2011. Sneddon, who was the project manager on that project, says the new upper Hot Springs Path is not suitable for meandering. He reports that nearby property owners have been notified of the project, and that their concerns thus far include needing to move plantings and mailboxes that are located in the public right-of-way. “Most people have been enthusiastic about it, and grateful that they will have a pathway to use to get around Montecito,” Sneddon said. No trees are planned for removal at this point, and the County says they will try and work around any trees that are in the way of the path.
The half-mile road and pathway portion of the project is expected to cost close to $600K; the bridge rail replacement, which will begin in July, is expected to cost $450K.
Maintenance of the pathways has yet to be determined; the County maintains the San Ysidro Road pathway, but, according to Sneddon, the resources are not available to take on the most recently-built pathways. “This was a situation where we needed to move quickly to get the funding in place, and we need to figure out details later,” Sneddon said.