Connecting the Community: Hot Springs Neighborhood Trail Complete

By Kelly Mahan Herrick   |   August 31, 2021
Rufus O’Dea, Keith Hamm, and Abe Powell have been hard at work building the new path on Hot Springs Road, which includes hand packing gravel and decomposed granite

A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held this week on the newly completed Hot Springs Neighborhood Trail, which connects Olive Mill Road from Casa Dorinda to East Valley Road. 

Since the debris flow in January 2018, the Bucket Brigade, led by Abe Powell and a committed team, has worked to restore many areas of the community, and at the same time, has taken the opportunity to build walking paths on North Jameson Lane, Olive Mill, and Hot Springs roads. The completion of the Hot Springs path marks the creation of more than two miles of new routes that aim to safely connect all six schools in Montecito.

“Our goal is to complete another six miles of trails over the next three years,” Powell told us during a visit to the path on Hot Springs Road.

The long-term goal is to have an eight-mile Montecito Neighborhood Trail Network (MNTN) that connects the six local schools (MUS, CSS, Laguna Blanca, Crane, OLMC, and Cleveland), the community churches, the two business villages, and offers a clear path from the mountains to the beach.

“The community needs this, and deserves this,” Powell said, adding that he hopes to continue the pathway on East Valley Road to the Upper Village, and from Hot Springs to Sycamore Canyon. 

In order to build these semi-rural pathways, the Bucket Brigade has been working with the county and homeowners, building the path in public right-of-way. The most recent pathway project was part of a larger recovery project on Hot Springs, which includes replacing the bridge railing at Oak Creek that was lost in the debris flow, repaving a section of Hot Springs Road, and shifting and replacing curbs to build the pedestrian pathway. The roadway was narrowed for vehicles, and the bike lane was shifted to make room for a pathway.

The Bucket Brigade was then tasked with pouring gravel and stabilized decomposed granite and adding plantings where necessary. The 48-inch pathway is minimally ADA compliant, offering ramps and a wide-enough path for wheelchairs.

The pathway gets the finishing touch up before being ready for use by pedestrians, strollers, and wheelchairs

“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,” Public Works Deputy Director Chris Sneddon told us earlier this year when the project began. 

“This neighborhood took a monstrous hit in 2018 and we are determined to bounce back stronger and more resilient than ever before. This new trail will help keep residents, students, and essential workers safe as they walk along the narrow winding roads in Montecito,” Powell said, adding that during his time on the trail, he has witnessed many people be able to utilize the new path instead of walking in the street or bike path.

“It makes me really happy that people are safe, and that the community is connected.” 

Powell says the Bucket Brigade’s original mission to dig out homes damaged in the debris flow, restore on and off road trails, and clear open space of debris following the 2018 disaster has expanded. The nonprofit is now actively organizing, training, and deploying volunteers in response to natural disasters and community crises.

“The completion of this trail exemplifies the benefits of direct citizen action to improve community safety and resilience,” Powell said. “Projects like the Hot Springs Neighborhood Trail are part of the Bucket Brigade’s year-round volunteer and community resilience development regimen.”

 Powell notes that the project could not have been accomplished without the leadership of the Walk Montecito Campaign Committee: Geoffrey Slaff, co-chair; Michael Smith, co-chair; Greg Tebbe; David Jackson; and Jennifer Rapp

Walk Montecito Sponsors include the Zurawski/Slaff Family, the Zegar Family Foundation, the Montecito Community Foundation, Sharon Bradford, Karl Weis and Kristen Klingbeil Weis, Michael and Nati Smith, Anne Towbes, the Tebbe Family Foundation, Gerd and Peter Jordano, the Santa Barbara Foundation, Linda Weinman, Ashish and Leslie Bhutani, Carolyn and Andrew Fitzgerald, Ron and Andrea Hein, and Santa Barbara County Public Works.

The Bucket Brigade will spend the rest of the year quietly fundraising for future projects, which includes the maintenance and upkeep of the already-built pathways. To donate or get involved, please contact


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