Neighbors Sue County Over Trail Parking
Earlier this month, we reported that there was pending litigation between several neighbors on East Mountain Drive and the County of Santa Barbara, regarding parking issues at the Hot Springs Trailhead.
A preliminary hearing on the matter is scheduled next Friday, May 6. Petitioners Christopher Anderson, Ross Bagdasarian, Peter Barker, and James Morley, represented by Attorney David Cousineau of Cappello & Noel, have taken legal action – including a temporary restraining order – against the County in response to a proposed parking project near the trailhead.
The parking project, according to Court documents, would add up to 62 parking spots in the public right of way in the area, which has become increasingly popular among locals and tourists, some of whom are seeking out the hot springs along the trail. (See Sharon Byrne’s piece on page 5 for more info). Currently, there are roughly eight parking spaces at the trailhead, and in pre-pandemic times, it would not be unusual to see 10-12 additional cars parked illegally along Riven Rock Road, and the problem has increased exponentially over the last year. Riven Rock Road was white striped on either side of the road in April of last year, in an effort to thwart parking and maintain resident emergency evacuation routes. Hikers are still parking in the area, some near the creek bank, despite hundreds of tickets being issued and cars being towed.
According to court documents, in October, the County installed lath stakes outside of all the homes along the edge of the public right-of-way, on both sides of East Mountain Drive, in a line stretching for 4/10ths of a mile, from Hot Springs Road to Ashley Road. The stakes prompted neighbors to inquire about the County’s plans, which includes demolishing longstanding improvements such as boulders and landscaping in the right-of-way, which would open up space to provide more parking spots. The right-of-way would be cleared incrementally, three homes at a time, with six homes on East Mountain Drive targeted initially, according to Court documents. The County sent certified letters to three homeowners on East Mountain Drive in February, demanding that all private encroachments be removed immediately.
“With these letters, the County announced its intention to proceed with the Project to create new parking spaces without any formal approval or hearing of the matter by the County, and without studying the Project’s environmental impacts under CEQA. If the work described in the letters is done, those now-barren areas of the public right-of-way will be immediately available as additional parking. The County has repeatedly stated its intention to perform further scraping of the right-of-way to create additional parking in the future, in an incremental fashion, without further hearings, environmental review, or formal approval,” the Court document reads.
The lawsuit contends that the right-of-way improvements and the addition of more parking would lead to both an increase in fire ignition risk and will affect the ability of the public to safely evacuate during a wind-driven wildfire. In addition, the suit contends that the County’s actions violate CEQA. “This translates to a more than fourfold increase in current foot traffic on Hot Springs Trail, home to sensitive, special-status plant and animal species and County-designated environmentally sensitive habitat areas, in and around a blue-line stream,” reads the Court memo. “The potential adverse impacts to these environmental resources, and to the area’s over-stressed firefighting and evacuation resources, from this tremendous increase in trail use are manifest. Yet the County has not conducted any review of these potential impacts through the study and public hearing procedures required by CEQA.”
Next month, the Montecito Fire Protection District is expected to release its Emergency Evacuation Analysis which will include community education explaining the methods used to model simulations of likely emergency scenarios, an interpretation of the results, and identification of the vulnerabilities of emergency evacuations in Montecito, together with recommendations. According to Court documents, the Emergency Evacuation Analysis may help residents and the surge of hundreds of new daily visitors facing the increased fire danger from the County’s up-to-62-space project receive information about whether the project will significantly interfere with Montecito Fire’s current evacuation plan; whether residents and the surge in additional trail users will have viable evacuation routes other than the primary Hot Springs Road shown on Montecito Fire’s emergency Evacuation Plan Map; what other emergency vehicle ingress routes first responders would have given the permanent spike in visitor traffic trips; what shelter-in-place resources on the exposed trail watershed without structures will be available to the hundreds of additional visitors; and what will be the increase in trail rescue and other emergency response times for such visitors.
The Montecito Association’s Land Use Committee will be discussing this issue at a meeting next Tuesday, May 3. Visit montecitoassociation.org for more information and instructions on how to join the meeting. We’ll have more on the issue in next week’s edition.
Local Students Earn Eagle Scout Ranking
Earlier this month, Troop 1 of Los Padres Council held an Eagle Court of Honor to officially recognize six local high school students who have achieved the rank of Eagle Scout. A.J. Heinemann, Peter Moschitto, Davis Peterson, Rowen Manriquez, and Matthew Fernandes were joined by Kedrick Condie, who began his scouting career with Troop 1 but completed it with Troop 194 in Colorado.
To achieve Eagle, each Scout must complete a minimum of 21 merit badges, perform community service, serve as a leader in the troop and complete a project that benefits an outside organization, all before his or her 18th birthday. Required merit badges such as First Aid, Citizenship in the Community, Cooking, Camping, and Personal Management are designed to build character, life skills, and leadership skills. Some of the most popular merit badges include Communications, Kayaking, Wilderness Survival, and Photography.
Eagle Scouts must plan, fundraise, and execute their Eagle Project while demonstrating leadership skills and involving younger troop members. Heinemann, Fernandes, and Manriquez’s projects brought improvements to the Lake Cachuma Recreation Area. Heinemann planted and installed irrigation for new oak trees. Fernandes created and installed a new Wildlife Lake Tours sign. Manriquez constructed and installed an information kiosk at the Sweetwater Trailhead near Bradbury Dam. Moschitto constructed a sandbox and archway for the preschool of the Cliff Drive Care Center. Peterson built and installed seven benches for Providence School’s elementary campus. Condie designed and installed a billboard for the Western Museum of Mining and Industry in Colorado Springs.
The following local businesses and individuals generously donated goods and funds to enable these Scouts to complete their Eagle projects: Aqua-Flo, Haywards, Home Improvement Center, Santa Barbara Stone, Allen Construction, Miners Ace Hardware, Carpinteria Lumber Co. Carpinteria Roofing, and Mr. Martin and Mrs. Danielle Osborn.
These six Scouts were honored in a Court of Honor Ceremony at Santa Barbara Community Church on April 9. The ceremony was officiated by Troop 1 Scoutmaster Robert Blessing and attended by family and friends of the Scouts, Troop 1 Adult Leaders, and Troop 1 former Eagle Scouts. Associate Pastor Alan Strout of the First United Methodist Church offered a prayer of thanksgiving and benediction. Special presentations were made and certificates were awarded to the Eagle Scouts by Joe Bauer of the Catholic Committee on Scouting, Major Jose Ramirez of the Military Order of World Wars who awarded each Eagle Scout with a Certificate, and Command Sergeant Jonathan Church, who presented a Certificate to each Eagle Scout on behalf of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Organization. The ceremony was followed by a dinner reception.
Troop 1 was founded in 1910 and is the oldest Scout Troop west of the Mississippi River. It is chartered by the First United Methodist Church in Santa Barbara. These six new Eagle Scouts represent the 93rd-98th Scouts to be awarded the rank of Eagle in Troop 1. For more information about Scouting or Troop 1, please contact Scoutmaster Robert Blessing at email@example.com or troop1sb.com.