Sunday, July 12, 2020     Volume: 21, Issue: 19

Santa Maria Sun / News

The following article was posted on June 3rd, 2020, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 21, Issue 14 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [] - Volume 21, Issue 14

County studies potential trail along Santa Maria River

By Zac Ezzone

The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors greenlit a study to identify a possible walking and biking path along the Santa Maria River that would connect the cities of Santa Maria and Guadalupe. 

This study will examine the feasibility of extending the path that already exists along the river within the city of Santa Maria about 7 miles west to Guadalupe.

Third District Supervisor Joan Hartmann, whose district includes Guadalupe, said she is supportive of this project, which has been identified in the planning documents of numerous jurisdictions, including both cities involved. Hartmann said this potential path is needed in North County, which is lacking trails and open space, especially compared to other parts of the county. 

Aside from the recreational benefits, this path could provide Santa Maria residents with an easier access to the beach, and Guadalupe residents with another way to reach Santa Maria, which, as a larger city, has amenities that Guadalupe may be lacking.

“These are underserved communities where we have underinvested in public infrastructure,” Hartmann said. 

On a 3-2 vote, the board authorized county staff to accept a $40,000 grant from the California Coastal Conservancy and use $40,000 through the statewide Transportation Development Act, to conduct this study. Fifth District Supervisor Steve Lavagnino and Fourth District Supervisor Peter Adam both voted against the proposal. 

They rejected the idea based on the potential land-use conflicts that could arise over the development of a path where it’s proposed. While the county controls and manages the levee that runs alongside the river—which is the area being studied for a potential path—it borders agricultural land between the two cities. 

During the meeting, Claire Wineman, president of the Grower-Shipper Association of Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo Counties, said that farmers along the river already experience instances of vandalism and trespassing. She said that if this path were to be opened to public use, it could increase the number of times these situations arise. 

Lavagnino said he could only support the county pursuing this study after hearing from adjacent property owners. Without hearing their input ahead of time, the county could spend money conducting the study, only to learn how strongly nearby farmers opposed the project.

“Probably what’s going to happen is you’re going to do a study, determine what would work best in that area, and have the landowner saying, ‘I don’t want it,’ or them saying, ‘I need it fenced,’ which would then make it financially infeasible,” Lavagnino said.

While the board ultimately approved the study, it doesn’t require the county to carry out whatever plans result from this process. According to the project’s grant application, county staff will work with property owners and other stakeholders while conducting this study. A report on the study results is slated to be completed by April 2021.

Weekly Poll
What'd you make of the county's decision to close beaches for the Fourth of July weekend?

It was sensible since counties to the south closed their beaches.
I was OK with it. I set off fireworks at home instead.
It was ridiculous. The restrictions have to stop.
It didn't matter. I went to SLO County.

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