A new state grant helps kick-start the Santa Ynez Regional Trail

Photo courtesy of Gina Fischer
WALKABILITY: Santa Barbara County 3rd District Supervisor Joan Hartmann (right) along with Buellton Mayor David King (far left) accepted $425,000 to develop a portion of the Santa Ynez Regional Trail intended to run between River View Park and Avenue of Flags, where it will then cross into the south side of the Santa Ynez River toward the unincorporated area and Solvang.

Buellton recently received $425,000 in state funding to take a big step in connecting the Santa Ynez Valley through outdoor recreation. 

“We live in the valley in particular because we love the outdoors, but we’re not walking and biking because we don’t have the infrastructure to support that, and people really want that,” Santa Barbara County 3rd District Supervisor Joan Hartmann told the Sun. “The valley used to be a place for walking and riding, but now as it’s become more suburban, it’s become more dangerous.” 

Highway 246 is the only roadway that connects Buellton to Santa Ynez and other areas in the Santa Ynez Valley, but the roadway is too large with speed limits that are too fast to be safe for a sidewalk or trail. Hartmann—an advocate for trails and outdoor recreation opportunities for her constituents as supervisor representing the Santa Ynez Valley—has been working alongside local jurisdictions to create the Santa Ynez Regional Trail.  

The trail would run along the Santa Ynez River and connect Buellton to Solvang, running through Buellton’s Botanic Garden to the western edge of Buellton, to Highway 101 and into Solvang, Hartmann said. The project will be done in segments—with the first segment, based in Buellton, receiving the $425,000 state grant to kick off construction. 

“[The city of Buellton] already own[s] and control[s] the land; that makes it probably the least fraught in terms of construction,” she said. “This money is kick-starting the project now into action and getting us all to realize that there is a way to do it because it’s such an important, transformative project for the community.” 

The Santa Ynez Regional Trail was first documented in 2019 in the Santa Ynez Valley Bike Master Plan, but discussions for a regional trail had been going on for a couple of decades, Hartmann said. 

“Trail paths and bike lanes are really tricky in that our regional transportation organization, SBCAG [Santa Barbara County Association of Governments] doesn’t really have anybody that does [trail] stuff,” she said. “Our Public Works Department has alternative transportation, but there’s no home for trails—it falls between Public Works and Parks, between jurisdictions.” 

The city of Santa Barbara has figured out how to create trail networks within city limits, and it’s easier to take action in one city than across different jurisdictions, but local officials are determined, Hartmann said.  

Buellton and Solvang city officials, Santa Barbara County, and the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians have been working with one another to figure out how to get the trail up and running, with efforts to apply for a California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) sustainable transportation planning grant to continue trail construction efforts. 

“I’m hoping the Recreation Master Plan will elevate this question and bring it forward to SBCAG. I would like to bring up that they should actually be the home for this kind of work,” Hartmann said. “It’s very similar to what they are doing with roads across jurisdictions.”

If the agencies receive a sustainable communities grant, there would be a few months of hearings and then 18 months of design engineering; Hartmann estimated that it would take two years until construction could begin. The $425,000 is “a shot in the arm” for this project, and it could lead to more opportunities for community input on what they’d like to see in the trail. 

“We’re really excited for what it could mean for connectivity in the valley and taking traffic off the 246 and be a wonderful opportunity for residents and visitors as well,” she said. 


• The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors is now accepting resumes from qualified county residents who are interested in serving as a board-appointed trustee on the county’s retirement board. The retirement board governs Santa Barbara County Employees’ Retirement System, which administers the county’s pension plans and pension-related benefits for employees and retirees. The board is made up of nine members and two alternate members, and the Board of Supervisors is the appointing authority for four of the trustee positions. Complete an application available at countyofsb.org/2839/boards-commissions-and-committees. Direct questions to the clerk of the Board of Supervisors at (805) 568-2240. 

• Tri-County Regional Energy Network (3C-REN) was selected for Phase 1 of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Buildings Upgrade Prize to win $400,000 toward its Climate Smart Multifamily Property Upgrade Program. The goal of the program is to include technical and financial assistance for electric vehicle charging infrastructure at low-income or affordable housing properties that are also building energy efficiency and electrification upgrades. Phase 2 involves creating a detailed, actionable implementation plan that will direct even more climate-friendly investments into the region.

Reach Staff Writer Taylor O’Connor at [email protected].

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