The Santa Barbara County

Board of Supervisors on Tuesday approved a set of trails management recommendations from the Front Country Trails Multi-Jurisdictional Task Force.

The task force was formed in 2006 to address a wide range of issues regarding trails management, maintenance, funding, natural resources protection and user conflicts. The task force is made up of members from the

County Park Commission, the City of Santa Barbara Park & Recreation Commission and the U.S. Forest Service


A key recommendation approved by the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday was for the task force to move forward with development of an interagency (involving the city, county and Forest Service) memorandum of understanding. The MOU will establish the intent and expectations of the partnership, respective agency roles and responsibilities, the planning and decision-making framework and funding commitments. It is anticipated that the MOU will facilitate greater collaboration and result in better customer service to the trails community.

Located within the front range of the Santa Ynez Mountains, the Santa Barbara Front Country Trails provide more than 30 miles of trails for equestrians, hikers, trail runners and mountain bikers. Most of the trails pass through city, county and federal lands. Although the U.S. Forest Service historically has managed and maintained the FCT, it has become more challenging because of reduced federal funding, increased use and trail-user conflicts.

These challenges have demonstrated the need for shared responsibility among public agencies and for increased collaboration with the trails community. The County Board of Supervisors initiated the task force in response to those challenges.

The task force will meet again at 5:30 p.m. June 4 at the Santa Barbara City Council Chambers at City Hall. The task force is expected to discuss an initial draft MOU between the city, the county and the Forest Service.

The task force conducted nine public meetings from February 2007 to February 2008. After extensive public input, the recommendations addressed administration, community outreach, management and maintenance objectives.

The task force recommendations were formally accepted by the Santa Barbara City Council at a public meeting May 13. In addition, Los Padres National Forest Supervisor Peggy Hernandez also accepted the recommendations in a May 2 letter to the County Board of Supervisors.

The task force also recognized that trail users are vital to the long-term successful management of the front country trails. Trails organizations and volunteers provide a significant portion of the resources for trail maintenance. Since public funding is likely to remain limited, the task force recommendations include developing and maintaining partnerships with the trails community, as well as fostering an umbrella organization to assist with trail management and education programs.

Among the groups that participated in the task force process are the Los Padres Forest Association, the Montecito Trails Foundation, Santa Barbara Mountain Bike Trail Volunteers, the Los Padres Chapter of the Sierra Club, the Santa Barbara County Trails Council, the Santa Barbara County Riding and Hiking Trails Advisory Council, the Multi-Use Trails Coalition and the Mission Canyon Association.

“I am pleased that a process that began with much contention among trail user groups has developed into a real working consensus,” Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors Chairman Salud Carbajal said. “We look forward to an effective partnership between the three levels of government and with our private, nonprofit trails organizations.”

Task Force Vice Chairwoman and County Park Commissioner Suzanne Perkins added that the “recommendations of the task force acknowledge the importance of balancing public safety and access with resource protection and adroit trail management.”

William Boyer is

Santa Barbara County

‘s communications director.