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Thursday, February 21 , 2019, 7:26 pm | Partly Cloudy 49º


Bowing to Public Pushback, Santa Barbara Derails Trail Plan for Douglas Family Preserve

The City of Santa Barbara has shelved — at least temporarily — its controversial proposal to create trails and alter public access at the Douglas Family Preserve on the Mesa.

Jill Zachary, acting director of the Parks & Recreation Department, sent a letter to neighborhood residents last week saying the city has dropped the idea of changes at the 70-acre park near the intersection of Cliff Drive and Las Positas Road.

“Given the extensive public discussion about the project, including the requests to address all three entrances (Medcliff Road, Mesa School Lane and Borton Drive), concern about parking impacts and other issues, we have determined the need to complete a more comprehensive assessment of trail access and accessibility requirements for the park,” she wrote.

“As a result, we are putting the proposed trail renovation project on hold.”

Zachary said the city does not have a timeline for restarting the work, due to other high-priority projects.

“We will keep you informed and continue to reach out to residents of the Mesa neighborhood,” she wrote. “As part of any future trail planning effort, there will be a number of opportunities for public engagement.”

The city was looking to develop a universal trail toward the center of the park that would move visitors and their dogs away from the bluffs in an attempt to reduce erosion above Arroyo Burro Beach. Made from decomposed granite and other aggregate materials, the trail would comply with accessibility requirements of the 1990 Americans with Disability Act.

The city also wanted to remove 36,330 square feet of cracked and eroded asphalt and replace it with native soil.

The plan, however, infuriated many longtime Mesa residents whose passion for the property pre-dated the hiring of city planners behind the proposal. Many residents near the preserve donated money and fought for the preservation of the park, blocking the old Wilcox property from becoming a site of luxury hilltop housing.

The Douglas Family Preserve is one of Santa Barbara’s most iconic destinations. It sits high on the Mesa bluffs overlooking the ocean, and is an escape for people looking to walk their dogs, take a stroll on a trail or ride a bicycle. It is also a daily ritual for locals who enjoy watching spectacular sunrises and sunsets.

The site was acquired by the Trust for Public Land in 1996 and then transferred to the city the next year.

The city abruptly proposed the trail plan earlier this year to quality for a state grant from the California Department of Parks and Recreation that would help pay for the $300,000 project.

Zachary said the city has withdrawn its $245,000 grant application, but will look for grant funding opportunities for the project in the future.

The city’s Architectural Board of Review, with the exception of member Amy Fitzgerald-Tripp, also supported the trail change.

Noozhawk staff writer Joshua Molina can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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