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Santa Barbara Officials Plan To Overhaul Trails At Douglas Family Preserve

City wants to remove asphalt, get rid of user-created trails and restore native habitats at popular open space park

Laurence Hauben walks her poodle, Lily, at the Douglas Family Preserve on Tuesday. Santa Barbara wants to restore trails, add signage and remove some of the asphalt at the park.
Laurence Hauben walks her poodle, Lily, at the Douglas Family Preserve on Tuesday. Santa Barbara wants to restore trails, add signage and remove some of the asphalt at the park.  (Joshua Molina / Noozhawk photo)

Santa Barbara is looking to restore 1.7 miles of trails at the Douglas Family Preserve, and create a "universal access route" as part of a extensive rehabilitation effort to bring the park up to modern-day standards.

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

In addition, officials want to "decommission user-created trails" to improve safety and access, restore native habitats and reduce trail erosion.

Officials also want to install signs that explain the new layout.

"The trails have been compacted and eroded over the years," said Jill Zachary, acting Parks & Recreation Department director. "We have wanted to pursue improvements for many years but have not had the funds."

The city is applying for a grant from the California Department of Parks and Recreation through the Recreational Trails Program to pay for the $300,000 project.

The Parks & Recreation Commission will vote on the project, and whether to submit a grant application, at Wednesday's 4 p.m. meeting at City Hall. 

The Douglas Family Preserve is one of Santa Barbara's most iconic local hangouts. The preserve sits high on the Mesa neighborhood 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.

Commonly known by locals as the Wilcox Property, the 70-acre Douglas Family Preserve was acquired by the Trust for Public Lands in 1996 and then transferred to the city of Santa Barbara in 1997.

Although the city is looking to formalize the trails at the preserve, the wild and meandering feel of the site is part of its unique appeal. Fallen trees rest on the ground, creating hideouts for critters.

Swaths of unmanicured vegetation and grasses give the site its rural feel. The preserve is also a daily ritual for Santa Barbara residents who enjoy the sunrise, sunset and conversation with their neighbors.

Preserve users have mixed feelings about the the possible changes.

"I like that it's more natural, but it would be nice if they removed some of the asphalt and put back dirt," said Roni Shen, who was walking her cocker spaniel, Jack, on Tuesday. 

Shen said its fun to let her dog off the leash and explore.

"I do hope they keep it as wild as they can," she said.

Longtime Santa Barbara resident Laurence Hauben said she wants the city to leave the preserve alone.

"It's plenty trail friendly as it is," Hauben said. "The fact that it is relatively unimproved is part of its charm."

She said there's no need for a universal loop or more signage.

"It's self-explanatory," she said. "If you can't find the trail, you've got bigger problems."

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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