The scenic Montecito Valley Ranch welcomed guests and supporters of the Montecito Trails Foundation to a day of riding and hiking, followed by a barbecue fundraiser and silent auction celebrating the organization’s 52nd year.
An early morning gathering brought together participants to enjoy the trails with riding on horses or bike, and trail hiking on trails maintained by MTF since 1964.
“This is our annual fundraiser, and the purpose of today is just to make people more aware that the Montecito Trails Foundation takes care of these trails,” Montecito Trails Foundation president Bobbi King said. “We often run into people on the trails who think that the Forest Service is responsible for overseeing the trails, but it’s actually us that does it.”
The MTF nonprofit group with a growing base of 1,200 members and contributing volunteers originally came together over concerns about how rebuilding within Montecito would affect community access to recreational trails and the scenic beauty.
An authentic barbecue meal courtesy of Los Padres Outfitters satisfied the hungry trail riders and those ready for lunch on the sunny day.
“All the proceeds from this event are going to trail maintenance that is provided by our incredible group of volunteers and the trail maintenance crew that we have on staff,” King said.
In 1968, MTF created a trail map that since has been updated six times, now including trail length, elevation and notices on difficulty for novice and expert use. These detailed and comprehensive maps are available only to members, but the efforts of the team benefit the whole community.
Trails that MTF maintains include 25 trails across Montecito, Carpinteria and Summerland.
King explained that the upkeep of the scenic trails is provided year-round.
“We oversee and tend to the lowland trails in Summerland and Montecito, and the front country trails from Hot Springs to Cold Springs and more,” she said.
King, who is also the head of trail maintenance, collaborates with trail stewards who walk, jog, bike or horseback the trails daily. This stewardship provides MTF with notifications when a tree is down or other obstacles are blocking a specific trail, such as flooding or a wasp nest.
This network provides safety and enjoyment to access the areas for exercise and involvement in nature.
MTF also partners with the County of Santa Barbara, which owns the Eastman trails located on the lowlands.
“We work together to keep the Eastman open to the public, which is a huge responsibility, and a lot of people don’t know that,” King said.
Communication between the county and homeowners with outreach letter-writing campaigns advocating to keep trails accessible to the public has successfully reopened trails throughout Ennisbrook and the San Ysidro area.
King stressed that it takes funds to keep the trails maintained and open to the public.
“We ask nature lovers in our community to donate to the Montecito Trails Foundation to keep the trails safe and fun for everyone,” she said.
MTF also partners with other groups, such as the local Boy Scout Sign Project for Eagle Scout Awards, where with the help of MTF’s pack mules and volunteers the troop added new trailhead signs to Montecito trails.
Event honoree Hal Coffin, with his wife, Mary, beside him, spoke with Noozhawk about his association with the organization.
“Mary and I have hosted this event for seven years now, and as horse owners we enjoy the riding trails immensely,” Coffin said. “We believe in the organization and its efforts to keep our trails maintained.
“It’s very important to acknowledge and support what they do on the daily basis, because the county and the parks department, like all government agencies today, are short of funds.”
The efforts of MTF and its vigilant group of supporters and volunteers continue to provide trail upkeep that benefits the whole community.
“Without the Montecito Trails Foundation, our trails would be a mess out here. We wouldn’t have any trails over time if it wasn’t for them,” Coffin said. “And the people who donate and write checks, even if we can’t work on the trails, we do our best to contribute what we can.”
— Noozhawk iSociety columnist Melissa Walker can be reached at email@example.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkSociety, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Become a fan of Noozhawk on Facebook.