Residents of northern Santa Barbara County can help develop a missing 50-mile segment of the California Coastal Trail between Guadalupe and the Gaviota Coast through an online “story map” that offers a visual tour of the proposed route along with a survey of public opinion.
The online story map was created by the Santa Barbara County Trails Council, which is developing the route, as an alternative to a public workshop that was planned for last May but was preempted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Information gathered from previous workshops in May 2019 and January of this year, combined with input from a dozen local organizations and local, state and federal government agencies, was used to develop a proposed “backbone” route and half a dozen “spur trails” to points of interest.
Ultimately, the California Coastal Trail will be developed “within sight and sound of the ocean,” although the existence of Vandenberg Air Force Base currently prevents that vision from being completed.
The website notes “a coastal trail is unlikely to happen along the Air Force base's 35-mile-long coastline this century,” so the currently proposed North County segment is designated a “secondary” or “interim” route to be used until the entire coastline becomes accessible.
But local agencies will likely complete segments of the trail close to the coastline north and south of the base “within our lifetime,” the website says.
The majority of the North County backbone route follows Highway 1, but it diverts from that path for loops through Casmalia, around the edge of Lompoc, through Ken Adam Park and along a short stretch of the Santa Ynez River.
About half a dozen “spur trails” are proposed to 10 points of interest, some to publicly accessible beaches and others to inland locations.
Scrolling down the website takes viewers to each of the key focus areas where the preferred routes for spur trails are located; for example, one that would follow West Main Street to Rancho Guadalupe Dunes Preserve.
The proposed Levee Trail that would provide a dedicated connection between Guadalupe and Santa Maria is another designated spur route.
Guadalupe Mayor Ariston Julian said the City Council and community as a whole are supportive of the trail and see it as a benefit, although he also thinks completing the trail will be a challenge.
“I don’t know how, physically, it can be done — it may have to be kind of rustic in some places,” Julian said, but continued, “Our mission in Guadalupe — one of them — is to bring tourists to Guadalupe. We’re trying to preserve the downtown. … I think [the trail] is a great opportunity for everyone to come down and see what we’re doing.
“You’ll actually be able to walk all the way down to the beach,” he added, noting that planners are working with land owners to extend the Levee Trail along the river from the city to the ocean.
Eventually, he said, people may be able to walk all the way from Guadalupe Beach to Oceano Beach.
“That would be really cool,” Julian said. “We’re looking forward to that — the entire community of Guadalupe is looking forward to that.”
At each key focus area, photographs provide viewers with a look at the surfaces, terrain, views and points of interest hikers and riders would encounter as they traveled along the route, like wind-sculpted dunes, bucolic flatlands and steep hillsides rising above sandy beaches and crashing surf.
At one point, a video provides a two-minute drone flight over the Jalama Beach area.
After scrolling through the tour of the proposed trail, visitors can complete the anonymous survey the website says will take about two minutes to complete.
The survey consists of yes-or-no and multiple-choice questions as well as opportunities for respondents to provide answers in their own words.
However, those who aren’t comfortable with using the online survey can send their comments to the Trails Council via email or regular mail.
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