The Montecito Trails Foundation and the Santa Barbara Public Library hosted an event Thursday highlighting restoration updates on the front country trails damaged by last year’s Thomas Fire and subsequent debris flows in Montecito.
The Thomas Fire burned more than 280,000 acres in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties, and caused damage to multiple trails in the area. Additional damage was done by the Jan. 9 debris flows and flooding in Montecito.
Many front country trails were in need of major repair.
Located in the front range of the Santa Ynez Mountains, the trails included at the gathering were Romero Canyon, Buena Vista Canyon, San Ysidro and Hot Springs Canyon, as well as the Cold Spring East and West forks.
“With all of these trails, the best thing we can do to stabilize the work that is done is hike them,” said Ashlee Mayfield, a Montecito Trails Foundation board member.
Volunteers with community organizations, in addition to the Los Padres National Forest and Santa Barbara and county agencies, have been working together to restore the trails since the reopening of public access to most of these trails in May.
Community organizations — such as the Santa Barbara Mountain Bike Trail Volunteers, the Santa Barbara County Trails Council, the Los Padres Forest Association and the Montecito Trails Foundation — and paid trail crews are assisting in restoration efforts and management work of the trail systems.
Multiple trail volunteer workdays have been held throughout the year.
“It’s amazing how much progress has been made,” Mayfield told Noozhawk. “It’s all of us working together to pick up different pieces of the puzzle.”
Thanks to the restoration work done and donations — from The Muller Family (at Cold Spring West Fork) and an anonymous donar (at Cold Spring East Fork) — Cold Spring Trail is open, but different, Mayfield said.
The Cold Spring trailhead access at East Mountain Drive remains closed.
Cold Spring trail access is available from the Gibraltar and Hot Springs trailheads.
This makes Cold Spring a hike from either Gibraltar (West Fork) or Hot Springs (East Fork, or a through hike if traveling a longer distance, according to Mayfield.
The Cold Spring Trailhead is located inside an “exclusion zone,” making loitering or parking prohibited.
The trailhead closure is because of ongoing hillside stabilization and road repairs.
Extensive bridge and hillside repairs are planned for the area, including rock scaling, placement of slope rockfall netting, relocation of a few power poles, and repaving.
“It’s not a place you want to walk through,” Mayfield told about 50 residents. “It’s serious work.”
A temporary bridge is expected to be placed in the area by summer 2019, followed by a permanent bridge installation around 2021, Mayfield said.
Trail work continues nearly a year after the deadly and destructive January debris flows.
“We have done a major restoration project,” said Mayfield, an avid hiker. “The road is blown out. The bridge is gone, so you can’t get through there and it’s not a good place to park. But we have come up with a way to open the trail without using the Mountain Drive trailhead.”
The city of Santa Barbara and Santa Barbara County also are working to complete this project, Mayfield said.
Work to reopen the damaged parts of the Romero Canyon jeepway is financed by the Santa Barbara Mountain Bike Volunteers and the Montecito Trails Foundation.
Repair on parts of the Romero Canyon single-track trail is on the list of spring projects to complete, Mayfield said, noting that there are multiple trails in Romero Canyon.
“Romero is going to get a second life come spring, hopefully,” Mayfield said at the event at Faulkner Gallery. “There’s going to be some paperwork for where the re-route is, but we are ready to take that. It’s a popular trail.”
Buena Vista Canyon was “restored from top to bottom,” Mayfield said, and the trail needed an extravator and hand work in areas.
Work has been done from the waterfall to the trailhead at San Ysidro Canyon, Mayfield said. There has been some restoration work above the waterfall.
“This trail, from trailhead to the waterfall, looks pretty great,” she said.
The Hot Springs Creek trail has brought some “revelations,” Mayfield said, adding that the organization ran into a debris net blocking the trail at one point. The net is expected to be moved, she said.
Repair work is also expected on the Creek Trail.
The Saddle Rock trail was “indestructible,” Mayfield added.
Thursday’s presentation was part of the ongoing Wilderness Hiking Speaker Series hosted by the Santa Barbara Public Library.