Hiking lovers in Carpinteria are nearing a critical peak in their efforts to re-open the Franklin Trail, a historic route from the coastal lowlands over the mountains and onto the wilds of the Los Padres National Forest that was shut down by private landowners in the 1970s.
After raising $200,000 from major donors over the past year, the Friends of the Franklin Trail need to raise another $100,000 by December 16 in order to accept a $100,000 matching grant offered by the La Centra-Summerlin Foundation. Add to that $50,000 that’s likely to come from the County of Santa Barbara, and the expected $450,000 pricetag to get the trail operational by next summer will be met.
“The community is really shown tremendous support for this project, especially the guys that are in their 40s and 50s, because 30 years ago they hiked up that trail and then were cut off,” said Bud Girard, whose leadership and engineering efforts on the Franklin were one of the reasons he was named a Local Hero by this paper last year. “Those folks really want that trail back.”
To do so, the group is hosting a creative fundraiser this Saturday, October 15, 1-3 p.m., in the faculty parking lot at Carpinteria High School. For a donation of $17 — which is what one foot of the trail is expected to cost — supporters get the organization’s new decal and a chance to paint-by-numbers on an eight-inch panel within a John Iwerks-designed mural of the Franklin Trail. The four-by-six-foot painting will become part of the permanent kiosk at the trailhead. “You don’t need any artistic talent,” said Jane Murray, one of the organizers. She also said that the event will have a mini-version of the trail as well as natural history displays and another nature art project for kids, explaining, “It’s a folksy sort of thing.”
Murray and Girard both explained that there is plenty left to do, from getting the proper permits to installing fencing, but they’re hopeful. “If all goes well, then next summer we are hoping to be open,” said Murray, but she quickly emphasized, “Remember, none of it is open until the whole trail is complete.”
The big question is whether Carpinteria can remain patient, as this will certainly be a popular multi-use trail and one of the first new frontcountry trails in decades. That excitement was evident last weekend at the Avo Fest, where the Friends of Franklin Trail had a booth. “It was overwhelming to see all the support for the project,” said Murray. “It’s really gratifying to be working on it.”
The Friends of the Franklin Trail’s “Foot by Foot” event is on Saturday, October 15, 1-3 p.m., in the faculty parking lot at Carpinteria High School. See franklintrail.org.