The first zip line ever proposed in Santa Barbara County got the greenlight last week from the Santa Barbara County Planning Commission after commissioners concluded its development would not jeopardize nearby agricultural operations. Property owner Stuart Gildred obtained permission to build five separate zip lines, ranging in length from 420 feet to 2,100 feet on 40 of the 1,186 acres he owns off Highway 246 near Buellton.

The land in question is steep oak savannah, and Gildred would erect 20 large poles on which to hang the wire lines. In peak-use seasons, the facility will be permitted to take no more than 80 customers a day. In addition, Gildred has proposed to build a ropes course — rope ladders and bridges that would enable customers to climb up, around, and among the oaks. The Planning Commission voted 4 to 1 to approve the project; they also voted to give the development what’s known as a mitigated negative declaration on the grounds that existing — and nearby— agricultural operations would not be threatened by the encroachment of commercial recreational uses.

Gildred is proposing to build no new roads or structures; the poles will be installed on areas that have already been disturbed, and the acreage in question is reportedly too steep for anything but marginal cattle grazing. Second District Planning Commissioner Cecilia Brown voted against, arguing the development — reportedly the first of its kind in Santa Barbara — would set a bad precedent and that she was intent on keeping zip lines off the Gaviota Coast.


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