The ongoing scrutiny of a legal settlement between the Hollister Ranch Owners’ Association (HROA) and a pair of state agencies to provide daytime public access to Cuarta Beach, located roughly three miles west of Gaviota State Beach, intensified Monday afternoon as a coalition of environmental groups filed to intervene in the case. Calling themselves the Gaviota Coastal Trail Alliance, members of the Gaviota Coast Conservancy, Santa Barbara County Trails Council, Coastwalk/California Coastal Trail Association, and California Coastal Protection Network (CCPN) ultimately seek to “preserve the use of the Hollister Ranch road to provide safe access to the beach” and tap an existing development-fee program to acquire easements to create a walking and biking trail between Gaviota and Jalama.
The legal move represents “one more step toward a very critical look at this settlement,” said CCPN President Susan Jordan. “I’m just amazed that the state approved something that would put the public at such risk.” As agreed upon by HROA and the state agencies — the Coastal Commission and the Coastal Conservancy — the settlement opens Cuarta Beach to the public, but only by soft-bottom boat or personal watercraft. The region’s prevailing waves and wind can frequently make for dangerous conditions, even for experienced and athletic ocean-goers, according to a statement from the alliance. On August 20, Santa Barbara Superior Court Judge Colleen Sterne is expected to rule on the alliance’s application to intervene in the settlement, and a fairness hearing on the settlement is calendared for September 10.