Parking Removed for Hot Springs Trail

How to Remedy the Situation

Credit: courtesy

For decades, hikers going on the Hot Springs Trail have been parking on upper Riven Rock Road close to East Mountain Drive. But that parking is being eliminated without so much as a public hearing. Hikers were not solicited for their input and were left out of the process entirely.

Residents of Riven Rock Road have been complaining about the many cars on their road since March 2020. After the pandemic began, the trail gained in popularity, many hikers going to the popular hot springs. In the past, most of the cars parked on upper Riven Rock near Mountain Drive. Now, there’s a long row of cars on Riven Rock going quite a ways down. A fourth of a mile down the 22 1/2 foot wide road narrows to about 18 feet, which is a problem in the event of an emergency with so many cars parked, and cars pulling in and out.

With the help of the Montecito Association, residents of Riven Rock Road voted to put white lines or stripes on both sides of the road. It took a 75 percent majority for this to go through. Under the California Vehicle Code cars that are parked over the white lines can be ticketed.

Riven Rock Road crowded with hikers’ vehicles.

The justification for doing this is fire safety and allowing enough room for emergency vehicles to get through, very important. When cars are parked on upper Riven Rock Road near Mountain Drive about 15 feet of clearance is left for emergency vehicles. A fourth of a mile down the road there is 11 feet of clearance with cars parked on it, which is unacceptable. A fire engine is about 8 feet wide.

On April 1, 2021, the stripes were painted on both sides of Riven Rock Road. That didn’t scare the public away. Hikers are still parking on the road, this time over the lines. People know not to park over the lines on a busy highway but don’t suspect there is a problem on a quiet country lane.

Is ticketing hikers’ cars going to make the road fire safe? People are coming from all over to use this popular trail; tourists are even coming from other countries. The trail is of great benefit for public health. A seemingly endless amount of hikers are coming. Cars will continue to park despite ticketing. Cars with tickets on them still pose a problem for emergency vehicles.

A more effective solution is to put up signs prohibiting parking or paint the curb red. Such signs are already on the other side of Riven Rock. It’s mean spirited to put tickets on unsuspecting hikers’ cars.

So where are hikers to park? The trailhead parking lot has only enough room for nine cars, and on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays parking is limited to two hours. This doesn’t make sense as most hikes take over two hours.

On Mountain Drive, residents have blocked off the shoulder where hikers have traditionally parked with rocks and signs saying “Private Property.” Residents of Ashley Road and Hot Springs Road to the north of Mountain Drive have done the same.

Assessor maps used for tax purposes indicate the public right of way for Mountain Drive is 60 feet. Are residents illegally appropriating public property?

A solution is for the county to hire a surveyor to determine exactly where the right of way is and clamp down on property owners who are illegally taking away the shoulder. Some parking spaces could be had on Riven Rock by creating a new shoulder to get cars away from the road. There already is one large parking space a resident created which extends 12 feet off the road. A sign by it says “Private Property.” The space may be on the public right of way — a surveyor can determine if that’s so. I have never seen cars in it. If private property, wouldn’t it be generous if the property owner would donate the space for the hikers? Or the county could lease or buy the small piece of land for public use. Room exists for several parking spaces if they are perpendicular to the road.

Enough parking is needed in the area to accommodate a reasonable amount of cars — that could be equivalent to the pre-pandemic level. It’s not fair for the neighborhood to be overrun with too much traffic and parked vehicles.

A sign could be placed by the trailhead encouraging hikers to carpool or use bicycles. For example, it’s easy to get to the trailhead with an electric bicycle.

It’s sad that neighbors in the area are being so unneighborly towards the hikers. On the northwest corner of Hot Springs Road and Mountain Drive a sign has been attached to the stop sign which says “No Hot Springs Trail Access or Parking.”  Hot Springs Road happens to be a public road and hikers have every right to use it, although few use the lower part of the road. I use it since I’m riding my bicycle up the road to the trail.  I wish the sign were replaced with another saying “Welcome to our neighborhood.  This is a public road, but hikers, please use the trail.”


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