A Santa Barbara County committee with the unwieldy acronym of CRAHTAC will meet on Tuesday afternoon to discuss the fate of the McMenemy Trail and also the bike, foot, and horse paths along Modoc Road. While Modoc Road has become a rallying point in Hope Ranch over the potential elimination of trees to create the pathways, moving the McMenemy Trail is a quieter controversy in the hills above Montecito, a fact that disturbs Dave Everett. It should be noted that CRAHTAC has only an advisory capacity and doesn’t make policy.
Recognized by the City of Santa Barbara in 2011 for his leadership among the many volunteers who put in hot sweaty hours maintaining miles of front country trails, Everett has been asking CRAHTAC — the County Riding and Hiking Trails Advisory Committee — and Montecito Trails Foundation to be more public about the plans to move the eastern part of McMenemy Trail. The new route would head over the brow of the hill, down the back slope, and then up along a scarp. Everett said the new route would be “far less scenic than the current trail route, on steeper hillsides which will make it much more challenging to maintain, and greatly prone to erosion.”
Everett’s been working on a book about Santa Barbara’s trails when he isn’t otherwise working as a physical therapist or on a trail, and he said the original path was called the Old Pueblo Trail and has existed for more than 100 years, connecting Romero Canyon with Hot Springs Road. In 1965, Logan and Elizabeth McMenemy granted an easement to the county across their property for the trail, and it was used as a firebreak between Los Padres National Forest and Montecito homes. An easement for the trail also runs across part of San Ysidro Ranch.
Though Everett and the Montecito Trails Foundation disagree on the amount of public notice currently necessary, they’ve otherwise had a good working relationship, especially after the 2018 debris flow and the extensive trail repairs that followed.
Ashlee Mayfield, who heads Montecito Trails Foundation, said they were still verifying the easements, which they were so far finding to be in conflict. The existing trail had switchbacks through a steep, bare area atop the ridge, but people also blazed an unauthorized path straight down the middle, which Mayfield said raised concerns for erosion. That was one reason for moving the trail farther back into the foothills, she said.
The minutes from August’s CRAHTAC meeting state the realignment project has been in the works since 2008 and that building could start in about a year. Guided hikes and a time for public comment would occur once the new route had been approved, which would first require clarifying the county easements and an environmental review.
To attend the meeting on Tuesday, September 6, which is a Zoom meeting at 3 p.m., click this link: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/84966614504?pwd=QVRnUW1wWmhEOHQxV0U5UjYrQUNoZz09. The passcode is 316382. Meeting agenda and materials can be found here. Written public comments can be emailed to: firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.
Clarification: This story was updated to note that CRAHTAC has only an advisory capacity.