Saving Santa Barbara’s Trails from Being Loved to Death

Saving Santa Barbara’s Trails
from Being Loved to Death

Restoration Volunteers Turn Out in Force;
Next Event Scheduled for June

By Callie Fausey | April 20, 2023

Credit: Courtesy

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These trails are close to being loved to death,” said parks supervisor Steve Biddle last weekend to a crowd of more than 75 volunteers at Skofield Park. 

Biddle was referencing Santa Barbara’s heavily trafficked front-country trails that were damaged by this year’s strong winter storms, with washouts, rockslides, and downed trees greatly altering their topography.

Parks supervisor Steve Biddle gives a safety briefing to volunteers before they get to work. | Credit: Courtesy

Saturday was the first large-scale volunteer day following the rains, with residents — including UCSB students and staff, families with young children, and general trail-lovers — donning bike helmets and gardening gloves to divide and conquer restoration work on Rattlesnake Canyon, Hot Springs, and Old Pueblo trails. 

“Our geography in this area makes for a beautiful county where you can go from the beach to the top of a mountain in a couple hours,” Biddle said. “It also makes it really challenging for control of trails. So that’s what we’re here to do today … to keep our trails functioning.” 

Equipped with hoes, rakes, pickaxes, hand saws, mcleods, garden loppers, and other tools they had “probably never seen before,” the volunteers tackled the dirty work in groups led by city, county, and U.S. Forest Service staff. Members of the Sage Trail Alliance, Los Padres Forest Association, and Montecito Trails Foundation also lent their experienced hands to the endeavor. 

Much of the work focused on filling in ruts caused by water erosion. “We may be leapfrogging groups,” Biddle explained. “If you finish an area and you’re going to the next one, talk to people as you’re going by, critique their work, and tell them if they missed a spot.”

Credit: Courtesy

Ruby Gans and Davis Campbell said they volunteered together to show their appreciation for the trails they frequently rely on for their favorite outdoor activities. 

Gans used a hoe to widen a narrow section of Rattlesnake trail, then moved the loose dirt and mud to fill in a rut nearby. “This looks like a tripping hazard,” she said, pointing at a problematic root before promptly whacking it with her tool and throwing it off to the side. 

“During the closures, I really missed the trails and came to realize how much I depend on them,” Gans said. “Everyone was talking about how there was so much work that needed to be done on them, and it made me realize that I’ve taken advantage of a lot of people who’ve done great trail work out here before, and I figured I should help.”

Campbell concurred. “I’ve done a lot of mountain biking and hiking without helping out,” he said. “So I feel like it’s kind of a responsibility to jump in and help fix the trails that we recreate on.”

Biddle said parks departments often depend on volunteers to get the work done, since government agencies typically don’t have the budget or staff to do regular maintenance in the same capacity. 

With the amount of people power that turned out for Saturday’s event, Biddle said, they were able to restore and repair approximately 4.5 miles of trail. Their ages ranged from 6 to 80, he said. And as the volunteers toiled away, many passing hikers gave their heartfelt thanks.

The next big restoration event is scheduled for June 10, Biddle said, the locations for which will be announced in early May.


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