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LATE Notice: CRAHTAC is Monday May 8th at 3:00 PM via Zoom

I apologize this notice for the May CRAHTAC Meeting is very late. No time for letters this month, please attend the Meeting tomorrow if you can. You never know if the Live Oak Trail will come up for discussion!


CRAHTAC

Meeting Date: Monday May 9, 2022

Time: 3:00 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.

Location: Zoom only, no in person meeting


To Register, Please go to:https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_0SE9CFCiQ1Owqm3tL310Ag

Passcode: 560308

The Meeting Agenda is:


AGENDA I. Call to order

II. Roll call of Committee Members

III. Approval of minutes from 4/11/22

IV. Updates

a. CRAHTAC Chair

b. New Member - Jason Osborne, District 3

c. County Public Works – Chris Sneddon

V. Public comment period on non-agenda items (limited to 3 minutes/presenter)

VI. Correspondence

a. Kathy Rosenthal email

VII. New business (information only, no motion for action)

a. Meadows South trails update – Jackson Chavez, Project Manager Coastal Community Builders

VIII. Action Items

a. Mode of June Meeting (Hybrid or Zoom Only)

IX. Announcements COMMITTEE PRIORITY ACTION ITEMS None

OPTIONAL ACTION ITEMS

258. Coastal Trail/Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail (opened 1/9/84)

280. Live Oak Equestrian Trail (opened 11/9/87)

305. Guadalupe Beach/Nipomo Dune (rev. 11/11/96)

319. Orcutt Trails (revised 9/9/13)

323. Arroyo Burro/San Antonio/Jesusita Trails (opened 9/9/96, rev. 3/11/02)

326. Franklin Trail (opened 11/10/97)

329. Slippery Rock/Fremont Trail (opened 5/11/98)

333. Baron Ranch Trail (opened 5/10/99)

336. Ocean Beach/Surf Station Beach Access (opened 9/11/00)

350. More Mesa – Trails (opened 7/9/12)

353. 8501 Hollister – Coastal Trail (opened 1/11/16)

354. Front Country Trails (opened 11/9/15)

355. Bill Wallace Trail (opened 9/12/16)

356. Santa Ynez Valley Trails – Sunnyfield Spur Trail (opened 9/11/17)

357. Thomas Fire/Jan. 18 Mudflow Trails (opened 3/12/18)

358. Jack and Laura Dangermond Preserve (opened 1/14/19)

359. Santa Maria Levee Trail (opened 1/14/19)


I did have time to send the attached comment letter on the illegal trail that was cut at Live Oak following the Lucidity Festival (when the trail was closed to equestrians) and pointed out that the Parks Division simply does not have enough funding to manage the Live Oak Trail and the North shore of Cachuma Lake properly without additional funding and staffing. Until they have a secure revenue stream, or call upon volunteers from the Santa Ynez Valley Riders or other equestrian group to help out, no new trails should be opened.


Second, there is new case law that would indicate that proper public noticing and CEQA review is required BEFORE any change in trail use can be done. This is a huge decision and will hopefully help our cause with the Live Oak Trail


Our letter is below:


May 2, 2022


RE: May Update Live Oak Trail and Recent Notable Trail Management Decisions


Dear CRAHTAC Committee Members:


Our report this month report contains two items:


Item 1. There has been illegal trespass and trail construction at the Live Oak Trail following the Lucidity Festival at Live Oak Camp on April 8th-10th 2022. Coincidentally, the Festival’s theme this year was Re-generation Earth. The trail was discovered by equestrians the weekend of April 24, 2022. Photos of the illegal trail are attached.


This incident reveals that what equestrian have been concerned about all along with opening Live Oak Trail without proper staffing and resources to manage the human intrusion into this rural and wild habitat. In is in direct violation of the County’s own Land Use Plan under AQUATIC FRESHWATER COMMUNITIES. The Conservation Plan in relation to the eastern end of Cachuma Lake reads:


“96. Lake Cachuma (1-2-3, 1-1-1)

Location: In the eastern end of the Santa Ynez Valley, approximately 15 miles northwest of Santa Barbara.


Biological comments: Cachuma Lake, the largest inland body of water in the County, attracts numerous migratory birds and acts as home for a wide variety of plants and animals. A rookery of Great Blue Herons can be found in the dead Valley Oak (Quercus lobata) at the eastern end of the lake. It also is possible to observe such uncommon predatory birds as Sharp-shinned Hawks, Cooper’s Hawks, Red-shouldered Hawks, Ospreys, and the endangered Southern Bald Eagle at this same section of the lake.

Recommendations: The eastern end of the lake, at present undisturbed, should continue to receive total protection. Traffic into this portion of the lake would reduce the attractiveness of this habitat to the large birds of prey which now frequent the area. It also would be desirable to maintain the Park Department’s present policy of preventing use of the northern shore.” (page 146)


CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

“Aquatic Habitats

The eastern end of Lake Cachuma should remain undisturbed to protect the bird habitat, and the lake’s north shore also should remain closed to the public.” (Page 157)”


Our concerns with the Santa Ynez River (River) crossing just past the Live Oak Trail entrance was cited in our letter of January 21, 2021 to George Chapjian, Director, Community Services Department and remains a major concern with new, pedestrian and potential bicycle users. Now that concern and environmental degradation has come to pass. Equestrians have forded the Santa Ynez River for years and the San Marcos Rancho used this historical trail for decades before that without incident. Equestrians are the grandfathered use at the Live Oak Trail.


The Live Oak Trail River crossing is now subject to the same issues (trash, human waste, safety, and conflict) as the popular Red Rock swimming area upstream, on the Los Padres National Forest. These issues will translate into degradation of water quality, riparian vegetation, and aquatic habitat at the River crossing. This illegal activity was not addressed under the Live Oak Trail “Pilot Project” and is inconsistent with the water quality policies of the Conservation Element of the Land Use Plan. In no other instance has the language been so precise, intended to protect aquatic habitats, and consequently, water quality, been so strongly targeted to a specific area.


The Community Services Department, Parks Division must manage the Live Oak Trail consistently with the County’s own Land Use Plan with the introduction of hikers (as of April 15, 2021). Clearly, the findings cannot be made as demonstrated by this act of vandalism.

To their credit, the Parks staff have been very responsive and provided signs and directional indicators to deter illegal trail use. They are doing their best with what they have. The Santa Ynez Valley Riders are also prepared to fund and to arrange for restoration of this illegal trail before it becomes well used. However, equestrians believe that more investigation is warranted, and if indeed the illegal trail activity resulted from the Lucidity Festival, that the organizers be changed for the work and fined to the extent possible. In the future, event organizers should be required to have a security guard in the Trailhead parking area during the event and be responsible for trail trespass and damage. We can begin to establish a process here that will become routine for event security and trail protection and maintenance work going forward. The point arising from this situation demonstrates that if the Parks Division staff don’t know what is going on at Live Oak (and this is just one more in a string of events that have recently occurred apparently without the staff’s knowledge, coordination or communication) then it is time to identify and organize all users on the north shore to ensure proper management. Currently, this would be the Parks Division, The Fire Department, the Grazing Permittee, and local interest groups that regularly use the trail, including the Santa Ynez Valley Riders. The Cachuma staff are stretched too thin at this time to allow more intensive use on the north shore and in particular at the Live Oak Trail. Proper management simply is not possible. In light of this egregious violation of the County’s Land Use Plan and that there is a glaring lack of staff and resources to monitor trespass and illegal entry to the most valuable wildlife habitat on County Park lands, going forward, the Trail Policy for the Rec Master Plan should include two requirements –


1. To establish a sales or bed tax to fund trail management (these two taxes specifically because everyone pays sales tax or tourists, those that use and abuse our trails the most, pay as they visit) and

2. To establish an Adopt-a-Trail Program to partner with organizations with historical ties or interest in maintaining a certain trail such as Live Oak. Perhaps once the Trail Policy with these items is approved, then a more organized and cohesive management plan for the north shore can be developed.


We are asking CRAHTAC to make these recommendations to the Board of Supervisors.


Item 2: A recent court decision in the case of Community Venture Partners, Inc., v. The Marin County Open Space District (CVP v MCSOD) ruled in favor of CVP on all its major arguments - in particular, the ruling prohibited the County from opening the Bob Middagh Trail in Marin County (a hiker and equestrian trail) to any form of biking.


The write up for this ruling is a cautionary tale for those dabbling in trail planning and management. Not everything you hear from special interest groups is true, nor politicians for that matter, and that it would behoove recreation managers not to rely on one group of recreationists to drive their management plans and decisions.


A quick summary of the judge’s comments are as follows:

· “The decision of the District approving the Middagh Trail Improvement Project (allowing biking) must be set aside;

· “The court agrees with Petitioner that the District violated CEQA by not conducting the required Initial Study before approving the project. Where a project is subject to CEQA (e.g., not exempt), the lead agency cannot commit to carrying it out or approving the project before determining whether the project may have significant environmental effects;

· The court finds the District's failure to score these proposals did not conform to its own mandatory evaluation methodology and constitutes an abuse of discretion.”


You may read the full decision here:

http://www.motherlodetrails.org/alerts/cvp-prevails-in-court-of-appeal-county-violated-its-roads-and-trails-management-plan-in-allowing-bikes-on-bob-middagh-trail?fbclid=IwAR3ufaKP8OphXXrANi_oDIpDJ849aLcZY9K0bOFJS3cFioPQ6VnzsXQhh8k


More telling were the judge’s comments that:

  • The existence of the 2014 Road and Trails Management Plan’s (“RTMP”) “Program” Environmental Impact Report did not absolve MCOSD (the responsible recreation management agency) from doing a “Project” EIR for the work considered; and

  • The County’s decision, regarding biking on the Bob Middagh, violated the Guidelines and requirements of the County’s 2014 Road and Trails Management Plan (“RTMP”).

Note that Santa Barbara County does not currently have an “official” Road and Trails Management Plan (“RTMP”), but a community-based, non-politically appointed, stakeholder’s group should be formed to develop such a plan for our County and made a requirement in the Trails Policy for the upcoming County-wide Recreation Master Plan. Trail Management Plan development and review has been all over the map for the County (look at the Baron Trail Master Plan process vs. that for the Live Oak Trail). It’s time we have a consistent process.


We are asking CRAHTAC to make this recommendation to the Board of Supervisors.


Thank you for the opportunity to comment.


Sincerely,


Kathy Rosenthal 2022 President Santa Ynez Valley Riders

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