Association backs alternative alignment for Modoc Multi-Use Path
The Community Association for the Modoc Preserve has proposed its “Greenbelt Alignment” to save more trees from the Modoc Multi-Use Path project.
The debate over the proposed number of trees that Santa Barbara County plans to remove for the path, which users would include bicyclists, has been ongoing since July.
And the debate led residents, acting together as CAMP, to collect signatures on a petition to save the trees along Modoc Road, which is in an unincorporated area outside Santa Barbara.
The petition now has more than 4,300 signatures.
In addition to the debate over the number of trees, residents contend that the county right of way violates the Deed of Conservation Easement of 1999, which the La Cumbre Water Co. made in favor of the Land Trust for Santa Barbara County.
The county has drafted a new Mitigated Negative Declaration, which was released in September. The updated MND, among other things, has scaled back the number of trees that would be removed for the construction of the path
The Community Association for the Modoc Preserve objects to both Alignments A and B, two different proposals for the Modoc Multi-Use Path that are outlined in the revised MND.
The CAMP has proposed its “Greenbelt Alignment” as an alternative to alignments A and B.
“It keeps the greenbelt along Modoc Road completely intact,” Warren Thomas, co-founder of CAMP, told the News-Press.
Mr. Thomas said preserving the greenbelt, which has canopy and provides shade, is a “smart and responsible decision considering the extreme drought and climate change.”
He said the county has already placed the western half of the Multi-Use Path up on Modoc Road out of Modoc Preserve, which resulted in saving 34 of the trees that were threatened by the first version of the MND. “The Greenbelt Alignment is simply finishing the eastern half also up on Modoc Road, north of the tree line, and out of the Modoc Preserve.”
But Chris Sneddon of the Santa Barbara County Public Works Department said the east end is different.
“We have done engineering preliminary plans,” Mr. Sneddon told the News-Press. “The trees on the west end are set back further from the road on the west end. On the east end, the road is narrower and the trees are closer to the road, which is why the trees have to be removed on the east end.”
But Mr. Thomas told the News-Press that CAMP’s proposed Greenbelt Alignment is feasible and would be much safer for horses, equestrians and pedestrians.
According to Mr. Thomas, the easement allowed uses that include: open space, equestrian, pedestrian, education and, water company uses.
“Not bikes. and, certainly not electrically motorized e-bike vehicles traveling at 25 mph that would easily startle and spook horses and pedestrians, as well as other cyclists,” he said. “Even novice to moderately skilled e-bike riders travel as fast as the most in-shape cyclists on the planet.”
On Aug. 17, the Santa Barbara Land Trust sent a letter to the La Cumbre Water Co. and the County Public Works Department. The letter is signed by Meredith Hendricks, the executive director of the land trust.
“La Cumbre Mutual Water Co., as landowner under the Conservation, has the duty to comply with its terms, and it may not allow others, including the county, to engage in any use or activity that violates the terms, restrictions, or conditions of the Conservation Easement…” Ms. Hendricks wrote in the letter. “Plans and other documents related to this Project appear to have been developed without due consideration for the provisions of the Conservation Easement or the terms in it that empower and obligate the Land Trust to ensure perpetual conservation. To date, the Land Trust has not been provided with notice or information adequate to determine whether the Project is consistent with the terms of the Conservation Easement.
“The Land Trust desires to work with the landowner and the county to see if the project can be accommodated under the conservation easement, and what it will take for the project to be successful. Although the Land Trust must and will enforce the conservation easement, in court if necessary, we believe a collaborative solution would be in the best interest of the landowner, the land trust and the community,” according to the emailed letter.
Doug Campbell, chair of the Modoc Preserve Committee; Alison Petro of the Land Trust for Santa Barbara County; Rachel Van Mullem, legal counsel for the county; and Eileen Chauvet of Conservation Partners were cc’d on the email as well.
Additionally, the CAMP is asserting that the county is falsely representing the number of trees that will be affected in the revised MND. According to Table 8 on page 41 of the MND, Alignment A would impact a total of 48 trees and would impact none of the native coast live oak trees.
Alignment B would impact 21 trees, and only three of those trees would be coast live oak trees.
The CAMP is asserting that photographic evidence points to at least six coast live oak trees that would be impacted.
“When the existence of the stand of oak trees and these other errors were brought to the attention of the senior environmental planner with the County of Santa Barbara, he admitted that the County was aware of this error and subsequently provided a revised tree impact summary noting that 6 Native Coastal Live Oaks may be removed under the proposed project,” according to an online article by CAMP.
The CAMP references a chart indicating six trees would be impacted. The article said that CAMP members received the chart in an email from Morgan Jones of the County Public Works department.
The News-Press asked Mr. Jones to verify the origin of the chart.
“To the best of my knowledge, I have never directly sent an email to Shelly Cobb or CAMP,” Mr. Jones told the News-Press in an email.
He told the News-Press that the chart is from an early draft that was sent (not sent to CAMP) to show the reduction in tree impacts from the initial plans, which began in May.
“Engineering has made significant changes to the earlier plans that would avoid removing many of the trees in question,” said Mr. Jones.
What is different about this chart is that there is no differentiation between alignments A and B concerning the impact on the trees.
“The project has evolved over the last few months as stakeholders have emphasized minimizing tree removal, and the county has scaled back the number of trees to be impacted,” Mr. Sneddon told the News-Press.
Mr Sneddon and Mr. Jones both emphasized that the current numbers for tree removal are reflected accurately in the revised version of the MND.