Where is the public going to park to access the trail?
For many years, people have been parking on Riven Rock Road to access Hot Springs Trail. Since the pandemic, the trail has become much more popular, leading to way too many cars being parked on Riven Rock. Understandably, the residents of the road are upset and have been complaining about the serious traffic problem since it began around March 2020.
Finally, with the help of the Montecito Association, a solution was found, and that was to put white lines or stripes on both sides of the road. The residents of Riven Rock Road had to vote on this and get a 75% vote for it to be enacted.
Under the California Vehicle Code, it’s illegal to park over the white lines,
and those who do so can be ticketed.
Unfortunately, the public doesn’t view a country lane the same as a busy highway, like East Valley Road, and cars continue to park over the white lines. The California Highway Patrol is putting warning slips on the cars, and plans on issuing tickets in the near future.
What is wrong and mean-spirited about the process is that public input wasn’t solicited. Plenty of time to do that in the more than year long period of there being a problem. No notices were posted at the trailhead, nor has the matter been on the Board of Supervisors’ agenda.
Trail users need to be heard and be part of the solution. In the future, before trail access is limited somewhere else, a public process is needed. Then everyone can come together, and figure out a win-win solution.
The issues used to justify eliminating parking are fire safety and allowing
room for passage of emergency vehicles, very important.
Montecito Fire Chief Kevin Taylor informed me that the state of California wants 20 feet of clearance for emergency vehicle access between the
I measured the lines and found areas with less than 20 feet
between them on Riven Rock near Mountain Drive — they could have been placed closer to the edge.
Bear in mind that after cars are parked on Riven Rock near Mountain Drive about 15 feet of space remains on the 22 1/2 foot wide road, and that there are narrower roads in Montecito, unstriped, in which parked vehicles stick way out into the road.
It’s also important to note that Riven Rock Road is a horse of a different color where it narrows to about 18 feet wide about a fourth of a mile down.
This allows only about 11 feet of clearance for an eight foot wide fire
engine after cars are parked.
The narrow one-lane temporary bridge over Cold Springs Creek is even more of a problem.
The question is, “Will ticketing ensure fire safety?”
An almost endless number of hikers use this popular trail, to access the hot springs or destinations nearby. The trail is of great benefit for the public’s health.
People are coming from all over. Tourists even come from other countries. Cars will continue to park, and ticketed cars are still an obstacle to emergency vehicles.
A solution is to put up “no parking” signs or paint the curb red. Such
signs are already on the other side of Riven Rock Road. Ticketing
unsuspecting hikers’ cars is mean-spirited.
So where are hikers to park?
The trailhead parking lot on Mountain Drive only holds nine vehicles. The Santa Barbara County Parks Department, under the supervision of Jeff Lindgren, has recently put up signs limiting parking in the lot to only two hours between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, the busiest times. This doesn’t make sense as most hikes take longer than two hours. What about backpackers who have traditionally left their cars in the lot?
There was plenty of room to park on the shoulder of East Mountain Drive until recently, but now residents have put rocks right to the edge of the road with signs posted saying “Private Property.”
According to parcel maps used for tax purposes, there’s 60-foot public right of way for the 26-foot wide Mountain Drive, and a 50-foot right of way for Riven Rock Road.
Are residents illegally appropriating public property? On Riven Rock, one large parking space has even been created next to the parked cars with a plaque set in stone saying “Private Property,” and a sign stating that vehicles parked there will be ticketed or towed.
It appears someone may be misusing public property. Although I visit the area often, I’ve never seen a vehicle in this space. The space would be ideal for the public since it goes in 12 feet from the side of the road, and cars parked in it wouldn’t obstruct emergency vehicles.
I wish this person would offer the space to hikers as an act of kindness.
A solution is for the county to hire a surveyor to determine where the public
right of way is, remove the rocks and then create a reasonable number of parking spaces.
On Mountain Drive, spaces could be created on the shoulder. On Riven Rock Road, several spaces could be made by creating a shoulder and putting down decomposed granite. The amount of parking provided could be based on past usage before the pandemic. Bicycling and carpooling can also be promoted. For example, it’s easy to get to the Hot Springs trailhead by electric bicycle.
Unfortunately, local residents are even trying to keep hikers off Hot Springs Road, a public road. A sign has been attached to the stop sign at the northwest corner of East Mountain Drive and Hot Springs Road, which says “No Hot Springs Trail Access or Parking.”
Although few hikers use the part of the road by this sign to access
the trail, they still have the right to, as it’s not a private road. Some
bicyclists like me use this road for access. Farther up Hot Springs Road where the trail follows the road, signs tell hikers to stay on the trail. I wish the signs would be replaced with ones saying “Welcome to our neighborhood. This is a public road, but hikers, please use the trail.”
It took local artist Matthew O’Hanlon to bring some courtesy to the
neighborhood. He created two signs, one saying “Welcome to Our
Neighborhood, but be Quiet Please, Respect the Neighbors,” and another one politely encouraging hikers to carpool or bicycle to get to the trail.
The author lives in Montecito.