Trek Foundation helps efforts
Over the next 20 years, Elings Park’s nine miles of trails will be improved, expanded and sustained thanks to the financial support of the Trek Foundation.
The local SAGE Trail Alliance will begin work later this month. The alliance has provided trail stewardship for decades.
The stewardship includes trail maintenance and construction.
“Due to mud, people have put in ruts and erosion after rains, and trails have been amended to change grade and help the water run-off. Some trails are user-created, so old trails will be denaturalized and redesigned,” SAGE Executive Director Dillion Osleger told the News-Press.
The donation will also cover the creation of a trail map covering the entire park, which will be made available to the public for free and featured on two new information kiosks.
The new trail map will be made available to the public in a digital format and on several new map kiosks that are being constructed by SAGE with funding from the donation.
“We have experienced an explosion of trail use due to the COVID-19 quarantine and the growth in the popularity of mountain biking. This generous funding will take our trails from ‘good’ to ‘outstanding’ and also benefits the park’s many walkers and hikers who share the trails with cyclists,” said Dean Noble, Elings Park’s executive director.
The Trek Foundation was founded in July 2021 by Trek Bicycle, a global leader in the manufacture and design of bicycles and bicycle-related products.
Trek Bicycle was founded by John and Tania Burke. Mr. Burke is the CEO of Trek Bicycle, and Ms. Burke is the CEO of Trek Travel.
“One of the requirements for the grant is actively pursuing more youth mountain biking, which will be in partnership with NICA (National Interscholastic Cycling Association),” Mr. Noble said.
Elings Park is one of four initial projects funded by the Trek Foundation. The project met funding criteria designed to ensure a meaningful, long-lasting contribution to the community, its riders and the planet.
“Our world needs more people on bikes and people need great places to ride those bikes. This investment in Elings Park will help get more people on their bikes and outside in the awesome ecosystems of the Central Coast,” said Bob Burns, Trek Bicycle vice president of advocacy.
In addition to maintaining the existing trails, SAGE will also develop new trails and provide ecological restoration of key areas.
SAGE is partnering with White Buffalo Land Trust to remove the park’s invasive, non-native plants and replant with raised-bed, native gardens.
The two main key areas being ecologically restored are on the south side of the park, the first being near Las Positas Road and the second being near Cliff Drive, Mr. Osleger told the News-Press. The south side of the park is where the trails are. All the area high schools use the park for their track and field meets.
Elings is the largest park in Santa Barbara and is heavily used by people from diverse neighborhoods.
“There is value and equity in nature access. I want to provide as much access and education as possible for people to come out and experience nature closer to their homes,” said Mr. Osleger.
The project of restoring and maintaining Elings Park, using funding from the Trek Foundation donation, is based on research that has been done by Mr. Osleger.
Trek Bicycle has been funding Mr. Osleger’s research for the past five years, through the donations of the owners, to SAGE.
That support is continuing through Trek Foundation, which was formed in July 2021 as a DBA (“doing business as”).
According to Mr. Osleger’s research, the land that the park now sits on was historically a city dump, then a sheep farm. So the land has been previously inhabited by horses and lots of sheep.
“For over 20 years, SAGE has worked with Elings to provide free trail access in town, now we look to the next 20. We are ecstatic to begin a new phase with our longtime partner the Trek Foundation to improve the experience and landscape for all users, and to help make Elings Park the epicenter of outdoor activity in Santa Barbara,” said Mr. Osleger.
Added Mr. Noble, “I hope we have built some really healthy habits and once people get a taste of hiking, biking etc., they may not renew their gym memberships.”
Mr. Noble said the dollar amount of Trek Foundation’s donation for Elings Park isn’t being released at this time, but they are looking at a multi-year partnership.
“Trek is also allowing us to offer sponsorships. It’s a super investment in trails, the future of the park and the youth,” Mr. Noble said.
Many mountain bike trails are steep and difficult to access, but the trails at Elings Park are perfect for families and children, according to local mountain bikers.
“Many trails were not made with the ecological science we have now,” Mr. Noble told the News-Press. “Many trails will be refurbished, and some may even be decommissioned if necessary. We want to be sensitive to plant and animal life, as well as the natural flow of water.”
Some unique attractions in the park include nationally recognized sculptures in south bluff, goats, sheep, lamas and two paragliding schools: Eagle Paragliding and Fly Above All Paragliding.
Elings Park is the home of the oldest continuously operated paragliding training hill in North America.
“Most people are not aware that Elings Park is more than twice the size of Disneyland. Disneyland is now 100-acres with the addition of the new Star Wars exhibit (Galaxy’s Edge),” Mr. Noble said. “Elings Park is 238 acres, approximately 120 of which are trails, smack dab in the middle of the Santa Barbara Mesa.”