The soaring community voiced concerns during a meeting of the Community Development Department of the city of Carpinteria Tuesday afternoon.
The virtual meeting was held to hear comments from residents and business owners before the city prepares an Environmental Impact Report for the Carpinteria Rincon multi-use trail.
The proposed trail is 2,800 feet long and 16 feet wide and connects Rincon Beach County Park to the eastern side of Carpinteria Avenue.
It links segments in a network called the California Coastal Trail. The CCT is around 60% complete, according to the Coastal Conservancy of the State of California.
Currently, pedestrians and bicyclists must travel alongside Highway 101 to continue on the CCT. But many are illegally using the railway corridor.
During the city of Carpinteria Planning Commission’s Jan. 6 meeting, the commission voted 4-1 in favor of approving a Mitigated Negative Declaration — a move to try to exempt the project from an EIR.
The soaring commission expressed opposition during that meeting and again during Tuesday’s meeting, arguing that wind patterns should be included in a report.
“This current plan ruins the opportunity for flying hang gliders and paragliders at that location. And I would suggest that you actually forego the project entirely on that side of the bluff and consider a north-side alternative,” John Greynald, public relations officer for the Santa Barbara Soaring Association, said in a public comment.
The plan involves degrading the bluff to create an ADA-friendly path with a gentle slope.
Prior to the public comment portion, principal planner Nick Bobroff gave a disclaimer: “This isn’t the appropriate opportunity to be weighing the merits or drawbacks of the proposed project. This is instead really an opportunity for you to provide some early input on what we should be looking at as we start to prepare the Environmental Impact Report.”
A dozen or so commenters were paragliders or hang gliders. They suggested the EIR look at the effect on wind around the bluff.
“I know that we might seem like a fringe type of recreational community in hang gliding and paragliding. And while that’s true for most of the areas in the U.S., it’s really a bit of an exception here in the Santa Barbara area. And this is a big, big, avid passionate community,” Derek Musashe, vice president of paragliding for SBSA, said.
And the Bluff, often referred to as “Bates,” is a popular spot.
“Bates is essentially the Rincon. Rincon is to surfing as Bates is to hang gliding and paragliding. It’s been a well-known spot around the world for the last 45-plus years,” Karl Cameron said. “And it would be like building a wall through the middle of the surf point at Rincon, if you can kind of equate that.”
Other commenters were worried about the trail terminating into a steep Rincon parking lot.
“There have been recorded bike accidents, and they’re pretty gnarly. With more people using that path, there would be more cars and probably more bike accidents,” Helen O’Neill said.
The scope of the project does not include construction of public facilities, such as parking and restrooms. A separate public project is developing the amenities within the Rincon Bluffs Preserve, the land acquired by the city earlier this year.
The city would have to purchase an easement from the Union Pacific Railroad to construct a bridge over the tracks.
Project documents are available at carpinteria.ca.us/public-works/engineering-division/rincon-multi-use-trail/.