Board of Supervisors moves ahead with Countywide Recreation Master Plan
Calling it a “tremendous opportunity” to increase financial opportunities for both the county and private landowners, the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors unanimously agreed to move forward with its Countywide Recreation Master Plan on Tuesday.
The board agreed to provide direction as to the expansion of the community plan and potential zoning ordinances. The supervisors also allocated $490,000 for expanded public outreach, planning development and environmental review.
The development of the master plan, which the board first approved in 2019, is to identify existing and potential recreational needs across Santa Barbara County and allow for the building and planning of more parks, facilities and trails through 2045.
“This has been something the entire board has appreciated, especially during the time of COVID-19,” Chair Joan Hartmann said. “We have a tremendous opportunity to realize financial benefits for the county, for private landowners, and really enhance the quality of life for all of us.”
Supervisor Hartmann has long been an advocate for the recreation master plan and was recognized for her efforts Tuesday.
During Tuesday’s meeting, the board discussed proposed expansions of campgrounds, trails, and coastal access as well as possible incentive programs for private landowners. The master plan is expected to support projects across the country eligible for up to $254.9 million in grant funding opportunities under California Proposition 68.
In terms of funding, the board was asked Tuesday to allocate $450,000 in previously-budgeted Parks, Trails and Open Space funding as well as $40,000 in equity funding.
Of that, $270,000 would be earmarked for planning and development staff to handle potential amendments to the plan and zoning ordinances; $180,000 for Community Services to handle amendment submissions and pay for filing requirements and other planning costs; and $40,000 for expanded public outreach to disadvantaged and underserved communities.
The agenda item needed at least four of the five supervisors to approve it, but the decision was unanimous.
Supervisor Bob Nelson cautioned against “overplanning” that could stifle creativity for future projects.
“One thing that we do in this county really well, we do a lot of planning, and sometimes we don’t do a lot of doing,” Mr. Nelson said.
Supervisors noted the impact expanding trails, beach access, campgrounds and more could have on tourism, the county’s economy, and youth engagement in outdoor recreation. But they also stressed a continued partnership with landowners and members of the agriculture community to mitigate any potential impact to that sector.
Among the supporters of the master plan is the city of Goleta.
“The proposed use of zoning and other incentives to streamline the permitting of parks and other recreational amenities, along with the comprehensive nature of this plan promises to guide the development of recreational facilities and implementation of recreational programs across the County,” Jaime A. Valdez, Goleta’s neighborhood services director, wrote in a letter to the board. “The City of Goleta recognizes that in the long term, this plan can be successful in bringing much needed recreational amenities to both unincorporated areas of the County and to cities within the County.”
The master plan is a coordinating effort between the county’s Community Services Department, the county’s eight cities and other recreation service providers, including California State Parks.