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Hikers and residents at odds over parking rules in high fire zone

Hikers and residents are not always seeing eye to eye when it comes to parking at the top of Tunnel Road in Santa Barbara’s Mission Canyon, even when there are numerous signs about the rules there. The area burned up in the Jesusita fire in 2009. Since then parking rules have been strengthened on the road that leads to a popular hiking trail. At issues is the signage that kicks in on “Red Flag” weather days, when there’s high heat, low humidity and winds. That’s in the forecast this week for at least two days. Neighbors say even with signs posted, and there are at least 10 of them, some hikers are still parking there. Enforcement by the California Highway Patrol could mean a ticket or possibly have the vehicle towed. We asked one driver if he saw the sign. He said, “I don’t know what that means.” A group of hikers said they parked where other cars were without checking the signs. They were hoping to get through with their hike without getting cited as they headed up the trail. The CHP had made a pass through the area and left warning stickers on cars illegally parked. We did not see any tickets. Earlier this month we found one visitor who said he was trying to follow the rules and got verbally chewed out. John O’Brien, says he pulled up and ” there were signs that said ‘red flag day no parking’ and there were some open spots and people parked there. We opted not to park up here and made a U-turn at the top and this lady in some kind of mini van or something blocks me from leaving. Then she pulls around to my window and starts shouting about breaking the law and I said who are you?” O’Brien says he drove back down the hill and parked a mile away then began heading up. “W e’re walking back up so I think she felt bad so she offered me a lift and I said what you did up there was a little aggressive and so she started cursing at me and clipped my food a little bit when she took off.” He says he understands the rules and wasn’t trying to break them. “I live in a nice place too but we are respectful. We weren’t parking I wasn’t getting out of my car , I was doing a u-turn,” he said. In the last month NewsChannel 3 has received information about many parking violations in the area on the days when high fire warnings are out. One resident has taken construction barricades from a work site and made a new area for no parking. Friday there will be a slurry-seal project on the road with even more parking restrictions. The parking ordinance was voted into place by Santa Barbara County Supervisors after meeting with residents over their evacuation concerns in an emergency.

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