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Mystery signs mark popular Summerland trail closed when it is open

SUMMERLAND, Calif. - A sign and fencing up at the Bella Vista Trail in Summerland saying it is closed has upset area residents who have fought for the open space access.

It is unclear who put the sign up.

Ashlee Mayfield with the Montecito Trails Foundation is actively checking with Santa Barbara County Parks officials and Supervisor Das Williams has been contacted.

The path also has a section of fencing up.

The new trail warning sign says the path will be open when repairs are made.

Recently the area received heavy rain but there are no signs of washouts or dangerous sections that have been discovered by the trails staff.

On the trail Wednesday morning, Mayfield said, "yesterday morning I got multiple calls that the trail had been fenced and signed and red taped."

She said it was a brazen act, to deny public access. "I showed up and sure enough there were three chain linked fences closed, four or five spots of red tape and clearly falsified signage indicating a trail closure."

There was no obvious reason.

The Trails Foundation looks over 90 miles of trails in the area.

The members would have known if a legitimate closure was authorized.

"A sign that is created and legitimate will always have an agency logo like the county parks, city parks, forest service, as well as a phone number like the Montecito Trails Foundation," said Mayfield.

She says they use and maintain these trails annually in partnership with the area government. The paths are open to the public even if they are on private property and the easements that make all this happen have been in place for decades.   

"All the trails have very rich history. They have recorded easements with the county or City of Santa Barbara," said Mayfield. "As a non profit we watch the trails, it is our job to steward them not just the maintenance but also the access."

The Bella Vista loop is used for hiking, dog walking, running and horseback riding. It has paths up to a vista and down to Via Real, Padaro Lane and the ocean.

A small parking lot made the trail convenient to those out for a hike.

"This trail was fine, it is fine since the storm. It's been used there's no damage to the trail," she said.

A development is underway nearby but work trucks and equipment are not conflicting with the established trail access.

Supervisor Das Williams and the Santa Barbara County Park Department both say they are aware of the fake closure and will continue to educate those in the area about access rights. 

Williams said many people are out during COVID conditions and more people are on the trails. That may be a factor to the issue on access. His office is going to be monitoring the situation and helping to remind the public about sharing the resources.

Mayfield agreed. "With the uptick in use since  COVID sometimes private property owners are getting a little more rubbed by all the usage  as well as a lot of property has changed hands."

For more information go to: Montecito Trails Foundation

Article Topic Follows: Santa Barbara - South County
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John Palminteri

John Palminteri is senior reporter for KEYT News Channel 3. To learn more about John, click here.


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