SANTA MARIA , Calif. - The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors received 61 requests to speak during public comment for the topic of potentially completing the Santa Maria River Levee Trail and connecting it to Guadalupe.
Community members spoke during public in person in Santa Barbara, in person at Santa Maria's hearing room, and virtually.
Some residents who spoke in support of the project said that the lack of outdoor trails in the area is unjust.
“This is an issue of environmental justice. Communities of color are three times more likely to live in nature deprived areas across the United States. And this is true for Santa Maria," said Rebecca Garcia, who supports the trail completion project.
“The pandemic has changed our lives forever, keeping family and friends apart. This river trail would give us a safe space to gather outdoors, get some exercise and spend time together," said Santa Maria resident, Pam Gates.
Some who spoke against the project argued that it would negatively affect nearby farmland and the safety of their crops and property.
“Dogs off leash is a daily occurrence. We have feces in our fields that we have to clean and give up produce," said Jeff Lundberg with Babe Farms.
“If we lose an acre for buffer for the levee, for instance, in lettuce, one acre would be $10,000. Spinach would be $8,000 per acre, broccoli $10,000. And the loss would be 2.8 million in gross revenues," said Santa Maria City Mayor, Alice Patino.
The Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to move forward with design plans for the project.