Archive » May 24, 2012
Along the trails of Orcutt
By SYVJ Staff
Monday, May 21, marked a milestone for those in Orcutt who enjoy the outdoors, as the city held a ribbon cutting to officially open Orcutt’s first legal hiking trails.
The ceremony had been nearly three decades in the making for many who have pushed for the public trails, including the Santa Maria Valley Open Space (SMVOS) non-profit, which was formed in December to offer the county a volunteer “staff” to build and maintain the trails.
Back in October, people who had been enjoying the trails in Orcutt for decades began getting tickets from the Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Department. Instead of complaining, a handful of enthusiasts, including Luis Escobar and Jon Blanchard, asked their county supervisors what they could do to gain access to the hills. They heard back from Cory Bantilan, chief of staff for Fourth District Supervisor Steve Lavagnino, who helped them understand the agreements that already existed between Santa Barbara County and Rice Ranch Ventures, LLC.
In a nutshell, Rice Ranch agreed to “give” Santa Barbara County 306 acres of open space in trade for building 700-plus houses. In 2005, the county denied the property transfer, citing lack of tax base/houses to support the trail’s expenses. Flash forward to 2011, post housing collapse. Some houses were built at Rice Ranch, and when the public pressed the supervisors, they agreed to accept the property with a 5-0 vote.
Since the SMVOS was formed, more than 150 families in the Orcutt/Santa Maria area have donated the $20 annual membership fee, and volunteers have logged 500-plus hours of work to make it happen. With these donations, insurance was purchased, signs were made, trails were cut, and many other business professionals donated their time and talent to get the trails open.
– Ron Lovell