GVLT Provides Grant for Baron Ranch Ridge Preliminary Route

April 2010. The Goleta Valley Land Trust provides a $15,000 grant to SBTC for the development of a proposed ridge trail to the crest at baron Ranch. Preliminary trail could lead to new trail access on the Gaviota Coast.

The Trails Council received a $15,000 grant for the engineering, environmental review and construction of approximately 3.9 miles of trail to create a connection from the Baron Loop Trail to West Camino Cielo. SBTC expects to complete the initial engineering phase by early winter 2011 and to look for additional funds for the trail construction at that point.

Using information gathered from on-the-ground GPS surveys and use of aerial maps, SBTC designed the proposed route to meet specific criteria:

  • A trail grade averaging no more than 8%.
  • A route that would allow for a minimum 4-foot tread width to allow safe passage of both equestrian and mountain bike users.
  • Use of grade reversals and dips to allow for proper erosion control.

The route will consist of two sections:

  • Connector Trail — leading up from the main Baron Loop Trail to a saddle that marks the border between county property and Arroyo Hondo Preserve, owned by the Land Trust for Santa Barbara County. The connector will be approximately .5 miles long and gains 250 feet in elevation. This amounts to a 9-10% grade over the quarter mile, higher than preferred but this can be offset by use of more frequent use of erosion control measures.
  • The Main West Ridge Trail — primarily follows the main west ridge uphill and north to the crest of the Santa Ynez Mountains. Rather than rising steadily up to the crest, the west ridge has a series of rises and knolls, with each of the rises gaining about 400 vertical feet.

Once above the Land Trust property the ridge becomes much wider, especially on the east side of the ridge, allowing for the trail to contour around the slope as it gains elevation. Near the crest, the proposed route extends to a high point at 2550’.

Ownership Considerations
The proposed West Ridge Trail passes through two agency jurisdictions and one private land holding.

  • Santa Barbara County. The first one-half mile of the connector leading up to the saddle is on County property. While it will require additional approval from the County for the final construction, the route was noted in the initial project description submitted for the previously approved work and should not be an issue.
  • Land Trust for Santa Barbara County. From the saddle heading north up the ridge, the route will cross onto Arroyo Hondo for a distance of about .25 miles, varying slightly depending on the final route layout. The Land Trust has given conceptual approval to the encroachment, provided several conditions are met (see attached letter).
  • Los Padres National Forest. The balance of the West Ridge Trail will be on National Forest land once it leaves Arroyo Hondo property. The Trails Council is in the process of preparing a detailed proposal for the Santa Barbara Ranger District. Initial approval to construct a preliminary trail route to use for further environmental studies does not appear to be an issue but final approval for construction is contingent upon approval of specific environmental reviews, including biological, botanical, archeological, and possibly geological studies. This work can only be done once the preliminary route (called a P-Line) has been completed.

Trail Proposal
To accommodate ownership needs the Trails Council has divided the grant proposal into four phases: engineering, environmental review, construction and ongoing maintenance. Of these, costs for the environmental reviews may vary once the P-Line has been constructed and those doing the environmental studies can follow it.

Engineering. Engineering consists primarily of laying out the rough route of the proposed trail to create what the Forest Service calls a “P-Line.” Typically, this means using a clinometer to gauge trail grade, use of flagging to lay out the route and brushing it sufficiently wide to allow those doing the environmental studies to access it at a later date. Some tread work may also be needed where the side slope is more severe.
Where the route goes through softer chaparral, this may be a relatively easy task but where it passes though the chaparral opening the route takes much longer as it requires use of chainsaws to cut the path and remove the cut brush.

The Trails Council will be using a four-person crew for the layout of the P-Line, with the lead person establishing the route, an assistant helping with the layout and a two-person crew cutting the brush.
Work Expectations — We expect the work to take three weeks to complete, beginning in early April and continuing to the end of the month.

Environmental Review. As noted above, until the P-Line has been constructed and the route is accessible to those doing the reviews, it is difficult to identify a specific cost associated with the work. Preliminary discussions with the Forest Service indicate that there should not be any major concerns given that the route does not go near any riparian areas or watersheds and does not appear to be near any known Chumash sites.

Work Expectations — We expect either to use Forest Service employees or hire outside contractors to do the studies and to complete them between May and August. However, because this is fire season for the Forest Service, we need to be somewhat flexible.

Construction. Once the project has been approved, we expect to begin construction in the Fall 2010 once fire season is over, hopefully no later than the end of October. We will utilize a four-person work crew and one excavator operator. By using our Kubota to rough out the trail, we can cut labor costs by quite a bit. In addition, with the layout of the P-Line already completed, this will save on brushing time.

Work Expectations — We expect construction costs to average $15,000 per mile, which averages out to 2 weeks per mile and for the construction to be completed by February 2011. Weather will be a factor in determining whether we can

Ongoing Maintenance. When new trail is constructed, the Forest Service estimates that it still takes from 2-3 years for the hillsides to stabilize and vegetation to grow back in on the upslope and downslope along the trail tread. There is also an expectation that there be a plan in place for ongoing maintenance of the trail. To deal with follow up work needed after the initial construction and guarantee maintenance for at least five years, the Trails Council has built into the grant $25,000 for these costs ($5,000 per year for five years).

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