Our 50 Year History

Rooted in Trail Advocacy

In 1966 concerned representatives of various outdoor organizations, faced with the increasing loss of established hiking and riding trails from rapid urbanization, formed an ad hoc council with the intent to slow this loss and develop a public trail system for Santa Barbara County.  In October of 1967, members of these various groups incorporated as the Santa Barbara County Trails Council to acquire, construct and maintain public riding and hiking trails in Santa Barbara County.

The new organization was led by Mr. Francis Price, Jr., a prominent Santa Barbara lawyer with the firm Price, Postel and Parma. Other initial Directors and Officers were Mr. E.C. Riggs, 1st Vice President for Riding; Mr. John Hamilton, 2nd Vice President for hiking; Mr. Peter Bakewell, Treasurer; Ms. Dorothy Lions, Recording Secretary; Ms. Vivian Obern, Corresponding Secretary; and Directors Mr. Eugene Garnsey, Mr. Fred Eissler, and Mr. Lee Eggert.

The County Board of Supervisors, City Council, and the news media of the day all recognized the importance of the Trails Council in working to prevent further loss of riding and hiking trails, and taking the lead in establishing a county-wide trail system.  At the request of the new Trails Council, the County Board of Supervisors appointed an advisory committee composed of Department Directors and individuals selected by the Trails Council from each supervisorial district.  The Advisory Committee worked with the Planning Department to increase the number of trails in the County Master Plan.  It also coordinated with County officials, State Parks, U.S. Forest Service, and the California State Horsemen’s Association; eventually becoming the local clearing house for matters concerning trails.

In 1973, after extensive collaboration with local, state and federal agencies, the endorsement of nearly two dozen civic organizations, and the support and guidance of many prominent citizens, the Trails Council published Santa Barbara County Coastal Trails System, Mission to Mission Trails for Bikers, Hikers and Equestrians.  This document helped guide the formulation of County General Plan policies for developing a County-wide, multi-use, public trail system.

Through the years, the Trails Council has been a leader in trails advocacy, working within numerous jurisdictions to maintain and expand trails. This was accomplished under the watchful eye of longstanding leaders like Vivian Obern and her late husband George, after whom the paved trail between Santa Barbara and UCSB is named.    Many other influential citizens too numerous to mention have been active members supporting this common goal.  In 2007, the Trails Council merged with the Trails Alliance, became a public benefit corporation under 501 (c) (3) of the federal tax code, and hired Mr. Ray Ford, a local trails expert, to be its Executive Director.   During his time as director, Ray  attracted substantial grant funds for the construction and maintenance of trails in a variety of locations.

More About the Oberns

Vie Obern, is a founding board member of the Trails Council. For many years Vie (with her husband George's wholehearted support) dogged the heels of County Supervisors, to promote trails, including backcountry trails in the San Rafael Wilderness, equestrian trails throughout the county as well as bikeways in the South Coast area. Among Vie and George's many achievements are:

  • CRAHTAC, the County Riding and Hiking Trails Advisory Committee. CRAHTAC serves as the County's watchdog for trail concerns and has been instrumental in the development of new access and protection of our trails.
  • Addition of the Trails Element to the County's Master Plan in 1980. Through the Trails Element and community planning process, Park Recreational Trails (or PRTs) have been added to the master plan to be considered for future development. As a result, trails such as the Franklin Trail in Carpinteria and sections of the Coastal Trail along the Gaviota Coast may be opened to the public soon.
  • Creation of the Atascadero Creek Bikeway. First proposed by Vie and George in 1967, it became the first of many local Santa Barbara bikeways. The Atascadero bikeway was renamed the Obern Trail in 2004 to honor their efforts.

Today, Trails Council both honors our founding members' achievements and commit ourselves to building upon the foundation they worked so hard to create.