Rincon Trail Project Moves Forward Despite Outcry from Paragliders

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The Carpinteria Planning Commission Chooses Option for ‘Best Trail for the Most People’

Source of this article, the Santa Barbara Independent, January 25, 2022

The Rincon Multi-Use Trail project — a 2,800-foot bike and pedestrian trail connecting the city of Carpinteria to Rincon Beach Park — is on the brink of construction, gaining approval at Carpinteria’s Planning Commission once again last week despite public pushback from the city’s “soaring community,” who fear for the future of their fly site.

A rendering of the proposed Rincon Multi-Use Trail along the 101 in Carpinteria.

A core group of paragliding and hang-gliding enthusiasts, whose launching point may be affected by the trail construction, showed up last Tuesday, January 18, in big numbers to try to convince the commission to choose the one of four proposed trail options that would leave their bluffs unaffected.

Despite the concerns from the gliding community, the commissioners ultimately chose the trail that would be most environmentally sound according to the impact report and the option that would work best as part of the greater California Coastal Trail.

Principal Planner Nick Bobroff described the trail as a “tricky, multi-jurisdictional project” that requires the input and coordination from members of Carpinteria’s city government, the County of Santa Barbara, CalTrans, and the Santa Barbara County Association of Governments.

The hearing also marked the Carpinteria Planning Commission’s certification of the Environmental Impact Report, which guided the four “alternative” trail proposals. The choice ultimately came down to two options: the most environmentally friendly and non-intrusive Alternative Three and the option that avoided the gliders’ favorite bluff, Alternative Four.

Commissioner David Allen said he frequently walks the area with his wife and enjoys watching the gliders cut through the Carpinteria sky, but he said the long-term benefits of the Rincon trail will be something “that will be here for generations and generations,” and, ultimately, Alternative Three is “the best trail for the most people.”

Three out of four commissioners agreed, with Commissioner John Moyer pointing out that if the fourth option was chosen to appease the soaring community, those using the trail would be forced to reroute along the freeway and not-so-scenic views. “There’s nothing on the freeway worth looking at, that’s for sure; then you gotta breathe all the particulates,” Moyer said.

“I don’t hear anybody say you can’t soar with this trail — and that would be Alternative Three — you just can’t do it like you did before,” Chair Jane Benefield said. “The most people that will benefit from this project are the general public, not the soaring community.”

The third option was chosen, and the Environmental Impact Report certified, in a 3-1 vote. Commissioner John Callender voted against the motion, voicing his support for the soaring community and questioning whether their concerns were being considered. “I think that we are failing the test of empathy,” he said.

The project will now move forward to Carpinteria City Council and, barring any more appeals along the way, will be moved up through the Santa Barbara County process and toward final construction.