With the novel coronavirus pandemic causing widespread business closures and gathering restrictions, more and more people have turned to outdoor recreation to fill their free time.
Frontcountry trailheads in Santa Barbara County have seen an increase in visitors so large that the Santa Barbara County Fire Chiefs Association created a task force to address the issue.
“When you look at the long-term trends, there’s definitely been an increase in the use of the trail systems and camping in Santa Barbara,” Rob Hazard, division chief for the Santa Barbara County Fire Department, told Noozhawk in an earlier interview.
County Fire chief Mark Hartwig pointed out the increase in dispersed camping since the pandemic began at a Fire Chiefs Association meeting in February.
Now, Santa Barbara County is in the process of developing a Recreation Master Plan to help guide the development of new parks, trails, and recreational facilities throughout the county.
“The plan is designed around looking for opportunities to provide recreation that may not already exist countywide,” Jeff Lindgren, Santa Barbara County parks superintendent, told Noozhawk. “It is geared toward looking at existing facilities, seeing if there are any changes or improvements that we can make, and identifying additional amenities that the community may want.”
The county partnered with all the local cities to develop this plan, Lindgren said. While the plan will not prescribe anything to any of the cities, the county is working with them to gather and provide as much information as possible, he added.
The process is expected to be complete by the end of 2022 and is currently in the surveying phase. The surveying phase is part of the public outreach program that is geared toward gathering public feedback to identify things that are missing, things that can be enhanced, changed, or improved, Lindgren said.
“The survey will be an important part of the community helping to provide answers to specific questions,” Lindgren said. “All the responses will be compiled into a needs assessment to see what is missing from our recreation portfolio.”
County residents can fill out a survey online to help guide the county in determining which recreational amenities the community wants. Surveys for both adults and children are available.
Click here to take the adult survey.
Santa Barbara County is in the process of developing a recreation master plan to help guide the development of new parks, trails, and recreational facilities throughout the county. Above, Manning Park in Montecito. (Jade Martinez-Pogue / Noozhawk photo)
Click here for the children survey.
The county will also be holding a series of pop-up events at local farmers markets and other locations through mid-April to conduct community outreach.
“All these pop-up events will help deliver some additional feedback to guide the plan,” Lindgren said.
Click here for a list of event locations.
The feedback from the surveys and pop-up events will be used to create a recreational needs assessment, followed by the development of the master plan, Lindgren said.
Once the plan is finalized, environmental review and adoption will occur, followed by near-term project development.
“Ultimately, some things will get built, some facilities will be enhanced, and some facilities will be changed,” Lindgren said.
With the novel coronavirus pandemic changing the ways that county residents live and play, Noozhawk wants to know how you have been spending your time outside.