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SLO city unveils new Righetti Hill open space

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Once a private quarry and cattle ranch, Righetti Hill in San Luis Obispo will soon become the latest "morro" that locals can hike.

The 51-acre Righetti Hill open space is joining the city's 4,300 acres of public lands thanks to a 2018 property acquisition and the City Council's adoption of a final conservation plan on May 16.

"It's very exciting," City Councilmember Jan Marx said at a May 16 meeting. "After all these years of the Orcutt specific plan and the Righetti specific plan, and now we finally have the conservation plan."

PROTECTED Righetti Hill, a 563-foot-tall "morro," is the newest addition to city of San Luis Obispo open space. - PHOTO COURTESY OF THE CITY OF SAN LUIS OBISPO
  • Photo Courtesy Of The City Of San Luis Obispo
  • PROTECTED Righetti Hill, a 563-foot-tall "morro," is the newest addition to city of San Luis Obispo open space.

Marx is referring to the hundreds of new homes that were planned for and built on the city's south side—in the area between Orcutt Road, Broad Street, and Tank Farm Road. As a condition of approval for subdividing the land around Righetti Hill into 124 lots for homes, the city acquired the hill itself.

Standing at 563 feet tall, Righetti Hill lies just north of Islay Hill and is one of the "Nine Sisters," ancient volcanic plugs that extend northwest to Morro Rock.

A Righetti Hill summit trail—a 1-mile out-and-back path—is already constructed. It begins on Hillside Drive and wraps around to the peak. Due to its narrowness and challenges with visibility, the trail will be designated for hikers only. The city plans to add a wider "perimeter" trail around the base of the hill that will be open to both hikers and mountain bikers.

Several locals wrote to the council ahead of the meeting to ask that they reconsider the prohibition on biking the summit trail.

"I would like to voice my support in maintaining the Righetti Hill trail open to biking and hiking," resident Garrett Otto wrote. "The current set of trails we have in town are quite technical, especially for beginner and younger riders. My 4-year-old is gaining confidence on his bike ... and Righetti would be a great place for him to build his skills."

SLO Natural Resource Manager Bob Hill said at the meeting that the city plans to monitor the activity on the trail and would remain open to reassessing the rules down the line. He added that an open space community roundtable that met throughout 2016 expressed a desire to keep a mix of hiking-only and multi-use trails in the city's greenbelt.

TRAIL OPTIONS SLO's plans for the Righetti Hill open space include one hiking-only summit trail and one multi-use perimeter trail. - MAP COURTESY OF THE CITY OF SAN LUIS OBISPO
  • Map Courtesy Of The City Of San Luis Obispo
  • TRAIL OPTIONS SLO's plans for the Righetti Hill open space include one hiking-only summit trail and one multi-use perimeter trail.

"This [Righetti Hill trail] was, in part, our way of having fidelity to that vision and those conversations that occurred at that time," Hill said.

City officials noted that SLO is building a new 11-acre community park adjacent to Righetti Hill, which will likely include a dirt bike park. That park is about two years away from completion, and the city said it will have a better idea of what the needs are then in the Righetti Hill open space.

While Councilmembers Michelle Shoresman and Emily Francis voiced interest in revising it to allow bikers on the summit trail, the council ultimately voted 5-0 to approve the conservation plan as drafted.

Councilmember Marx voiced the strongest support for the hiking-only summit trail.

"I think it'd be a real mistake to allow the mountain bike community to set the policy on the use of trails," Marx said. "I think we need to approve the plan as presented. And as staff has said, let's see down the road if there needs to be an addendum. We don't need to contravene long-standing polices that have worked well." Δ

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