A proposal to relocate the popular Ontario Ridge hiking trail is a no-go, but a recent vote by the SLO County Board of Supervisors kept the possibility on the table for some point in the future.
In a split 3-2 vote, supervisors gave consent to allow for plans to relocate the public easement and the trail to move forward if those plans meet specific criteria and policy set by the SLO County Department of Parks and Recreation.
Plans to relocate the trail are being proposed by Rob McCarthy, who owns the land where the easement and trail are located. McCarthy is embroiled in a years-long battle to build his home on the land. At the supervisors’ March 8 meeting, McCarthy said he wanted the trail relocated for safety reasons.
“I think we can build an alternate trail that’s more safe for the public,” McCarthy said.
But before McCarthy can even bring the plan before the county Planning Commission for a vote, the trail’s landowner—the county—must give its consent. At the meeting, Parks and Recreation Director Nick Franco recommended the supervisors deny that consent, as the proposed trail didn’t connect with other trails and the county lacked the funding to maintain the trail. Instead, the board passed an alternate recommendation agreeing to give their consent to a plan if McCarthy was able to meet those criteria at some later date.
Supervisors Frank Mecham, Debbie Arnold, and Lynn Compton voted in favor of the compromise, with supervisors Bruce Gibson and Adam Hill voting against it. Hill, who represents the district where the trail is located, got into a heated back-and-forth with Compton and Arnold, arguing their vote wasn’t about the trial’s safety but about favoring a single property owner over the public’s right to use the trail.
“I think it really does snub the people who use the trail all the time,” Hill said.