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SLO City Council shows support for night hiking

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The San Luis Obispo City Council showed an interest in opening up parts of its 3,850 acres of open space lands to night hiking and recreation, voting 4-1 on March 21 to ask city staff for an ordinance that would allow nighttime access to specific trails during the fall and winter seasons, when daylight is limited.

The city’s current policies prohibit public access to open space one hour after sunset up until one hour before sunrise. In August 2016, the council agreed to consider loosening those night restrictions in response to public interest.

The City Council in February ruled out allowing any night access to Bishop Peak for safety concerns, but will consider opening trails at Cerro San Luis and Laguna Lake, City Councilmember Andy Pease told New Times on March 22.

“We’re all interested in an incremental approach [to allowing nighttime access],” Pease said.

Local recreationalists argue that in the winter months, there’s often not enough time after a work day to hike or bike the trails before sunset. But many environmentally oriented residents have qualms about the impacts of nighttime activity on the wildlife accustomed to a peaceful nocturnal habitat. There are also concerns about how the new rules would address hiker safety, nighttime noise in adjacent neighborhoods, and enforcement.

For now, nighttime hiking is still illegal. But Pease said she expects the new ordinance to come back before the City Council in time for potential nighttime use next fall and winter.

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