A steep portion of the Ontario Ridge Trail is one step closer to being replaced by a more gradual climb, but fans of the trail shouldn’t put away their hiking shoes just yet.
The plan to relocate the dramatic trail near Pirates Cove received a key approval from the San Luis Obispo County Planning Commission on Thursday, but it will likely be several months before the trail could actually be relocated, thanks to anticipated appeals to both the Board of Supervisors and the California Coastal Commission.
The proposal would relocate a notoriously steep portion of the trail to a more gradual path that wraps around the back of the hillside before joining with the existing network of trails along the ridge.
The steep section of the trail sits on land owned by Bakersfield couple Rob and Judi McCarthy. The McCarthys are concerned about the safety of the trail, and Rob McCarthy has said he worries about being held liable for hikers’ potential injuries.
The new path would be a 5-foot-wide pedestrian trail with signs, access features and private property fencing and notices, according to a county staff report.
The plan has faced harsh criticism from local hikers who claim moving the trail removes the challenge of the steep climb and deprives hikers of some of the path’s ocean views.
After the Planning Commission’s unanimous decision Thursday, opponents have 14 days to appeal the decision to the county. They would also have 10 days from the date of a final county decision to file an appeal to the California Coastal Commission.