A new business featuring ziplines, where riders glide over the oak trees at Santa Margarita Ranch, has prompted San Luis Obispo County to look further into its permits for regulating such activities.
Commercial zipline tours for the public are a first for the county, supervising county planner Nancy Orton said.
“It’s one of those unusual uses,” she said, noting that ziplines don’t seem to fit into any existing local permit process. As a result, the business isn’t currently in violation but more research will be done in the following weeks, she said.
Ziplines allow riders to slide in harnesses across an aerial cable stretched between two anchored points.Ranch co-owner Karl Wittstrom obtained a business license for the operation and did his homework before having the cables installed and inspected earlier this year.
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“I checked with all the ordinances and (ziplines) didn’t qualify as a structure, so there were no structure or grading permits required,” Wittstrom said.
Wittstrom, one of the three owners of the roughly 14,000-acre Santa Margarita Ranch, notified the county earlier this year of his plans to feature canopy tours as part of an agriculture tourism endeavor called Margarita Adventures.
The attraction had a soft opening during the Savor the Central Coast event in late September. It’s now an optional part of a tour that features four ziplines spanning more than 3,000 feet in length over the ranch’s expansive oak-dotted hillsides and vineyards.
On Friday afternoon, Ancient Peaks Winery staff celebrated the end of the wine harvest by zipping through the property in boots, helmets and gloves.
The tours also include segments in history, geology and wine tasting, and talks about wildlife and vegetation. The zipline construction consists of steel beams reinforced with concrete installed vertically into the ground connected by steel cables, both of which meet standards outlined by the Association for Challenge Course Technology, Wittstrom said. The harnesses and equipment meet national fire safety standards.
Wittstrom also consulted with the Santa Margarita Fire Department on the topics of clearly marking the property, secondary routes and proper turning radiuses for emergency access, which Wittstrom says he’s also met. Cal Fire is also due to visit the site.