Posted by: James Wapotich | November 9, 2013

Trail Quest: Franklin Trail

After being closed for more than 35 years, the first section of Franklin Trail has been reopened. The trail not only represents a new destination for outdoor enthusiasts, but is also a reflection of what can be accomplished when a community pulls together.

The original Franklin Trail dates back to 1913, when the Forest Service built the trail to connect Carpinteria with the local backcountry. The trail was called Carpinteria-Juncal Trail by the Forest Service, but was also known as Franklin Canyon Trail.

Named for the Franklin Family which used to let community groups use the canyon, Franklin Canyon was at one time a popular destination for picnicking and camping. In the 1930s the Franklin Family closed access to the trail through their property. Hikers and equestrians then used the Edison service road to access the trail above Franklin Canyon.

Franklin Trail Los Padres National Forest Carpinteria hike

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In the late 1970s access to most of the trail was closed by the landowners over concerns of avocado root rot being spread by trail users.

It wasn’t until the mid 2000s that the possibility of the trail being reopened began to surface. Efforts by the County’s Riding and Hiking Trails Advisory Committee (CRAHTAC) and Montecito Trails Foundation began to meet with success when several landowners, with the help of the Land Trust for Santa Barbara County, granted easements through their property.

To develop the easements and reopen the trail the County sought funding through the California State Parks Recreational Trail Program but was turned down several years in a row; and when it was finally awarded the grant there were no more funds available.

In 2011, Friends of Franklin Trail was formed as an ad-hoc committee to raise the necessary funds. The group successfully raised the $450,000 required to begin work on the trail.

The trail will be reopened in three phases. The first phase, which is now open, leads from the trailhead, and covers 2.25 miles of what will be a seven-mile trail to the top of the Santa Ynez Mountains.

The trail is designated as a multi-use trail, however it’s being asked that equestrians and mountain bikers wait until January to use the newly constructed trail to allow foot traffic and winter rains to compact the trail’s surface.

Franklin Trail map Santa Barbara Carpinteria hike

Map courtesy Maps.com

To get to the trailhead from Santa Barbara take Highway 101 south to Carpinteria and exit at Linden Avenue. Continue north on Linden Avenue and look for Meadow View Lane on your left. Turn left onto Meadow View Lane, the road dead ends at Franklin Creek. The trailhead can also be accessed from Franklin Park along Sterling Drive.

From the trailhead, Franklin Trail follows the bike path north along Franklin Creek to Foothill Road. The trail crosses Foothill Road, turns left, and continues along Foothill Road. The trail passes in front of Carpinteria High School before continuing around the school.

Here the trail is fenced on one side to separate it from the high school. At the beginning of this trail section is an information kiosk describing the history and features of Franklin Trail. The trail continues around the west and north side of the campus and travels on top of a flood control berm installed by the Army Corp of Engineers.

Franklin Trail Carpinteria Los Padres National Forest hike

Scenery along the lower stretches of the trail

At about the .75-mile mark the trail turns north and follows the easement through Persoon Ranch. Here the trail is fenced on both sides. And while the fences may seem like a detraction from the overall aesthetic of the trail, it was one of the requirements necessary to reestablished the trail through developed areas.

In addition to the fences, grading was required for a portion of the trail, and a bridge needed to be installed in order to cross one of the creeks. These first two sections of the trail proved to be the most costly to construct and required additional fundraising to offset their expense.

At about the one-mile mark the trail transitions out of the ranch operation and continues, unfenced, through chaparral as the trail begins its climb through the foothills behind Carpinteria.

Franklin Trail Carpinteria Santa Barbara hike reopened Los Padres National Forest

View looking west from Franklin Trail

Here the trail follows the easement through Horton Ranch, climbing a series of switchbacks. On a clear day one is rewarded with exceptional views out towards the Channel Islands and along the coast.

At about the 2-mile mark the trail arrives at an Edison access road, here the trail levels out providing an overlook. Franklin Trail continues north along the unpaved access road. On the left is a short side trail that leads up to a commemorative bench.

Los Padres National Forest Santa Barbara Carpinteria Hike Franklin Trail

Commemorative bench near the end of the first section of the trail.

From here, Franklin Trail continues along the road offering views to the east of Franklin Canyon. A quarter mile later the road arrives at a locked gate, which marks the end of Phase 1 and the beginning of the Phase 2 section of the trail.

Once opened, Phase 2 of Franklin Trail will continue from the gate and pass through Rancho Monte Alegre to the beginning of the land owned by the Forest Service. This second section of trail is roughly 3.25 miles long and will follow unpaved ranch and access roads.

Originally, the easement through Rancho Monte Alegre called for fencing along both sides of the trail as the owners had planned to develop the land for avocado ranching. However they later decided to establish a conservation easement, limiting development on the property. The conservation easement eliminates the need for fencing, however, because the property is under development, other issues still need to be worked out before Phase 2 work can begin. With any luck the pending issues may be resolved as early as next summer. The good news is that this second section of the trail will require far less work and funding than first section.

Once the trail reaches the beginning of Forest Service land it faces a different challenge. Because the trail hasn’t been maintained in more than 30 years it will need to be cleared and in places reestablished.

The trail will then arrive at the top of the Santa Ynez Mountains, cross Divide Peak OHV Road, and continue down the backside of the mountains towards Jameson Lake. This last section of the historic Franklin Trail is already open and follows Alder Creek part of the way. This section of the trail can be reached from Romero-Camuesa Road via the access road to Jameson Lake.

Bud Girard Franklin Trail Santa Barbara Carpinteria hike Los Padres National Forest reopened

Friends of Franklin Trail Co-Chair Bud Girard stands next to the information kiosk along the newly reopened Franklin Trail

At the heart of the effort to reopen the trail is Friends of Franklin Trail. The group has been instrumental in working with the different stake holders to develop the easements, and move the project forward. The group is co-chaired by Carpinteria residents Bud Girard and Jane Murray, both of whom previously served on the board for Montecito Trails Foundation.

A retired civil engineer, Mr. Girard have overseen the construction of the trail. And Mrs. Murray, who previously served as Director of Volunteers at Arroyo Hondo, manages the public outreach. With the support of Ted Rhodes, who helped with the community purchase Carpinteria Bluffs, Friends of Franklin Trail has been able to lead a very effective fundraising campaign for the trail.

“The spirit of Carpinteria has just been amazing. People would pass me on the street and donate.” Mrs. Murray told the News-Press, “It was just so heart warming. Even though it was hard, you knew the whole town was behind you.”

Through their leadership and love for the trail Mr. Girard and Mrs. Murray, along with the many volunteers associated with Friends of Franklin Trail, have helped focus the community’s interest in reopening the trail. And with the support of Santa Barbara County Parks, the City of Carpinteria, Carpinteria High School, the landowners, and other local representatives, agencies and organizations, we now have the beginnings of a trail that will provide additional recreational opportunities, and once again connect Carpinteria with the local backcountry.

For more information about Friends of Franklin Trail or to donate to help reopen the remaining sections of the trail go to www.franklintrail.org.


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