The city of Carlsbad has released the final draft and environmental analysis of its Trails Master Plan, a blueprint for how city trails will be developed and managed in the future. The public can provide comments on these documents through May 5.
Carlsbad oversees about 67 miles of existing trails that run through the city, from hiking trails in Hosp Grove and Calavera Hills, in the far northern part of the city, to Agua Hedionda Lagoon and Batiquitos Lagoon and more hiking trails in the south, at La Costa Valley and the Rancho La Costa Preserve. There also are shorter walking paths in developments like Bressi Ranch, Rancho Carrillo and Robertson Ranch.
According to the city, “The Trails Master Plan will help ensure the city makes the most of its current trails and takes advantage of opportunities to expand the system. It was developed over the past three years with input from the community, natural resource agencies and others interested in trails and open space. The City of Carlsbad Trails Master Plan provides a framework for the city’s comprehensive trail system with the goals of connecting people to nature; making it easy to get around town on foot and by bicycle; connecting to regional trails and trails in neighboring cities; preserving natural resources’ promoting health and wellness; enhancing tourism; and furthering the goals and policies in the city’s General Plan.
The Trails Master Plan was developed based on public input gathered during public meetings, an online survey and feedback on draft documents. Based on this input, the city says, city staff focused the plan on creating a connected and complete trail system; identifying existing trails and future trail development opportunities; accommodating a variety of trail users in safe and environmentally sensitive manner; increasing recreational opportunities; and integrating transportation as part of the trail system (ability to get to shops and restaurants, run errands, etc.).
Some of the key themes from the public included:
Make the city more “walkable”: Make the city more pedestrian friendly in general, including improving the safety and overall experience walking in neighborhoods, especially safe routes to schools. Many of these comments are being addressed by the city’s transportation planners, but opportunities to modify the trails system to meet these goals have been included in the Trails Master Plan.
Balance access to nature with the need to protect nature: Community members want as much access to natural open spaces as possible but realize that in some cases open space must be kept off limits to protect sensitive plant and animal species, the city says The Trails Master Plan attempts to strike the right balance between these two goals.
Connect trails to each other and develop new ones: Many people would like to see more connections between existing trails and open spaces throughout the city. Some support a wider variety of uses in open spaces, such as biking or dog walking. A number of comments focused on expanding opportunities for mountain biking.
Trail improvements: Community members said they’d like to see more amenities including trash cans, pet waste receptacles and bathrooms. Other comments identified the desire to make trails safer through increased lighting and increased enforcement.
The city was not able to incorporate all the suggestions resulting from the public outreach process, including:
Land the city does not control: Several suggestions were related to land not owned or controlled by the city. In these cases, city staff can encourage property owners to consider the suggestions, but the ultimate decision is theirs.
Protecting habitat: Some ideas could not be included because of concerns about habitat protection.
Changing trail uses: Some members of the public asked the city to consider single track trails, such as trails just for biking or hiking, and trails where dogs are not allowed. City staff decided to keep trails open for multiple users to maximize the benefits of the trails system. Equestrian use is the exception, and is only allowed on two trail segments in southeast Carlsbad where they connect to Encinitas trails system.
The first draft of the Trails Master Plan was released for public review in 2015. City staff incorporated public input and then studied the potential environmental impacts of the plan according to the requirements of the California Environmental Quality Act. This study resulted in a report called a “Mitigated Negative Declaration,” which summarizes the potential environmental effects of implementing the plan and how they will be mitigated. Certain projects within the plan will undergo additional environmental study prior to construction.
The plan and the report will then go before the City of Carlsbad Parks & Recreation Commission for review, and Planning Commission to make a recommendation to approve the General Plan Amendment, and then to the City Council for final approval.
The draft Trails Master Plan can be accessed here: Trails Master Plan.
Comments can be submitted by mail or email by 5 p.m. on May 5, 2017.