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Bob Jones Trail expansion still a few years off, but plans are moving forward

Clara Knapp

A long-awaited addition to the Bob Jones Trail, also called the “City to the Sea Trail,” finished another round of public review on Monday.

The popular San Luis Obispo County trail was first envisioned more than two decades ago, as an eight-mile-long, stand-alone, multi-use path connecting San Luis Obispo with Avila Beach. But to date, only a portion of that dream has been realized. 

“The Bob Jones Trail as it exists now is roughly two-and-a-half miles long, and it is one of the jewels of the community in my opinion," said Helene Finger, a member of the steering committee for Friends of the Bob Jones Trail, a local group whose purpose is to support its growth. "Local residents, tourists come to ride on the trailhead.”

The largest unfinished segment stretches from the Octagon Barn on the outskirts of San Luis Obispo to the current trailhead at Ontario Road adjacent to Highway 101. Steps are being taken to begin work on this portion in the coming years.

A revised Environmental Impact Report (EIR) on the portion up for review closed for public comment Monday afternoon.  

Steve McMasters, Supervising Planner for the San Luis Obispo County Planning Department, says the public input for the revised EIR is an important step in moving forward.

“We’ve released that to kind of try to address some of the comments that we received in the first round, really trying to come up with a route and a path project that could be supported by the majority of the community out there and the property owners,” said McMasters.

Shaun Cooper, Senior Planner for County Parks, says the next step will be to send a final revised EIR to the San Luis Obispo County Parks and Recreation Commission. The commission will then make a recommendation to the County Board of Supervisors, at which point his department can begin negotiating property easements.

“This process will probably take at least a year, at the same time we will be working on permits and construction documents," said Cooper. "Best case scenario is we would have the first segment of the pathway start construction in 2017, typically the construction process would be about a three-to-six-month process.”

Lea Brooks, another leading member of Friends of the Bob Jones Trail, says once completed, the trial has the potential to greatly increase local tourism.

“Oh, I think people will come from all over," said Brooks. "Can you imagine even, arriving in San Luis Obispo, either with your bicycle or you could rent a bicycle, and you could spend at least one day riding down to Avila Beach."

Brooks says since the trail will be free of vehicles (Class 1 trail), it'll be incredibly family friendly.