UPDATE: On Tuesday, county supervisors voted unanimously to approve reallocating $318,000 towards building the next installment of the popular walking and biking Bob Jones Trail pathway.
The county and the Land Conservancy of San Luis Obispo County have been working on creating the trail for years. So far, about half of trail’s planned length has been completed. In 2008, an engineer’s estimate put the project’s total cost at $10.5 million.
Mike Bennett is executive director at Bike Slo County. He attended Cal Poly as an undergraduate and recently returned with his family after many years living elsewhere.
“I know that when I left in 1989 there was talk of the Bob Jones Trail stretching all the way from San Luis Obispo to Avila Beach, and it was wow, that will be really fantastic,” Bennett said. “And I come back almost 30 years later and it’s not done. [But] there has been progress.”
There are existing grant monies earmarked for a path project from Avila to Harford Pier, but that project is stalled, so the county’s park and rec commission recommended shifting those funds to pay for the necessary groundwork for building more of the Bob Jones Trail.
According to the county’s senior park planner, Shaun Cooper, “since the March 23 Parks and Recreation Commission meeting, staff has identified two grant funding sources committed to the Avila to Harford Pier pathway project that won’t be able to be used in a timely manner due to the inability to mitigate for parking impacts.”
Additionally, the recently-passed state transportation bill includes grant funding for building up alternative transportation infrastructure.
If the county spends money now on furthering the trail’s next segment, says Bennett, it will make it easier to secure that state money.
“Then the project will be in a good position, say earlier next year, when some of those funds come up and become available out of the state, we can say, hey, shovel-ready project [and it will be] much more likely to get those grant funds.” Bennett said. “If your project’s not shovel ready, they are going to pass you by and look for another project.”
The next segment to be built is a 4.4 mile path from the Octagon Barn off South Higuera to the Ontario Road staging area.
Cooper said the Bob Jones Trail remains a top priority parks project for the county.