UPDATE: Coastal Commission rules unanimously against McCarthy's Ontario Ridge Trail fencing

Jul 9, 2014

Barbed wire fencing along the Ontario Ridge hiking trail in San Luis Obispo County.
Credit Tarren Collins

UPDATE: July 11, 2014 at 10:49 a.m.  

The California Coast Commission ruled unanimously Friday morning in favor of a Cease and Desist Order, demanding Robert and Judith McCarthy remove fencing and signage restricting access to San Luis Obispo County's Ontario Ridge Trail.

Original Story:

The Ontario Ridge Trail is located between Shell Beach and Avila and has seen a steady stream of hikers for nearly 50 years.

But eight months ago, Robert and Judith McCarthy who own property along the trail put up signs and barbed wire fencing to discourage public access.

Now, the state Coastal Commission is considering a cease-and-desist order as part of an effort to get the unauthorized structures removed.

"No one has the right to block off public access to this public trail," said San Luis Obispo County Supervisor Adam Hill. "We have tried to work with Mr. McCarthy and be respectful of his property rights but provisions of the coastal act are very clear. We also discovered that in fact the county does have easements on a lot of this so we have the right to have the trail."

California law guarantees public access to the coast and Hill says McCarthy is choosing not to follow these rules.

"People were hugely impacted and disappointed," said Tarren Collins, a local attorney with a background in land use and planning. "They wrapped barbed wire around the gates and many of the zig-zagged fences along the trail."

Curtis Black with the San Luis Obispo County Parks Department says if the cease and desist order goes through, he expects the McCarthys to pay for the removal of the fences and the Coastal Commission would be in charge of enforcing the fence extraction.

The McCarthys did not respond to our repeated attempts for a comment.