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Jan 23, 2014 9:55 PM by Connie Tran, KSBY News

Part of popular Ontario Ridge hiking trail closed off to the public

The popular Ontario Ridge trail above Avila Beach has been partially shut down. The trail, which offers spectacular views of the ocean, runs through public and private property. The owner of the private property area says he put up fencing to prevent hikers from getting injured on the steep slope above of Cave Landing Road.

The owner's name is Rob McCarthy and he is a local software developer. He's owned his parcel of land for five years and said he wants to build a house on his property. McCarthy said he is absolutely willing to have part of the Ontario Ridge hike run through his land, but he said the route has to be changed up. He said the steep incline on his property is just too dangerous for hikers to use. He said that is why he put up fencing and barb wire at the end of the trail to make sure hikers don't get through. McCarthy said he first put up fencing over Thanksgiving weekend last year.

However, by McCarthy fencing off his property, he is currently cutting off the popular trail. The only part of the trail that is open right now is the part that runs through San Luis Obispo County Parks land.

The San Luis Obispo County Planning and Building Department said McCarthy doesn't need a permit to put up the fence and barb wire. But, the California Coastal Commission said on Thursday that they disagree, and said McCarthy could be cutting off a trail that has historically been open to the public, even though it's on his private land.

Curtis Black, the Deputy Director for SLO Co. Park said, "There are just hundreds and hundreds of people locally that use those trails and they want to continue using those trails."

Cayucos resident Johnny Hollingsead attempted to hike the Ontario Ridge on Thursday by entering on McCarthy's property. He said he was surprised to find the fence and barbed wire.

"There's a lot of other hikes around this area too, if you go up north or further south. So, I mean you can still hike down in there like in Pirates Cove, but it's not the same," said Hollingsead.

At this point, the apparent battle seems to be coming down to the CA Coastal Commission and the SLO Co. Planning and Building department. If the disagreement continues, the Coastal Commission said they'll have to go through a dispute resolution hearing.

What that translates to is that it could just be more of a prolonged process before that part of the trail becomes available again to hikers.

McCarthy said on Thursday that he has suggested alternative routes to continue the trail, but that would have to be approved by SLO County.

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