Local News

Jul 11, 2014 7:17 PM by Connie Tran, KSBY News

State's Coastal Commission orders Avila Beach landowner to take down fence that blocks hikers

Fencing and signs near the popular Ontario Ridge hiking trail in Avila Beach will soon have to come down. The California Coastal Commission unanimously passed a cease and desist order on Friday morning against the landowner, Rob McCarthy. However, McCarthy told KSBY News that he is not going to take the fencing down.

According to the Coastal Commission, Mccarthy is not allowed to have this fencing up because it's blocking a public easement with prescriptive rights and it's in violation of the Coastal Act. That means, the public has been hiking on this trail for years, long before McCarthy purchased the land, therefore the public gets to continue to hike there, no matter who owns it.

Last November, McCarthy put up the fence, blocking hikers from a trail that has spectacular views of the ocean. McCarthy has said the trail is just too steep and dangerous for hikers. But on Friday, the Coastal Commission disagreed.

A commissioner said, "It's not up to private property owners to determine what is and isn't safe for the public."

Many believe McCarthy put the fence up out of spite, because he's been in contention with the Coastal Commission over building a house on his property. But McCarthy told KSBY News that he blocked the trail because he is concerned for the safety of hikers who are on his property. McCarthy said he'd like to work with San Luis Obispo County officials to move the easement. County officials said they are willing to have a discussion with McCarthy on that matter.

In the meantime, the Coastal Commission, which has a higher authority than the county, said there is offense to McCarthy's fence, and it must come down.

"I'm sorry that the public has had to deal with this and the habitat, the animals and the critters, this fencing that all of this, it's really offensive," said a commissioner.

The Coastal Commission said it plans on holding further proceedings to figure out what penalties McCarthy may face if he doesn't take down the fence. Again, McCarthy said he does not plan on taking down the fence. He said he's unsure whether he's going to work with the Coastal Commission or sue them.

The San Luis Obispo County Counsel told KSBY News on Friday that land owners are not held responsible if someone injures themselves on a public easement.

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