The Winter Evening Hours Program for hikers and cyclists visiting Cerro San Luis in San Luis Obispo is now permanent.
Carol Rich and Linda Tolin are frequent visitors to the trails on Cerro San Luis.
“The views and the scenery - once you get up high, you get to see the lake and sometimes even the ocean, so it’s very pretty,” said Tolin.
Winter hours allowing the use of Cerro San Luis Natural Reserve, also known as Madonna Mountain, are now here to stay.
“I’m very excited and I’ll be here some evenings,” said Paul Hatalsky, who likes to bike at Cerro San Luis Natural Reserve. “It's nice here. I walk up here with my son.”
The City of San Luis Obispo first introduced a two-year pilot program in 2018. It allowed the city to issue up to 65 permits per day to access 4.9 miles of trails after dark.
On Tuesday night, the city council approved a city ordinance that would allow this program to remain.
“It might sound cliché, but it gets dark at 5 p.m., so everyone is all worked up about it, but now that they are going to close it later, it’s nice because kids can get out or whoever wants to hike the mountain,” explained Marvin Garliepp, who enjoys biking at Cerro San Luis Natural Reserve.
City officials report that a total of 3,160 permits were issued during the 2018-2019 season, 2,747 in 2019-2020, and 2,702 during the 2020-2021 season.
“I think it’s an okay idea," said Amanda McDonald, a student at Cal Poly. “I mean, I know I get a little nervous when it’s super dark and the trails aren’t very well lit.”
According to an environmental report shared by the city, the impact on wildlife and the risk of a wildfire is less than significant; but even with these results, some hikers are concerned.
“If emergency services had to do a big rescue, it might be hard to get in and out, so it might pose further risks,” said Tolin.
“I think my big concern would be the wildlife in opening the mountain too late would probably be a problem there,” added Rich.
In terms of next steps, the city will schedule a second reading and final adoption of the resolution on Nov. 16, 2021. An additional 30-day period is required for the ordinance to go in effect.
City officials say the earliest the winter evening hours program can begin is Dec. 17, 2021.