Amidst record-breaking fire conditions, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service has closed all national forests to visitors in the state of California. This decision notably affects the trails near Westmont’s campus, such as the Cold Spring and Hot Springs trails, which are located in the Los Padres National Forest.
The closures went into effect on Aug. 31 and will expire on Sept. 17, when fire danger may be less extreme. Jennifer Eberlien, regional forester for the Pacific Southwest region, which includes California, stated, “We do not take this decision lightly, but this is the best choice for public safety. It is especially hard with … Labor Day weekend, when so many people enjoy our national forests.”
According to the USDA Forest Service’s website, factors contributing to the decision include “minimiz[ing] the likelihood that visitors could become entrapped on National Forest System lands during emergency situations” and “decreas[ing] the potential for new fire starts at a time of extremely limited firefighting resources.”
Westmont’s students are also affected by the closure, as the Cold Spring trailhead is less than a mile from campus and students often walk to the trailhead to hike. The Adventure Club specifically expressed regret at this closure, as the club frequents the trails in the Los Padres National Forest.
Ava Verchimak, vice president of the club, commented on the closures, “As a member of the Adventure Club, I prioritize the flourishing of our national forests, even if it means we have to take a break from the adventures. The closure of the national forests is heartbreaking, but we want to do what’s best to preserve the trails in Santa Barbara.”
The Los Padres National Forest borders Santa Barbara to the north and includes notable hiking areas like Rattlesnake Canyon and Inspiration Point and peaks such as Arlington, La Cumbre and Montecito.