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Aerial view of the habitat restoration site in Parma Park

Completed Project in Parma Park Brings New Trails to Santa Barbara

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Seven miles of trail and four acres of native habitat restoration are ready for exploration in one of Santa Barbara’s largest parks.

The City of Santa Barbara Parks and Recreation Department has announced the completion of the Parma Park Sustainable Trails Project, a multi-phased effort to improve and expand the trail system in one of Santa Barbara’s largest parks. Nearly three miles of new trail and over four miles of restored trail now provide safer conditions for users while preserving the park’s natural features for the future.

The newly created trails give the community access to new areas of the park, allowing trail users to experience many of the region’s native habitats in a single visit. Featured trails include the Historic Olive Grove loop winding through heritage trees from the former Parma Ranch olive orchard, the Parma Peak Loop leading to the park’s highest point with sweeping views of Santa Barbara, Montecito, and the Channel Islands, and the Plateau Trail, a gentle loop designed for all abilities through a restoration site of native grassland, wildflowers, and scrubland.

“Many of the previous paths were never designed to be hiking trails, and this project was the first time we’ve had a chance to evaluate the park’s trail system as a whole,” said Monique O’Conner, the City’s Open Space Planner. “We’ve opened up new areas of the park while building trails that are safer and more resilient to erosion.”

Before the project, the park’s trail network consisted primarily of old cattle paths and maintenance access roads. Poorly designed trails can cause erosion, damage plant and animal habitats, and negatively impact the overall health of the ecosystem. Planning for the project considered key trail design elements such as alignment, grade, drainage, tread width, and surface materials to create sustainable trails that provide a safe and enjoyable experience while reducing the need for significant trail repairs. 

In addition to trail work, the project also included habitat restoration to convert four acres of nonnative grassland to native scrub and grassland for wildlife and pollinators. The restoration efforts also included a shaded fuel break with oak trees to maintain defensible space around neighboring residential properties. 

The project was primarily funded by the Parma Park Trust, an endowment fund established by the Parma Family in 2002. Habitat restoration received additional funding from a State Coastal Conservancy grant.

Parma Park Opening Celebration and Hike
Date: Thursday, July 25, 2024
Time: 4:30 p.m.
Location: El Cielito Entrance of Parma Park. 

The Santa Barbara City Council, Parma Park Trustees, and the Parks and Recreation Department will celebrate the completion of the project on July 25 at 4:30 p.m. at the El Cielito Entrance of Parma Park. The public is invited to learn about the details of the project before embarking on an optional guided half-mile walk through the restoration site. Starting at approximately 5:00 p.m., a more strenuous 2.5-mile hike will lead attendees through some of the park’s newest trails.

More information about Parma Park and the newest trails can be found at SantaBarbaraCA.gov/ParmaPark

About Parma Park
The 200-acre property comprising Parma Park is one of 14 open space parks managed by the City of Santa Barbara Parks and Recreation Department. Italian entrepreneur Giovanni Parma purchased the property in the late 1800s for use as a cattle ranch and olive orchard.  Giovanni’s sons, John and Harold, donated the property to the City of Santa Barbara in 1973 for use as a public park for hikers and equestrians. In 2002, the Parma Family set up the Parma Park Trust to help fund ongoing management of the park.

Parma Park offers more than seven miles of trails open to hikers and equestrians. Dogs are allowed on the trails but must be on leash at all times. Bicycles are not permitted in Parma Park due to conflict with equestrian use. Bike racks are available at the Stanwood Main Entrance and El Cielito Entrance. The park has two designated landing locations for hang gliders and paragliders.