One of Rancho Santa Fe’s most enviable amenities is its trail system, an exclusive path through the community with everything from golf course views to peaceful forested areas. The Rancho Santa Fe Trails and Recreation Committee has taken on the arduous task of updating all of the trail maps and easement holders.
To complete the time-consuming project, Barbara Kruer, chair of the trails and recreation committee, enlisted the help of Lisa Bartlett, who has been riding the Ranch’s trails since she was 16 years old.
“I care passionately about the trails, so I understood that this was a very large project, but I am happy to do it,” Bartlett said. “It’s wonderful to work with Barbara because she is willing to put in the time that the project needs.”
Kruer said she is just as grateful to have Bartlett’s wealth of knowledge.
“She knows every trail here, she used to ride all of these trails bareback,” Kruer said, complimenting Bartlett’s skills as an equestrian.
Bartlett recalled her days as a teenager, riding the trails when there were no fences and few houses — just miles of open space and groves of fruit trees.
“I was lucky to be here in those days,” Bartlett said, remembering rides all the way to the ocean and out to Fairbanks Ranch area when there was not yet any development. “It was a wonderful experience then, to go wherever you wanted whenever you wanted. The only unspoken rule was, if you broke a sprinkler head you were asked to notify the property owner or fix it yourself.”
Kruer and Bartlett, who have ridden together for 15 years, have been meeting up since January on the “Herculean task,” working on the maps as well as developing potential upgrades and further encroachment permits.
The system has been reported to be anywhere from 35 to 55 miles long, so part of that task is reviewing exactly what the Association has and then having the capable trails committee figure out how to protect it.
For the most part, Kruer and Bartlett are poring over maps in the Association office’s conference room. But last week, the pair were able to hit the trails on their horses, riding on a beautifully warm February day on the Via de Fortuna portion, shaded by trees and perfumed by orange groves.
“This is a part of the trail that is very well traveled by a lot of Covenant residents, from joggers to people walking their dogs and horseback riders,” Kruer said.
Kruer said the diversity of trail users was illustrated just by the two of them and their horses. Kruer was riding on Snickers, a hunter/jumper horse who trains with Hap Hansen, a real “Rancho Santa Fe horse” who lives a spoiled life at the Osuna Ranch. Bartlett rode Western-style on Amber, who lives in her stable just up the trail on Bartlett’s mother’s property.
Kruer said a wide variety of horseback riders take advantage of the trail system from dressage to casual riders.
As Bartlett explained, there are four different types of trails in the Covenant: Association-owned “hub” trails, like those around the golf course; permanent easement trails that have been generously dedicated to the Association; revocable easement trails that have been dedicated by owners but can be rescinded by a subsequent property owner; and trails in use, which means they aren’t permanent or revocable easements but have “graciously” been made available to users by homeowners.
Kruer said rules of the trail to be remembered are that dogs should always be leashed and that equestrians have the right of way.
Bartlett said many people don’t know much about horses, and a mistake they often make — unintentionally — is to come up behind a horse quietly, which can startle and frighten it.
“It would be really nice if people say, ‘Hi, I’m here, I’m coming up’ and let an equestrian know that you’re there,” Bartlett said.
She encouraged any property owner who is interested in giving an easement to contact the trails and recreation committee, as it is key to building the trail system.
Kruer said the trails and recreation committee is always looking for volunteers. Those interested can call 858-877-0433.
The trails and recreation committee is hosting a trail ride and luncheon at the Rancho Riding Club at 10 a.m. April 25. Call to RSVP for the ride.