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College Restores Historic Entrance Trail to Los Padres National Forest

College Restores Historic Entrance Trail to Los Padres National Forest

Posted: August 5, 2019

Working with the Ventura County Planning Division and the United States Forest Service, Thomas Aquinas College has restored the historic access trail to the Los Padres National Forest, alongside its Santa Paula, California, campus .

Located just north of the entrance to the College on Highway 150, the restored trail is a shorter and more flat, shady, and scenic route to the Forest than the steep, black-top road on the College’s perimeter that hikers have used for the last 30 years. “We took the idea to both the Ventura County Planning Division and the National Forest Service, and everyone was in agreement that restoring the original trail would indeed be an improvement,” says Clark Tulberg, the College’s facilities manager and a lifelong resident of Santa Paula. “We are happy now to have restored this historic route into the Forest, and we hope that hikers will enjoy it.”

Under the terms of its conditional use permit (CUP), Thomas Aquinas College is required to provide access to the National Forest, and has done so via its perimeter road since its move to the former Ferndale Ranch in 1978. The CUP, however, permits the College to change the location of the access point should circumstances arise allowing for a better alternate route. When the College acquired 700 acres of land surrounding the California, campus last year — thereby reconstituting the original Ferndale Ranch — the possibility opened up of restoring the original access trail.

“The new trail realignment is a win for both the hiking community as well as the College” says Ventura County Resource Management Agency Director Kim Prillhart, who oversees the county’s planning division. “Trail users are now able to begin their hiking experience on a wonderfully shaded and scenic trail that fits in with the natural setting of the beautiful Santa Paula Canyon.” Adds Los Padres National Forest District Ranger John F. “Pancho” Smith, “Much of our work involves volunteers and partners, and this new stretch of trail will enhance recreation access for the public and improve their overall experience.”

The restored trail, which is now open for use by day and overnight hikers, has already attracted many visitors, who are delighted by its views and creek access. “As a lifelong hiker on the Santa Paula Creek trail,” says Jim Hines, a member of the Sierra Club Los Padres Executive Committee, “I am so pleased that the new entrance route provided by Thomas Aquinas College will allow even greater enjoyment of the great natural beauty of the Santa Paula Canyon area.”

“Thomas Aquinas College knows this — that the life of the mind involves the spiritual life as well — and that is why I have always thought of this institution as a college in the image and likeness of John Paul II.”

– George Weigel

Papal Biographer