(Photo courtesy Ventura County Sheriff showed the situation back in May when illegal parking along Highway 150 plus graffiti, trash, and overcrowding of the popular "Punch Bowls" trail shut it down)
GOLETA, Calif. – Los Padres National Forest officials today extended the interim closure of the Punch Bowl area in the Santa Paula Canyon on the Ojai Ranger District until September 30. This extension was implemented due to the increasingly heavy vehicle traffic and large groups of visitors potentially creating conditions where recommended physical distancing protocol is not possible.
This Order encompasses the area of Santa Paula Canyon from the Forest boundary to approximately 3 miles above the Punch Bowl. The Order also closes Big Cone, Cross, and Jackson Hole campgrounds, Forest Trail Number 21W09, and Forest Road Number 4N04A. The trailhead for Trail Number 21W09, known as the Last Chance Trail, has free parking for approximately 15 vehicles. Overflow visitors have been parking and walking along California Highway 150 and in some cases creating serious traffic hazards.
The Forest consulted with local partner agencies such as the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office, the California Highway Patrol, and the Ventura County Commission, along with elected officials and Los Padres Forest Association, prior to extending this closure for public safety concerns. The Last Chance Trail is narrow and presents obstacles to safe, six-foot distancing along the trail. The Punch Bowl is increasingly a popular destination for many visitors who congregate over many hours to picnic, swim, and play in the area. This has resulted in excessive amounts of litter, toilet paper and human feces in the area and along the trail that visitors unfortunately decided not to “pack out” with them.
A group of concerned area residents numbering in the hundreds volunteered their time and energy to begin the difficult work of cleaning up after record numbers of visitors left the area in disarray two months ago. Thanks to these volunteer efforts, thousands of pounds of garbage were carried out and illegal graffiti was removed from Santa Paula Canyon’s beautiful rock formations.
“The unnecessary damage to this area was very disheartening but from that there was a very positive outcome when an amazing group of volunteers decided they were going to reclaim this special place,” said acting Ojai District Ranger Karina Gutierrez. “We will continue working with this group over the next two months while the area is closed so the land can begin to heal.”
Violations of this Forest Order can result in a $5,000 fine and/or six months confinement.