Boulders set in place by property owners claiming vandalism have forced Shelf Road hikers to park on Gridley Road, or at the other end of the trail on Signal Street.
County investigating legality of blocking access
By Sondra Murphy
When mysterious boulders appeared near the popular Shelf Road hiking trail off Gridley Road last week, many residents were alarmed. According to two county departments, Shelf Road is a fire road and not a hiking trail at all.
Originally blocking the fire lane, the end-table-to-washing-machine-sized rocks have been cleared aside to allow large vehicle access, but continue to prevent the public from parking at the bottom of the trail.
“The Gridley Road end is really the mouth of the trail there,” said Dick Fernow, who voluntarily supplies water to each end of the trail. “You could park about four or five cars there, but you can no longer do that.” Fernow delivered water to the trail on March 22. “Then Wednesday, when I went back, it was all blocked off.” His best guess was the rocks were placed there on March 23.
“I was floored when I went up there,” said Tia Andrews. “They’ve effectively cut off the ability to park along Gridley.” Anyone familiar with that stretch of Gridley Road knows the narrow and curving street provides sparse parking options.
Ventura County 1st District Supervisor Steve Bennett said his office is investigating the situation. “I’m going to do everything I can to make sure we don’t let anybody block the public’s legal access,” he said Monday. Bennett was still in the process of setting up meetings with the county Public Works agency and the Sheriff’s Department on Monday.
According to Ojai Fire Station 21 Capt. Dale Cundiff, Shelf Road is a fire access road. “All I know is the property owner has been having trouble with trespassers,” said Cundiff. “There may be some dispute as to where the property lines are … Our only involvement has been to maintain access and the property owner complied.”
David Fleisch, Ventura County director of the Transportation Department, supported Cundiff’s claim. “It’s not a parking area, it’s a road,” said Fleisch. “I understand that residents aren’t happy with people parking up there. If they don’t like that people are parking up there, that is an issue for the County Sheriff’s Department to enforce.”
According to Sgt. Maureen Hookstra at the Ojai Police Department, no parking complaints have been received for the area in question, but she suspected this might change with the newly restricted easement.