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SLO extends city night hiking program for a year 

Outdoor enthusiasts may continue to use San Luis Obispo city open space after dark this winter.

On Nov. 17, the SLO City Council unanimously voted to extend a two-year-old pilot program that keeps Cerro San Luis Natural Reserve open until 8:30 p.m. from November to March.

click to enlarge NIGHT LIFE The SLO City Council extended a pilot program allowing limited nighttime access to its open space during the winter. - FILE PHOTO BY JAYSON MELLOM
  • File Photo By Jayson Mellom
  • NIGHT LIFE The SLO City Council extended a pilot program allowing limited nighttime access to its open space during the winter.

The program first passed in 2018 as a way to provide working residents more opportunities to use city open space in the shorter winter days. SLO's open spaces typically close an hour after sunset.

Mayor Heidi Harmon said on Nov. 17 that outdoor access is as important as ever given the COVID-19 crisis.

"Now more than ever with COVID bearing down upon us, with restrictions also bearing down on us ... folks need the opportunity to get outdoors, to find safe ways to keep their wellness going and potentially to be with each other at a safe distance," Harmon said.

The city did not make any changes to the mechanics of the program, which offers 65 hiking permits per night, handed out on a first come, first serve basis. The permits are available online.

Although night hiking is popular with many recreationists, some locals oppose it for environmental reasons. City officials pledged in 2018 to produce a report at the conclusion of the pilot program that documented any impacts on wildlife. The city has yet to produce that report thanks to COVID-19.

City Councilmember-elect Jan Marx wrote in a letter to the council that any decision to extend the program should wait until an environmental impact report is available.

"Council and the public were promised an objective, factual evaluation of the impact on wildlife before considering extending the program further," Marx's letter read. "I urge you to do the right thing."

But by extending it just one season, Councilmember Andy Pease argued it will give the community a chance to discuss the program down the road when more information is available.

"It's just a few months," Pease said. "That will align with us being able to have that bigger conversation and get everybody back to the table." Δ

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