Girl Scout and Montecito Trails Remind of Hiker Safety
By an edhat reader
Today it wasn't as hot as it was last week but it was so very humid on Romero Trail that I was drenched in sweat and out of water by the time I reached the peak. I knew I'd be fine since I was just turning around and heading back to my car. Unfortunately, this hasn't been the case for other hikers. Did you know there have been 5 heat related rescues just this week?
Inspired by the Park’s family wish for more trailhead signage about the very real dangers of Heat Exhaustion and Heat Stroke, Girl Scout Ambassador, Abbey Gaston is leading the charge to make their request a reality. Today Abbey, along with Montecito Trails Foundation, hosted a table at the Romero trailhead to talk to users about the very real danger of hot days on the trails.
Sep 12, 2022 03:25 PM
Great job girls! Looking out for your community. I can think of at least 3 badges you have earned with this one act of kindness.
Sep 12, 2022 06:17 AM
Great story. A tragedy is turned into an opportunity to help others who may not be aware of potential dangers. I hope the sign project can be extended to all trails and parks in SB County and beyond. It is unbelievable, but I often see people starting up a trail on a hot day without water.
Sep 12, 2022 03:36 AM
Thank you and continued condolences to Jake Parks' family.
Too bad that this is needed, but it obviously is (even though I'm critical of those who hike in poor conditions). I'm grateful to those involved; it's a good Girl Scout project.
The death of 17-year-old Jake Parks from heat illness after a hike in the mountains above Santa Barbara earlier this year was an incalculable loss for his family.
Jenni and Todd Parks’ son was stricken during the May 14 outing, and died a few hours later at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital.
Despite their ongoing grief, the Parks family — including Jake’s twin sister, Julia, and older brother, Jesse — has found a way to have something positive come out of their heartache.
Thanks to the efforts of a local Girl Scout, the Montecito Trails Foundation and others, signs will be placed at local front-country trailheads providing information about the causes, symptoms and required treatment for heat stroke and heat exhaustion, as well as preparations to prevent those conditions while hiking.
“If I could spare one parent, one family from having to go through this nightmare of losing a child ... ,” Jenni Parks told Noozhawk. “All I want is for people to be aware. Even 17-year-old kids can get in a pickle.”
Parks shared Jake’s story with Noozhawk in June, which led to her connecting with Ashlee Mayfield, president of the Montecito Trails Foundation, and Abbey Gaston, a Girl Scout who is working on her Gold Award project, the organization’s equivalent to the Eagle Scout Award in the Boy Scouts of America.
Mayfield said she was moved by Jake’s story, and talked about the idea of posting information signs with Stephen Dougherty of the Santa Barbara County Search & Rescue Team.
“He and I discussed Jake, and how signage would be helpful,” she said.
Shortly thereafter, Mayfield was contacted by Abbey and her mother, Kara Szymanski-Gaston, who also had been touched by what happened to Jake.
Abbey, a 15-year-old Santa Barbara High junior who plays lacrosse and soccer, has experienced some heat-related illnesses herself, and was moved by Jake’s story and the Parks family’s desire to see something good come from the tragedy.
“I’ve passed out a couple times playing lacrosse when it was really hot, and I didn’t eat or drink enough,” Abbey said, adding that what happened to Jake was somewhat of an epiphany for her. “I read the Noozhawk article about Jake, and immediately when I read it, it hit me. I had had issues myself, and I realized this is real, this is a kid, he is my age.”
With the support of the trails group and others, Abbey got to work fulfilling one of Jenni Parks’ desires in the wake of Jake’s death — to have the informational signs placed at local trailheads.
From there, the project rapidly began to take shape.
“I was able to get things rolling pretty quickly,” Mayfield said, adding that she had help from the Search & Rescue folks creating the signs, which the foundation is underwriting.
She noted that there have been several heat-related rescues from the local trails in the months since Jake’s death, adding a sense of urgency to the project.
The parties involved set up a pop-up table and display at the Cold Spring Trailhead last Sunday to show off the draft signage and get feedback. They also offered hikers water, fruit and pretzels, and electrolytes.
In addition, they surveyed people on their knowledge of heat-related illnesses, and how to prepare for safe excursions into the wild.
“We got a lot of really positive feedback,” Mayfield said.
More pop-ups are planned within the next month, according Abbey’s mom.
Among those supporting this project are Montecito Bank & Trust, Mountain Air Sports, Riviera Towel Co., Rascal’s Vegan Food, Aligned Pilates Studio, Sprouts Farmers Market, Ralphs Supermarket and Nutrishop.
Mayfield said she hopes to have temporary laminated signs, which will be in both English and Spanish, ready for posting in a couple weeks, while waiting for the more-permanent versions, which probably won’t arrive for about six weeks.
Initially, the signs will be posted at front-country trailheads from Montecito to Carpinteria, she said, but she is confident they will spread to trails in other local jurisdictions, including the city and county of Santa Barbara, and Los Padres National Forest.
“This is one of those things that shouldn’t be guided by superficial boundaries,” Mayfield said.
Abbey shared that one of the lessons she has learned from this experience is the importance of “pre-hydrating” hours or even a day before a big hike, especially on hot days, in addition to bringing plenty of water along.
She added that hikers should not be afraid to speak up if they are not feeling well, and shouldn’t hesitate to ask other hikers for water if they need it.
Meanwhile, the Parks family is still coping day to day with the pain of Jake’s death, but taking solace in the sign project.
“I can’t tell you how grateful I am that they are doing this,” Jenni Parks said. “They got things done so quickly — I was shocked.
“I struggle with the loss of him every day, but I know that Jake would want to help somebody.”
Sep 11, 2022 06:05 PM
I'm glad to see that they were out doing this. It is so important that people be aware of the risks and symptoms of heat-related illnesses and avoid being a victim themselves.