Los Padres National Forest reopened several popular hiking trails last week over a year after the Gap Fire wrecked havoc on the area.

The hiking paths were closed in the aftermath of the fire to allow for hydromulching treatment of the burned land. The newly opened trails include the Playground and the Brickyard, a rock climbing area.

Before reopening, the burned area was treated with hydromulch, an organic substance that helps new vegetation grow in burned areas. Los Padres National Forest District Director Douglas Dodge said the park was closed to prevent hikers from walking over this fertilizer.

“We want to keep people off of the hydromulch that is intact until the rainy season is over,” Dodge said. “If you walk on the stuff it breaks the stuff and loses its effectiveness.”

Hydromulch consists of a combination of recycled paper, water, green dye and a binding agent. After being sprayed on the soil, the mulch hardens over hillside soil, protecting land from erosion and encouraging new plant growth.

According to Dodge, the quick-drying substance looks “like a paper machè.”

The reopened trails were severely burned in July 2008, when the Gap Fire burned over 10,000 acres in the Santa Ynez Mountains above Goleta. The fire cost roughly $20 million to contain. Dodge said the closure of the popular park greatly impacted local residents, who he said frequently spend time at the parks.

Similar hydromulching plans are underway in the Jesusita Fire burn area.