By Deb Murphy
The Adventure Trails program allows off-road vehicles, not legal on surface streets, to use those streets to gain access to community services. It’s that simple but the hours of discussion before the Inyo Board of Supervisors probably exceeds the number of hours off-road enthusiasts have spent on the seven designated surface streets in the Owens Valley over the few years the program has been up and running.
And, those discussions started up again at Tuesday’s Board meeting. The item on the agenda was approval for a five-year extension, to be tacked onto current federal legislation. After two hours of public input, the Supervisors approved the extension.
The problem is simple: there isn’t really enough data available on the relative success of the program to make any valid determination about its future. Browns’ Town and Boulder Creek both have access to designated access roads and have seen the advantages. The other routes, reduced from an original 38 routes, don’t connect public lands to community services.
The other problem is off-highway vehicles are legal and there’s no way to determine which off-roaders are using the Adventure Trails systems.
Public comment was split between folks who support off-road activity and want the program expanded and those who consider motorized vehicles in the back country an anathema.
Some of the anti-off-roaders came armed with the assumption the County had invested $500,000 in the project. County Administrative Officer Clint Quilter ran through some of the costs. The environmental work was paid for from Green Sticker grants and state funding. Road department equipment that serves a dual-purpose was paid for with the same grant source and $159,000 in department funds. The $75,000 in staff time was covered by a combination of Green Sticker Local Transportation Commission funds.
During the public comment period, Dr. Thomas Boo added a new wrinkle to the conversation. “The County’s support of OHV activity is divisive. Let the program sunset; let OHVs come but don’t promote it.” Boo latched onto a simple truth: OHVs will be a part of the valley landscape with or without the Adventure Trails.
Julie Fough expressed her own issues with OHVs. She runs a small farm with rental cabins on Horseshoe Meadows Road west of Lone Pine and has had encounters with OHVs going around closed road gates and, basically, behaving badly. Her issue was enforcement of existing laws.
Sheriff Jeff Hollowell explained residents could contact the Sheriff’s Department and request patrols to catch offenders.
During the Board discussion, Supervisor Jeff Griffiths suggested an advisory ballot measure to gauge how the whole community feels about the Adventure Trails program. That got some traction.
Supervisor Matt Kingsley pointed out questionable activity by other recreational pursuits. “Rock climbers leave carabiners in boulders,” he said. “That’s illegal but we still support bouldering.”
The Supervisors also acknowledged there would be little economic impact with the small sample of Adventure Trail routes, but weren’t ready to expand the program.
The Board unanimously approved the extension, so the battle over OHVs will continue.
BISHOP, Calif. – The Inyo National Forest and the Bureau of Land Management Bishop Field Office will hold an open house on Wednesday, Feb. 13, to gather public ideas for requesting off-highway vehicle grant funds.
The informal open house will run from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Forest Service/BLM office, 351 Pacu Lane, Bishop.
The agencies plan to request grant funds from the State of California Off-Highway Motor Vehicle Recreation Division (OHMVR) to enhance and manage motorized recreation in the area. Interested citizens are invited to drop in at any time during the open house and provide ideas for projects and opportunities that could be incorporated into the grants.
Representatives from the two agencies will be available to answer questions about the grant process and to receive input for developing the grants.
Preliminary grant applications will be submitted to the OHMVR Division by March 4. The public will then be able to comment on the preliminary applications from March 5 to May 6. Final applications must be submitted by June 3. For more information about the state grant process and requirements, visit the OHMVR Division website at www.ohv.parks.ca.gov.
For more information, to submit your ideas, or if you have special needs for accommodation to participate in this open house, please call BLM Natural Resources Specialist Sara Manley at (760) 872-5000 or email [email protected] or call Inyo National Forest District Recreation Staff Officer Tony Papa at (760) 873-2561 or email him at [email protected].