By Charles James

Tuesday’s regular Inyo County Board of Supervisors’ meeting in Independence will possibly decide the fate of the ATV Adventure Trails System of the Eastern Sierra, an effort led by Dick Noles of Bishop and supported by many businesses in the county. The agenda item is scheduled for 1:30 p.m.

Inyo County Public Works Project Manager assigned to the Adventure Trails proposal, Courtney Smith

Inyo County Public Works Project Manager assigned to the Adventure Trails proposal, Courtney Smith

The Adventure Trails Pilot Project hopes to emulate the success of other similar programs in other states and communities which have reportedly proven successful in improving the local economies establishing similar routes accommodate ATV access to local businesses.

The Board of Supervisors’ vote comes as the Inyo County Planning Commissioners unanimously voted at their last special commission meeting on Nov. 5 to accept the Planning Department staff recommendations and forward the Final Environmental Impact Report to the Inyo County Board of Supervisors.

The history of the project can be found on the County’s Planning Department website which explains that, on October 7, 2011, the California State Legislature passed Assembly Bill 628, which allowed Inyo County to establish a pilot project to designate combined-use highway segments up to 10 miles long on unincorporated County roads to link existing off-highway-vehicle (OHV) trails and trailheads on federal Bureau of Land Management or United States Forest Service lands. Its stated purpose is to link OHV recreational-use areas with necessary service and lodging facilities, in order to provide a unified system of OHV trails in the Owens Valley.

Several of the designated multi-use roads are in the City of Bishop. Some homeowners, fearing a negative impact on their neighborhoods formed the citizens’ group, Save Our Streets, and are asking the Board of Supervisors for a delay in the program’s implementation. Similar requests were made from homeowners during the Nov. 5 Planning Commission meeting. The delay was considered impractical given the timeline under AB 628, which sets a deadline of no later than January 1, 2016, for the County, in consultation with the Department of the California, Highway Patrol, the Department of Transportation, and the Department of Parks and Recreation, to “prepare and submit to the Legislature a report evaluating the pilot project as described in Section 38026.1 of the Vehicle Code.” With only a year to conduct the pilot project and evaluation, time is critical says Adventure Trails’ supporters.

While the project has generally enjoyed wide-spread support among the public and especially with local business owners who hope to see a positive economic impact on the County, such groups as the Center for Biological Diversity and Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility have environmental concerns. Some local homeowners in residential neighborhoods with streets that are included in the plan’s designated routes express concern over the potential for harm to their property values from the effects from noise, air quality and safety concerns.

The Environmental Impact Report was created by principal consultant Joe Gibson and AATSES Project Manager Roland OK, of Meridian Consultants, LLC.

Currently the Adventure Trails Pilot Project Plan has been reduced from the original 38 combined-use routes to 36 by the California Highway Patrol Safety Determination. There are 242 miles of combined-use routes or 181 miles of actual Inyo County and City of Bishop roads, slightly over half of which are paved, and the rest unpaved or dirt roads). Some of the combined-use routes share the same roads. All of the routes must comply with the Vehicle Code as amended in AB 628.

Seventeen of the designated combined-use designated routes are in the Bishop Area (4 in the City); 3 in the Aberdeen Area, 2 in the Big Pine Area, 3 in the Northern Inyo Range, 4 in the Independence Area, and 7 in the Lone Pine Area.

Several recommendations for revisions in wording were recommended to the Board of Supervisors by the Planning Commission to address several concerns in the County’s Assembly Bill 628 Implementing Procedures. They are:

  1. “If a necessary service facility at the start of end point of a combined-use route closes, the applicants shall be required to submit a revised application within 90 days from the date the business is closed.”

2. “If the County’s monitoring determines that undesirable impacts are being create by a combined-use route, the County shall close the route by removal of all signage with 90 days from the date of the Board action.”

3. “The Mitigation and Monitoring Plan for the ESAT System EIR is included as part of the Implementing Procedures by reference.”

4. “The County shall monitor for creation of new OHV routes along the proposed combined-use routes and coordinate with the property owner/land management agency to determine if corrective action is required.”

For more detailed information on Adventure Trails, visit Inyo County Planning Department’s website at: http://www.inyocounty.us/ab628/. The Board of Supervisors meeting can also be viewed live on Channel 12 by Suddenlink Customers with cable TV.