By Deb Murphy
The City of Los Angeles has a lot at stake, even with the reduced scale of the Adventure Trails pilot project. Four of the seven approved dual-use routes lead to trailheads on land owned by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.
“The land is open to public use,” Aqueduct Manager Jim Yannotta said in a phone interview. “But we don’t want damage to that land. We’re glad the project was reduced in size and we appreciate the county’s consideration of enforcement.” The department’s concerns were outlined in its comments to the project’s draft EIR, focusing on potential environmental damage, liability, air quality, impacts on grazing leases, limited law enforcement and “proper mechanisms to cite violators for resource damage.”
During the final public hearing on the project held two weeks ago, a proposed ordinance was introduced by county staff. If approved by the Board of Supervisors, local law enforcement would have the authority to cite OHV users for damage to “land, livestock, ranching and farming operations, wildlife, wildlife habitat or vegetative resources.”
The ordinance would address the “mechanism” issue. Sheriff Bill Lutze maintained that the OHV Enforcement Program developed in 2009 with $462,000 in Green Sticker would be adequate to patrol the areas of increased use. The department will be pursuing an increase in funding through the state Parks and Recreation Department.
The Sheriff’s Department currently has two Rhinos in Bishop and two in Lone Pine in addition to four 4×4 vehicles. “We concentrate (our OHV patrols) on weekends,” Lutze said recently. “We hit the high-use areas” depending on the time of year. “If we know there’s a group in the area, we’ll go to that location.”
According to Lutze there haven’t been a lot of issues with OHV users.
Attorney Greg James is looking into whether the proposed ordinance will apply on federal lands, but Lutze said the Sheriff’s Department already works with Bureau of Land Management and Forest Service. “We can hold (a violator) and call the appropriate agency,” he said. “And they do the same for us.”
Existing ordinances only allow deputies to cite for trespass and vandalism within the OHV-use areas. The new law would allow citations for damage to environmental and cultural resources.
The process of resolving LADWP issues and gaining the department’s permission to end dual-use routes on their land is new to the county according to Public Works Transportation Planner Courtney Smith, referring to the actual LADWP permission process. “We’ve talked at the staff level,” he said. “We’re entering into discussions…. to see how we can take the next step.”
Smith feels the proposed ordinance answers the department’s concerns regarding enforcement. “We’re still early in this process,” he said. Over the next three to six months, the county plans to resolve LADWP issues, create signage at the dual-use access routes and deal with mitigation issues identified in the Environmental Impact Report.