Hundreds of OHV users gathered in White Pines Saturday, rallying for support to stop the U.S. Forest Service from closing trails in the Stanislaus National Forest to OHVs.
Forest officials developed the Interface Recreation Trails Draft Environmental Impact Statement, which offers six alternatives for recreation in the Interface area of the Stanislaus.
The Interface is a 16-square-mile area of forest bordering the towns of Avery, Arnold and White Pines.
OHV users said Forest Service officials are eyeing a plan that will eliminate OHV use due to pressure from what they say is a small group of local residents, called Commitment to our Recreation Environment (CORE), a group that doesnÂ´t want trespassing, dust and noise near their homes.
One proposed alternative eliminates all non-street legal vehicle use. Street legal vehicles will be limited to certain county roads that go through the Interface area. The Forest Service defines street-legal vehicles as “cars, motorcycles, trucks, recreational vehicles and other vehicles with state registration for highway use.”
Non-street-legal vehicles are defined in the plan as “dirt motorcycles, dune buggies, all terrain vehicles (ATVs), snowmobiles and other vehicles without state registration for highway use.”
Other alternatives include shared use and separated use of motorized and non-motorized use.
Forest Supervisor Tom Quinn will decide which plan to adopt in the next 30 days, Jerry Snyder, Forest Service spokesman said.
“Tom Quinn has always maintained the multi-use position for the forest,” Snyder said, however he added he cannot say specifically which alternative Quinn is leaning toward.
“He is still doing some review on questions and comments that people had and he continues to talk to people,” Snyder said.
The Forest ServiceÂ´s environmental statement summed up the issue: “Some private property owners and residents expressed concern to the Forest Service about controlling and directing the recreation uses on public land that affect the use and enjoyment of their adjacent private property.
“Public uses on these trails can result in noise and dust that could affect private property owners and residents.”
Ralph Emerson, the OHV rally organizer, and other members of Partners in Recreation are meeting with Quinn today to show him the petition distributed at SaturdayÂ´s meeting.
Emerson said he will offer to Quinn that OHV users will help enforce and maintain trails, avoid houses and look at possible permitting.
SaturdayÂ´s crowd erupted with laughter when Emerson said a Forest Service survey showed that 80- to 90-percent of the forest users are hikers. “I donÂ´t think IÂ´ve ever seen a hiker in here,” Emerson said.
“All (Quinn) is hearing is that people want it closed to OHV use,” Patty Clarey, Forest Service recreation officer said. When she tells Quinn there are hundreds of OHV users, Clarey said, “I donÂ´t think he believes me.”
The public comment period for the trails analysis ended May 19.
“I canÂ´t believe (OHV users) havenÂ´t noticed that this process has been going on for the past six years and they havenÂ´t stepped forward,” Judith Spencer, CORE representative said.
The reason for COREÂ´s opposition to OHV use “isnÂ´t dust, it isnÂ´t trespassing, it isnÂ´t noise, itÂ´s all of them combined,” Spencer said. “It drives out other uses.”
After the rally attendees went on a trail ride to “show everyone how many people actually use these trails and roads,” Emerson said.
Calaveras Enterprise story by Vanessa Turner. For more Calaveras news, click: calaverasenterprise.com