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OHV trails project nears finish line

June 11, 2014

Lone Pine resident George Foreman (l) and Bureau of Land Management Outdoor Recreation Planner Richard Williams (r) attended Saturday’s ribbon cutting, along with Bishop resident Lanny Lehigh (center). Williams said that he and BLM Field Manager Steven Nelson are on board to make this new trail system a success that will add another tourist attraction for the area. Photo by Rena Mlodecki

Signs are up and the Eastern Sierra Adventure Trails system’s off-highway trails are ready for use, but county officials are still working on an Environmental Impact Report that will steer the selection of dual-use county and city streets to be included in the route system.
On Saturday, members of the Adventure Trails group and local OHV users met at the Laws Poleta OHV area for an official ribbon cutting tailgate party, celebrating the completion of Adventure Trails signage for the area.
Though that area is officially open for use, residents and visitors won’t be able to use dual-use paved roads until the EIR process is complete. The draft EIR on the Eastern Sierra Adventure Trails system is due to be released to the public for comment this July.
When complete, the Eastern Sierra Adventure Trails Program will designate several city and county roads as “combined use.” The designation will allow licensed drivers of green-sticker off-highway vehicles, such as quads, ATVs and side-by-sides, to travel from local communities to OHV recreation areas using local streets and roads.
Adventure Trails was proposed by the local, nonprofit OHV group Advocates for Access to Public Lands and other community members. The idea was picked up and carried to Sacramento by legislators who ultimately proposed Assembly Bill 628, which allows the county and city to designate up to 10-mile stretches of local, paved roads for combined use as a pilot project.
Bishop Public Works Director Dave Grah said that he has commented on administrative drafts of the EIR, correcting minor mistakes to maps and street names, and has made it clear that the City of Bishop’s plans for the route system may differ slightly from the plans Inyo County has proposed.
For example, Grah said the county is planning to mark dual-use roads via signage and markings painted directly on the pavement. He explained that the City of Bishop is planning to use only signage, and forego painting identifiers on the roads themselves.
Grah said that he did not provide any comments specific to concerns regarding dual-use on Hanby Avenue in east Bishop. He explained that the California Highway Patrol, “who are important players in the approval process,” has already gone on record recommending that Hanby Avenue be removed from the Adventure Trails system.
Several Bishop residents felt the same way during a series of public information meetings held last October. Among the concerns shared at those meetings were the high volume of pedestrians on the street, and a lack of sidewalks.
According to Grah, several years ago the city undertook a major street improvement project on Hanby. At that time, a majority of the residents there said they preferred not having sidewalks.
In response to the concerns expressed last fall, the city conducted a survey of 68 residents on Hanby and nearby streets. In all, Grah said 15 residents responded. Nine said they would like sidewalks. Four of the residents who responded said they didn’t want sidewalks.
Because the sidewalk issue is so contentious, Grah said the city doesn’t have any plans to add sidewalks to Hanby.
He did explain that the EIR process is an opportunity for residents to have their opinions heard. If there is widespread opposition to including Hanby in the Adventure Trails system, Grah said the process provides an opportunity for project leaders to identify an alternate route that is more agreeable.
AAPL President Dick Noles said Wednesday that the completed Adventure Trails system will be an economic boon for the whole county. He said he expects trail users to be regular customers at local gas and grocery stores, and at local hotels, motels and RV parks.
“We’re pushing hard to get this stuff done by the end of our five-year pilot project because we’re already three-and-a-half years in. We’ve gotten incredible support from everybody, and they’re all going to have an opportunity to benefit. We’re hoping to get this done very soon.”

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