Inyo County will be the first area in the state to get an Adventure Trails System that allows off-highway vehicles to travel a limited distance on surface roads to reach recreational areas or amenities such as food and fuel.
The California State Assembly approved AB 628, which was sponsored by Assembly Republican Leader Connie Conway, of Tulare, last week.
AB 628, which will be reviewed during policy committee hearings later this summer for final approval, aims to authorize a pilot project in Inyo County to interconnect existing trails designed for off-highway vehicles, such as four wheelers, with local streets and roads.
The idea is to allow off-road recreators in and around the communities of Inyo County to utilize local streets and roads for a short distance, allowing them to reach local restaurants, businesses, fuel and other resources.
Dick Noles, president of the Advocates for Access to Public Lands, who has been working with local and state officials since the Adventure Trail’s idea was brought up, said that, with the support of local residents and county and city leaders, the bill should pass in the Senate later this year.
“Hopefully by that time we will have enough support and influence to get this thing on the road,” Noles said.
The original legislation for the Adventure Trails System passed through the House Committees without opposition last year, before being vetoed by then-Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Noles said Schwarzenegger vetoed the legislation because it was late in the year and there was not enough time for legislators to make changes proposing a five-year pilot program for the Adventure Trails System to assure skeptics that the system will work before it is implemented permanently.
Prior to being reviewed by the State Transportation Committee, a coalition of organizations, including the Wilderness Society and Sierra Club submitted a letter objecting to the Adventure Trails proposal, saying that, among other things, it would impact quiet places within town limits.
Despite the objections, the Transportation Committee approved the bill unanimously.
“Our plan is to get these people to come into town on a very limited number of streets, only side streets, to get to food and gas, and get out of town,” Noles said.
“These trails already exist and by joining them together, we can protect these scenic areas now and for generations to come. This will also help the local economy by encouraging off-road enthusiasts to visit Inyo County,” said Conway.
The trails currently exist so no new infrastructure would be needed. Private donations would offset any costs at the county level.
“This simple legislation means so much to our community. Making it easier for trail users to get to lodging, camping, dining and other services will be a much-needed shot in the arm for our local economy,” said Randy Gillespie, owner of Golden State Cycle in Bishop.
Inyo County has been working closely with the California Highway Patrol, OHV users, local governments, state agencies and the public to develop the proposed routes for the trail system.
“We have partnered with stakeholders to make sure this connected trail system will help our economy, meet the highest safety standards and protect the environment,” said Inyo County Supervisor Susan Cash.
As AB 628 makes its way through the state bureaucracy, AAPL continues to meet with community members to develop maps that show what roads will be included in the Adventure Trails System.
“AAPL will not be the ones to decide what roads are available,” Noles said. “That will be up to the communities.”
If approved, the system will be implemented slowly, starting with Independence, to ensure that it works for each individual community.
“Economically, this has potential like you would not believe,” Noles said. “There are a lot of people who want this, and economically, this is going to be incredible” because it will give OHV users access to local businesses. that he felt were necessary to the bill.
For its second try, Noles said AAPL is