A bill designed to attract tourism to Inyo County is one step closer to be signed into law.
Assembly Bill 628, known locally as the Adventure Trails System that will allow green-sticker off-highway vehicles to travel a short distance on county roads, has been approved in the Senate and Assembly and is awaiting approval from the governor.
Backed by local government, the non-profit Advocates for Access to Public Lands and a number of local citizens, the Adventure Trails Bill was crafted to allow off-highway vehicle users in Inyo County to venture from trails to town (as long as they don’t go more than 10 miles on surface streets) to access food, fuel and other amenities.
The Advocates for Access to Public Lands has worked closely with community members, the Inyo County Sheriff’s Department and the Inyo County Board of Supervisors to identify routes in and around local communities that can be used for the Adventure Trails System.
According Dick Noles, a founder of AAPL who helped form the legislation, the Adventure Trails System will be built ground-up by community members, who will decide which county roads should be included. No state highways are eligible for the system.
When the Adventure Trails System is complete, Noles said signage will be placed and maps will be printed to ensure off-highway vehicle travelers know exactly what roads they are permitted to use.
“We’ve received overwhelming support for this bill from local residents, law enforcement and businesses,” Second District Inyo County Supervisor and Board Chair Susan Cash said. “This critically-needed measure will attract visitors to our scenic area and protect jobs in our tourism-based economy.”
While the bill has seen widespread local support, a number of state organizations, including the Sierra Club, the Alliance for Responsible Recreation and ORV Watch Kern County. have said the bill will be a detriment to the environment, a safety hazard and threat to private property owners who do not want OHV users on their land.
Those groups have also said that there is no proof the Adventure Trails System would benefit the Inyo County economy.
Noles, on the other hand, says other communities throughout the U.S., namely in Utah, have managed successful programs similar to the one that is on the governor’s desk, and have seen positive results.
If the system doesn’t work, Noles said, that is OK, as the legislation drafted by Assemblywoman Connie Conway is only a pilot program and will expire.
If the program is successful, it can be made a permanent law.
“By clearly designating these trails, we can protect the beauty of the Eastern Sierra for all visitors, whether they enjoy the sights by foot, bike, horseback or off-road vehicle,” Conway said.
A.B. 628 was passed 65-8 in the Senate and 29-7 in the Assembly, Tim Anaya, Conway’s deputy communications director, said.
“We did get some opposition letters from some environmental groups, but they all look like state groups,” Anaya said, adding it is unclear where some groups are based, but none seem to be based in Inyo County.
Governor Jerry Brown has until Oct. 9 to act on the measure.
“We have not received word one way or another from the Governor’s Office, but they usually don’t say anything until it’s done,” Anaya said. “Right now he has something like 600 bills to wade through before Oct. 9.”