Governor Jerry Brown signed off on Assembly Bill 628 Friday, creating the pilot program for the Inyo County Adventure Trails system.
Designed to boost the local economy and give off-road recreators the ability to drive their green sticker vehicles for up to 10 miles on county roads, A.B. 628 has seen widespread support in Inyo County.
Among those who endorsed the bill are local chambers of commerce, the Inyo County Board of Supervisors and the Inyo County Sheriff’s Department.
“Inyo County’s economy relies upon the tourists who travel to the Eastern Sierra for the countless outdoor activities the area has to offer,” State Assemblywoman, Connie Conway said. “Designating these trails will help encourage more visitors to enjoy Inyo County’s natural wonder and protect these precious lands for generations to come.”
“The ink wasn’t even dry when I got the call Friday afternoon,” said Dick Noles, a member of the Advocates for Access to Public Lands, the local nonprofit group that designed the legislation and passed it on to Conway. “This is really exciting. It’s been a four year process, and it will benefit the residents and visitors here.”
With the governor’s approval, AAPL, will begin a series of public meetings with local residents to determine what routes would best be suited for the Adventure Trails system, providing safe access to town for OHV users while causing minimal impact to everyday street traffic.
Beginning with the community of Independence, AAPL will gather input from local residents before designing a map for the Adventure Trails system. Once the map is complete, it will be presented to the Board of Supervisors, county road department and local law enforcement for approval.
“In the end, we weren’t concerned about who had to approve the maps, because we want the roads to be as safe as possible,” said Second District Supervisor and Board Chair Susan Cash.
“There are a lot of steps to be taken on this and we want to take it slow and get it right,” Noles said.
While the community of Independence will be the first to have its Adventure Trails map published, Noles said AAPL will be working simultaneously with the communities of Bishop, Big Pine and Lone Pine so the next waive of maps won’t be far behind the first.
Noles said he hopes to have the Independence trails system up and running by early spring 2012.
The roads that will be used for the system currently exist, so no new infrastructure would be needed. Private donations would offset any costs at the county level.
“I thank the Governor for understanding how important this legislation is for the economy of our rural community,” said Conway.
While the Adventure Trails System has seen widespread support locally, some out-of-the-area organizations such as Sierra Club, the Alliance for Responsible Recreation and ORV Watch Kern County have expressed opposition, claiming that allowing OHV users to access county roads could impede on their private property rights.
Others have said that the green-sticker vehicles would create a noise issue and create unsafe traveling conditions for other motorists.
Cash said that local community members will ultimately decide what routes to include in the system, which should limit complaints about noise.
Noles pointed out that the legislation requires all motorists using county roads to have a valid drivers license and imposes a 35 mile per hour speed limit on all system roads and restricts OHVs from using county roads at night to ensure maximum safety for all motorists.
“This is going to be a fun thing,” Noles said. “We want to do this right so we have a quality system that everyone can utilize and tie recreators to the community. This is a golden opportunity for local businesses.”