With the Adventure Trails dual-use route system process moving along, county leaders met with Public Works staff to decide how it will handle its responsibilities in approving county roads in the system.
The Adventure Trails system aims to allow green-sticker off-highway vehicle users to travel up to 10 miles on county roads to access in-town amenities, such as food and fuel, and off-road destinations. To complete the system, the Board of Supervisors will be required to review and approve each selected route that will be on a county road.
The Board of Supervisors reviewed the time-lines for its review process, as well as those of the California Highway Patrol and Caltrans, which will also be scrutinizing the routes proposed for the system.
According to Inyo County Transportation Planner Courtney Smith, as the Advocates for Access to Public Lands, which is the lead on the project, begins proposing routes to include in the system, it will be required to complete an application and submit it to the county.
“An application can include several road segments,” Smith said, pointing out that it could take a substantial amount of staff time to review each application, as the county will be reviewing each individual route, and not just the application.
Smith said much of the cost of employee time taken to evaluate the routes included in the applications may be charged to the Local Transportation Commission, so the review process should be cost neutral to the county.“The current Inyo County Local Transportation Commission Overall Work Program includes a task related to studying the designation of combined-use roadway,” Smith said.
Second District Supervisor and Board Chair Susan Cash asked if there would be any way to expedite the review process for the CHP and Caltrans.
Smith said each entity said it could take up to two or even three months to complete the first route reviews.
“The legislation isn’t even enacted yet and we’re running out of time,” Cash said.
Smith said that the CHP and Caltrans have been “very supportive” as the Adventure Trails process moves forward, and he would look into what could be done about the time line.
Third District Supervisor Rick Pucci recommended having AAPL complete applications for a couple roads quickly, which would allow the CHP and Caltrans to begin their first go at the process as soon as possible.
However, before AAPL can begin the application process, it must hold community meetings to give local residents an opportunity to identify ideal roads to include in the system.
Another issue that has come up, Smith said, is the potential to have Adventure Trails routes cross state highways.
According to Smith, AB 628, the Adventure Trails Legislation, says that if an Adventure Trails route crosses a state highway, the county will be required to assume liability for any accidents that take place in that intersection.
County Counsel Randy Keller said that AB 628 provides for up to 10 miles of designated dual-use routes, but the state recognizes a standard three-mile rule. He said that, if the communities can agree on a three-mile route that crosses U.S. 395, the county should not be required to assume liability for the intersection, as that route would not be subject to the rules and regulations that were approved in AB 628.
Smith said that strategy may work for most communities in Inyo, but would be problematic in Bishop, where three miles is not enough to get OHV users from dirt trails to town.
Once the Adventure Trails system has been designated, the program will continue through 2015, at which time the county will review the system and make a recommendation to cancel it or make it a permanent feature in the Owens Valley.