Inyo County has begun its environmental review process for the proposed Adventure Trails project that will allow green-sticker off-highway vehicles to use some city and county roads to access local communities and OHV recreation areas.
The county issued a Notice of Preparation of Environmental Documents for the proposed trail system earlier this month and is hosting two scoping meetings to gather input and recommendations from residents. The first public meeting was held last week in Independence and the second public meeting will be held at 6 p.m. in the Bishop City Council Room on Wednesday, Oct. 30.
The Adventure Trails project is the brain child of Advocates for Access to Public Lands President Dick Noles. Noles has formed the Adventure Trails Group with local residents and business owners, and began working with law enforcement, city and county officials to implement the program.
In October 2011, the California Legislature approved Assembly Bill 628, which will allow the county to establish the Adventure Trails system as a pilot project. Under the bill the county has the power to designate up to 10 miles of county or city (with approval from the Bishop City Council) streets as combined-use roads, allowing licensed drivers of OHVs to travel on the pavement.
The Inyo County Sheriff’s Department, Bishop Police Department and California Highway Patrol have all reviewed and approved the plan.
According to a staff report from the Inyo County Planning Department, the project has the potential to impact “aesthetic resources, air quality, biological resources, cultural resources, geology and soils, greenhouse gas emissions, hazards, hazardous materials, hydrology and water quality, land use and planning, noise, public services, recreation, transportation and traffic, and could have cumulatively considerable environmental impacts.”
To address potential impacts, the county, which is the lead agency on the project, has hired a consultant to prepare an Environmental Impact Report.
At the public meeting in Independence last Thursday, concern was expressed by Aberdeen resident Steve McLaughlin about noise and dust on Birch Creek Road and he felt there should be a posted speed limit of no more than 15 miles per hour. Another concern was that, if the program proves successful, the Tinnemaha Campground will overflow, resulting in unregulated camping outside of the campground and there should be a way to ensure that people are camping in legal locations. Some concern was expressed about cultural resources such as old mining sites, petroglyphs and Indian housing rings as well.
McLaughlin also had a concern over the impact of ATVs on wildlife and the habitat in the Birch Creek Area and for the safety of local residents and their pets that often walk along the road. He noted that, while he did have concerns, he was not against the program, but rather wanted to be sure that any hazardous, safety and environmental concerns will be addressed.
Bob Strub of Keeler expressed his support of the program and suggested the county look into use of gas tax funds to help with road maintenance associated with OHV uses.
The director of the Eastern California Museum, Jon Klusmire, spoke about the need to have clearly defined routes and signage to keep OHV users on designated trails.
According to the group promoting Adventure Trails, the routes have been through extensive review in the Travel Management Plan and the project presents funding opportunities for education and signage. Everyone agreed that education was going to be a key to the program’s success and it was pointed out signage and information kiosks are planned for that purpose.
Everyone also agreed that the plan has the potential for great economic benefit. A report shared by the Adventure Trails group showed that a similar widely implemented plan in Utah resulted in significant economic benefits to the communities which participated. For the plan to succeed it will require close monitoring and cooperation coupled with a mechanism to quickly address any serious issues that might arise that may pose hazards to residents or the environment.
For more information on the Adventure Trails Project, contact the Inyo County Planning Department at (760) 878-0263 or firstname.lastname@example.org .