About 200 people showed up Monday to browse maps and ask questions about three options for the expanded park. One plan allows off-road vehicles limited access to the expansion area, another would create more trails leading through the hills and ridgetops, and another considers the same intensity of use as the existing park.
Both sides of the debate came to a workshop hosted by the California State Parks Off-Highway Motor Vehicle Recreation Division on Monday, June 10, in Tracy High School’s cafeteria.
The topic was the state’s plan for 3,478 acres in Alameda County, which could be added to the existing 1,540-acre Carnegie off-road vehicle park.
The California State Parks department’s Off-Highway Motor Vehicle Recreation division bought the Tesla-Alamada expansion area in a series of purchases between 1996 and 1998. The state paid for the land through the OHMVR Trust Fund, which is supported by gasoline taxes and state-required registration fees for off-road vehicles.
The expansion area remains closed to the public even though the state has started, and shelved, two previous environmental studies in 2000 and 2004.
Supporters of new trails said 15 years of waiting is long enough.
Mark Speed of Hayward said the debate between motorcycle riders and environmentalists can go on endlessly.
“It’s going to be a fight for the rest of our lives, to be able to do what we enjoy doing,” he said. “We’ve had to jump through enough hoops with the environmental stuff.”
He added that he and his three sons, now adults, always appreciated having a park set aside for motorcycles and other off-road vehicles.
“They love nature just as much as the next person,” he said. “If you’re a true environmentalist would it not make more sense to have (riders) in one area, and let them stay there where it can be maintained?”
Randy Caldera, acting superintendent at Carnegie, explained that Monday’s meeting is a step in the creation of a state-mandated environmental impact report (EIR).
The study will spell out how new motorcycle trails would affect the flora and fauna on the south side of Corral Hollow Canyon. The report could be ready for public review by the end of November.
“There will be some form of motorcycle use in all the concepts. The EIR should iron that out, to what extent that’s going to be,” Caldera said.
The expansion area includes the site of the former coal mining town of Tesla, which thrived in the decade between 1897 and 1907. Remnants of the town include foundations of the industrial structures, large mounds of the mine tailings and an abandoned mine shaft, sealed off with an iron gate. The state plans to keep that site off-limits to off-road vehicles.
Opponents to the plan include Mark Connolly, who is the fourth generation on his family’s 9,000 acre ranch next to Carnegie. He said the state hasn’t considered other uses for the land, such as the potential for East Bay Regional Park District to manage the land.
“There should be an alternative which is a non-OHV (off-highway vehicle) use park, such as a passive use park -- equestrian, hiking -- and that can be funded by other sources,” Connolly said.
Karen Schambach, coordinator of California Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, said the state doesn’t seem willing to pursue options that exclude motorcycle trails.
“Then they’d have to admit that they screwed up when they bought the property without doing due diligence or any investigation into whether this was suitable for OHV,” she said.
Ole Stortroen of Danville said he is confident the state can find a compromise that allows motorcycle trails. He was part of the Hollister Hills State Vehicular Recreation Area Advisory Committee when that park in San Benito County expanded 11 years ago, after settling a lawsuit from neighbors.
“Some people still aren’t happy because they don’t care for motorized recreation,” he said.
“The mission of the Off-Highway Vehicle Division is to provide more opportunities, but also to take care of the land in an environmental way,” Stortroen said. “Hollister Hills is a great place that showcases what can be done to protect that land.”
• Contact Bob Brownne at 830-4227 or firstname.lastname@example.org.