BIG YELLOW TAXI AND THE CARNEGIE STORM MANAGEMENT PLAN

DEVELOPMENTS, PARKING LOTS, ROADS AND HIGHWAYS VERSUS OUR RIDING AREA

Are the new rules being devised at Carnegie a result of overzealous bureaucrats and law makers? Are these rules related to the law suit to close our park?

It started when a couple of pseudo environmental groups filed suit and tried to convince a judge to close down Carnegie OHV Recreation Area. They told the judge that dirt bikes cause toxins to be released into the creek. They forgot to mention that the creek is dry except a few weeks (or days) a year. The enviro-extremists contend that these toxins (released by dirt bikes) flow into the delta and kill fish. Wow… I guess that means fewer fish for them to slaughter with hook, bait and tackle. Someone conveniently forgot to mention that the creek does not flow into any body of water least of all the Delta.

This story line would be considered laughable except that a judge agreed to shut down Carnegie based on their irrefutable logic. A higher court reversed his ruling and Carnegie remained open. The plaintiffs were told to go to the regional water board and make their case there. Pressured by the court, the state agreed to close down the creek. And bingo the wide sandy valley floor where a small trickle of water flows a few weeks a year was fenced off to save the fish.

Is this the same flood plain that was once a gravel pit? Now they have dreams of turning this gravel pit into a meandering stream roaming through a shaded canopy of trees. Fat Chance! Did anyone inform them that Carnegie is located in a Mediterranean subtropical climate zone?  The surrounding chaparral is composed of summer drought-tolerant plants and bone dry grass; brown yearlong except during the short rainy season. Riparian streams generally run year round unlike the mostly dry creek that runs through Carnegie.

The state legislature, the California Department of Parks and Recreation, and the regional water board are being influenced by these extremists and are adopting policies that are killing our sport. The extremists’ attitude is based on fiction rather than fact and on prejudice and hatred of motorcycles. These people have an agenda that has nothing to do with the environment. As a result of their input, the park’s vision for the future has changed from permitting open riding on rough terrain to a new policy of allowing riding only on improved trails (except for a designated “open riding area” on unchallenging essentially flat terrain).

The new storm management plan adopted by the California State Parks has resulted in an unprecedented attack on off road riding at Carnegie. From the beginning off road riding was all about conquering rough terrain. The new rules forbid this kind of riding. The hills will be all fenced off and we will be relegated to trails that are approved for our use. The quote, unquote experts that put together this new plan do not care about what the riders want. They are ignorant of the fact that we ride because we enjoy the challenge of riding rough terrain – the steeper and more technical the better…. They don’t know that our best riders are competitive on a national stage because they learned to ride at Carnegie before the new rules were implemented.

Who are Gyosyntec Consultants and Salix Applied Earthcare and who referred them as expert consultants responsible for formulating the new rules? These are urgent questions that need to be answered. These consultants were essential in formulating the new rules outlawing riding on rough terrain and forbidding riding when traction is perfect after it rains.

New rules were adopted last fall to close down the park after three tenths of an inch of  rainfall in twelve hours, etc. (See the Storm Management Plan for Carnegie SVRA prepared by the California Department of Parks and Recreation – http://ohv.parks.ca.gov/pages/25010/files/Carnegie-svra_swmp.pdf see page 62). The hills aren’t opened until there is at least twenty-four hours of dry weather. They don’t take into consideration that we like to ride when there is maximum traction sometimes hours after the rain has stopped. In short, they didn’t consider the goals of the riders when they came up with their “new rules”.

It also doesn’t seem that they considered the varied geology at Carnegie. Parts are composed of clay, with other parts composed of sandstone. There is also shale, slate and some metamorphic bedrock in Carnegie. These surfaces react differently to rain. A condition where the soil gets saturated and sheet flow occurs is not a phenomenon that is found throughout Carnegie when it rains. Some areas are stable when it rains because the underlying composition is of hard bedrock particularly in the south park.

It is stated that closures of the main fire roads are about minimizing soil being dislodged and transported by storm water. But the experts don’t acknowledge that in wet conditions where water is draining down the fire roads an application of the throttle results in the tire slipping as if on grease. The only thing gets dislodged is the rider when he is deposited on the ground.

Nor is it noted anywhere in the new rules that soon after the sun comes out there is often perfect traction. Nothing gets dislodged. They didn’t concern themselves with the fact that we don’t ride in the channels where the water drains down into Coral Hollow Canyon (except maybe on some of the fire roads). We can close them down without closing down all the other trails. How could they know these things? They are not riders and don’t understand the geology of the park like the riders who experience those conditions firsthand.

These new rules are a threat to small businesses that rely on Carnegie for survival. Moto Mart, a motorcycle parts and accessories store located inside Carnegie OHV Park, has been under intense financial pressure due to the wet weather closings. The diminished level of ridership during the red sticker season, when the owners normally make most of their profits, has caused them to lose money this year.

Skips Hill Climb Promotions have had to cancel a couple of hill climb events this year due to reports of possible rainfall. There is a lot of money and planning that goes into promoting these events. Skip and his family are hurting financially because of the closings.

There are other small businesses in Livermore, Tracy and throughout the Bay Area that rely on Carnegie riders for their business. They too are hurting because of the diminished ridership at Carnegie. Nobody took into consideration small business owners when they came up with the new rules.

In an attempt to keep their jobs, the state has hired independent contractors to plan, build and inspect “environmentally sustainable” trails and in theory keep them in perfect condition. These routes are indiscriminately marked as beginner, intermediate and expert. The so-called black diamond trails are trails that any experienced rider could ride on a street bike, blindfolded and with his hands tied behind his back. Please forgive the small hyperbole.

They are bladed every year unlike some of the steep single tracks that have been in existence for decades but are now being marked off limits to riding. These single tracks do not erode like the new trails that are being constructed. They are being fenced off – Why? Can anyone explain the twisted logic that allows erosion prone trails to be constructed and forces the closure of trails made of baked clay or hard rock that do not erode?

The plan is to require riders to stick to improved trails and stay off of the rough terrain. It is a plan concocted by people who don’t ride. Their idea of a challenge is an amusement park ride at Disney Land. What they are proposing for Carnegie is analogous to snow coaches in Yellowstone (I know that I’ve said that before but it is true).

If these brilliant experts were responsible for the Grand Canyon their primary mission would be to fill it back in. The OHV Carnegie government page claims that “currently in the planning phase, this project has received considerable input from OHV user …” I don’t know who they talked to but everyone I know is really unhappy about the closures.

We didn’t seek the extreme riding conditions found at Carnegie because we want to be coddled like street riders. We went to Carnegie in order to challenge ourselves and sometimes even scare ourselves in an attempt to become better riders.

Rodney Smith a local GNCC champion, ISDE gold medalist, AMA Hare Scramble Series champion, and AMA National Reliability Enduro champion has said that Carnegie offers some of the most challenging terrain in the world. He should know. Although now retired, he has competed world-wide. I don’t think he would agree with this assessment anymore given the changes that have occurred at Carnegie in recent years.

The eco-extremists spread the gospel that riding off road vehicles is an environmental catastrophe. The state has bought into this way of thinking and is using our money to build “improved trails” and to keep us out of “fragile areas” with fencing. The only concession to the notion that we like to ride rough terrain is that they haven’t paved the trails although they are installing a rock and road base on a majority of the fire roads that go into the hills. This is part of their project to stop erosion.

The trails are “improved” to the point that they might as well be paved for all the difference it makes to our riding experience. All the unofficial hill climb areas will be restored and fenced off. They are sticking it to us using the money from the OHV Trust Fund which we support directly through registration fees, fuel tax and entrance fees.

In short, our tiny little park is considered an environmental disaster. This attitude ignores the bigger questions which these so called environmentalists do not want to address because it might have an effect on their life styles.

Let’s take a look at some of the real threats to the environment. As Joni Mitchell laments in “Big Yellow Taxi”, “They paved paradise to put up a parking lot.” Asphalt is the antithesis of nature’s pastures and forests. It is an ugly artifact of our automobile oriented society. Think about it. We have paved over most of our environment with roads, freeways and parking lots. The rest of our mostly urban setting is covered by building structures. Nature doesn’t have a chance.

The environmental cost of these modern conveniences includes storm water runoff which damages watersheds and the displacement of fauna and natural species. Nature can’t exist where the environment is paved over. The impervious nature of asphalt and urban development leads to flooding and droughts.  The water cannot sink into the water table and despite man made drains and water treatment plants, runs off into streams and rivers and eventually into the ocean. The lack of vegetation also creates warming and drought.

This runoff brings along with it many of the toxins and pollutants found in our urban environment. This is the danger that the zealots are accusing us of contributing to even though the scope of the problem caused by dirt bikes at Carnegie is minuscule and virtually nonexistent compared with the problems caused by automobiles and the urban landscape. In fact Carnegie is a natural refuge for various species hunted outside the boundaries of our park. There is plenty of fauna and wildlife at Carnegie, a fact that our enemies conveniently ignore.

In the United States it is estimated that asphalt is laid down over 4,360 square miles just for parking lots which is an area larger than Puerto Rico. This is to preserve the “American way of life”. It is projected that in cities such as Los Angeles and Orlando parking lots cover at least one third of the land area (See editorial in the March 26, 2012 edition of the New York Times entitled “When a Parking Lot is So Much More”). This does not include the roads and freeways that crisscross our urban environment everywhere. Nor does it include the developments that have sprouted up far and wide.

The hypocrisy of the “do-gooders” who are trying to shut down our off road park is beyond belief.  The environmental danger posed by our measly fifteen hundred acres (most of which is off limits to dirt bikes and none of it paved) versus the environmental damage posed by the almost ubiquitous presence of asphalt and of residential and business development is a travesty to intelligent thought and is outside the bounds of all common sense.

The enviro-extremists refuse to acknowledge that there are other sources of pollution that get into Coral Hollow Creek which winds through Carnegie. This is a mostly dry creek and only runs a few weeks a year.

The hills above the creek are overgrazed by cattle resulting in erosion that eventually finds its way into the creek. Tailings from the Hetch-Hetchy bore through the Coast Range were dumped onto the Mitchell Ravine near Carnegie and they end up in the creek. These sources contribute to higher turbidity readings among other things.

There is an independent non-profit research site above Carnegie (SRI International) that tests explosives. Site 300 across the street from Carnegie in Lawrence Livermore Weapons Lab was a Superfund site. Although it has been cleaned up and is currently monitored, there were hazardous chemicals that had seeped into the ground and are beyond the reach of current technology to fully extract. A rifle range operates during the week every day on site 300 above the creek. Bullets are made of lead but nobody is accusing them of allowing heavy metals to leach into the creek.

The zealots say that there are hydrocarbons in the stream and ignore the presence of a major commute artery (Tesla Road) that runs along the side of the creek, residences above the creek, as well as cattle grazing in and around the creek. The cattle also account for pathogens being dumped into the creek.

Our adversaries allege that off road motorcycles pollute the creek with heavy metals ignoring the fact that the area was once a center for coal mining as well as mining for clay manganese and sand. It was also the site of the Carnegie Brick and Pottery Company. Tailing piles composed of coal residue taken from the kilns were left behind and still litter the hills throughout Carnegie. Coal and coal residue are full of heavy metals. Although metal is used in the frames and engines of our bikes, we do not shed heavy metals as we ride them through the hills.

There was an entire town located at Carnegie as well as a railroad that took coal up Coral Hollow Canyon to the city. These enhancements were all destroyed by a flood in the early part of the last century and the residues left over from these “improvements” were never cleaned up. We are being punished for the sins of generations past.

The individuals attacking our sport for the most part belong to the top 10% and do not want the rest of us to ride our bikes on any public land even though we pay to use and maintain it. Many of them own private land which is some cases dwarfs our public riding area. That doesn’t satisfy them and they want to take away the little we do have. They use the environment as a justification for getting rid of us and preventing us from riding on our trails. Has anyone seen the bumper stickers that say “I own Carnegie”? It’s true we do own Carnegie. It is time to stand up and be heard.

The enemies of off road recreation that attend all the public meetings and repeat their lies over and over until the lies become “facts”. They use their input to get “experts” brought in to “save the environment”. We, in most cases, don’t even know that they are there. Laws and regulations are passed that affect us. But there is nothing we can do because by the time we realize what they have done it is too late. They are a small minority with the time, leisure, connections and money to pursue their agenda. They are obsessed with the task of destroying our sport. Mostly they denounce dirt bikes with a neurotic intensity which borders on the psychotic.

To them cultural artifacts like the remains of old coal mines (ubiquitous in the hills along the length of Coral Hollow Canyon) are more important than what the park was created for – off road recreation. They do not care that we spend a good deal of our limited time and money to ride our dirt bikes. For many of us riding is a way of enduring a back breaking work week. Our mood is uplifted by the anticipation that we will be able to go to Carnegie with our families on the weekend. After a day spent with others riding our dirt bikes the stresses of the normal workweek are shed and we feel joy and love of humankind that is hard to quantify

They are puritans who don’t believe anything is worthwhile unless it involves sacrifice and where all the risks are managed. They will only be satisfied when we are all plugged into play stations, work out at the gym and watch nature on television. They detest the kind of natural challenges that we find so rewarding.

We need to remind them that public off road parks like Carnegie were created to manage off road riding and if you take away our right to ride on rough terrain then some of us will ride illegally. This is not a threat. It is a fact whether they like it or not. Others have banded together to form a non-profit corporation to save Carnegie called Carnegie Forever.

Yeats expressed it best in the first stanza of The Second Coming written after the First World War. It is analogous to our situation at Carnegie:

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosened upon the world,
The blood dimmed tide is loosed and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity…

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