UNITED WE STAND: DIVIDED WE FALL
Before you wade into my rant go to Don Amador’s site for a real insight into what is happening. Take particular notice of Commissioner Diane Perez’s letter to Secretary Laird. Very persuasive and very well written… Write a letter to your representative especially if they are Buchanan, DeSaulnier, or Hancock. They were “misled”. See: http://thegeneralsrecreationden.blogspot.com/2012/07/alliance-between-east-bay-parks-and-eco.html
There was once a time when I felt comfortable just riding my dirt bike and ignoring politics; that is until a group of environmental-extremists filed a lawsuit against Carnegie SVRA. A judge ordered Carnegie to close until the state got approval for a Waste Discharge Report. We were spared when an appeals court overturned the superior court’s order.
Before the appeals court issued its decision, we organized a protest rally called Carnegie Freedom Day in an effort to get organized and save our park. That was when we realized that we could no longer just bury out heads in the sand if we want to go on enjoying the sport we love. We realized that we had to join forces and fight to stop the opponents of off-road recreation from taking away Carnegie, one of the few legal places to ride our off-road motorcycles and four wheelers.
Although the lawsuit has been settled, we cannot let down our defenses. A lot of us have just gone back to riding like we have always done. But we cannot ignore our adversaries or we could still lose everything. It is not over by a long shot. The same people who were instrumental in filing the lawsuit against Carnegie are behind efforts to restrict OHV use in our park and will be around for a long time to come.
We ride dirt bikes in our leisure time and they spend their leisure time dedicated to taking away our riding areas (sometimes it feels like their full-time jobs). These people are the usual suspects… You can find their imprint in the lawsuit against Carnegie.
They call themselves environmentalists or green groups, but they are not so much dedicated to preserving the environment, as they are committed keeping off road vehicles off the trails. They preach the environmental evils of off-road vehicles but it is just a disguise for their real agenda, which is to keep us from enjoying the few parks in California that allow off-road vehicle recreation.
A group called Friends of Tesla is working on a plan to take the Alameda/Tesla property away from us and turn it into a low impact non-OHV park. They have even come up with a name for it –Tesla Park. Get it… They have renamed our park, which was purchased with our money for off-highway vehicle recreation.
They have been working for years gathering information and finding like-minded groups to join them in their struggle. They recruited experts to painstakingly explore every niche and cranny of our land and find rare and valuable species, as well as cultural artifacts and ancient fossils.
They claim that it is an area with a singularly unique level of biodiversity found practically nowhere else in the region, which, in their minds, merits protection from the degradation of off-road vehicle recreation. They travel on the very same roads that they are want to keep us from using.
They contend that our measly three thousand four hundred acres is the linchpin for a critical east-west and north-south habitat corridor along the upland Coastal Mountain Range. Wow… I never would have suspected that such a small piece of property could be so critical for the survival of so many threatened species over such a vast area.
They have a web-site dedicated to getting the word out. They have been hard at work for the last decade or so to ensure that we don’t get the necessary Environmental Impact Report (EIR) approved to open the property for off-road recreation.
Armed with an army of consultants (the kind with important sounding initials after their names) to challenge the EIR’s that were done on the Alameda/Tesla property since 2000, they documented a broad array of rare plants and animals including endangered reptiles and amphibians in the park. They didn’t bother to look in the surrounding region because then they could not have been able to argue that these plants and animals were so exceedingly rare. Instead, they confined their efforts to searching for these “rare and valuable species” in our park and used those results to block the opening of our property for OHV use.
Their findings are broadcast on their web-site. They claim that the area has drawn researchers and classes from the University of California and other universities for many decades. Are these the same researchers that they recruited to challenge the EIRs? How much were they paid. Did they use grants and if so where from? See: http://www.teslapark.org/
But as the plans for expansion of the Carnegie SVRA were studied, the devastating impacts of off-highway vehicle use on the unique and fragile Tesla Park land were identified. Proposals for an alternative use plan began to evolve.
Who studied the devastating impacts of off-highway vehicle use? They did and using the same inflammatory, deceptive language that they used in their lawsuit; they are influencing the malleable minds of their allies who know nothing about the impact of off-highway vehicle recreation beyond what is preached by these extremists.
Photos of Tesla Park (their name not ours) show that there is at least one unpaved road running through it. I suspect that they use it to drive around looking for rare specimens. It is OK for them to use off-road trails but if we use them it is destructive. Their SUVs are heavier and have much bigger engines than our two hundred twenty pound, 250 cc motorcycles.
A scientist familiar with physics could infer that a one and a half ton vehicle with a two hundred cubic inch engine would have a bigger impact than a 220 pound vehicle with a 250 cc engine. But we are the ones that have to be kept out. And it seems that nobody bothered to inform them that rain running downhill triggers erosion. This type of erosion can be seen from Tesla road on land used for cattle grazing where no off-highway vehicles are allowed.
A tour of Carnegie or Google Earth review demonstrates the environmental destruction and ongoing resource management challenges the SVRA faces. Irreparable environmental and historical/cultural resource damage has occurred as a result of extensive off-road motor vehicle use. Now the OHMV wants to expand Carnegie SVRA into adjacent property that has tremendous historical, cultural, biological and scenic value.
Who has documented the irreparable environmental and historical/cultural resource damage that has occurred at Carnegie as a result of off-road vehicle use? This is another claim that they pulled from one of the many exaggerated and distorted allegations in their lawsuit.
The Google Earth photographs were carefully chosen to offend the sensibilities of their comrades. We love riding up and down these steep, rugged hills and have done so for decades. These are the remnants of the few visible hill climbs left over from the past. The park has restored the rest and the ones depicted are on track to be restored as well.
The park is building all new sustainable trails and outlawing all the old trails going up and down the hills. The plan for the Alameda/Tesla property is for no free riding and everybody will have to stick to approved trails.
Although these left over trails disturb their aesthetic sensibilities, they are a lot less destructive to the environment than their big box health clubs or golf courses. Our trails certainly don’t disturb historical or cultural resources (they are fenced off and we can’t ride there) and if I were a wild creature I would prefer to live in Carnegie where I would be safe from being shot by friends of Friends of Tesla, our neighbors.
Then there are the cattle on the Connolly ranch who do not stay on trails but tread on wildlife, eat fauna and make their own trails all over his nine thousand acre ranch. Has anyone measured the destruction wrought on the environment by Connolly’s cattle ranch bordering our park?
We are dedicated to protecting the biologically unique and culturally significant landscape known as Tesla Park as a non-OHV historic and natural resource park and preserve.
They are recruiting like minded people to join them in their fight to take away our park and are asking them to make comments on the Carnegie General Plan website against OHV recreation. Many of their recruits don’t even live in California much less ride off road vehicles.
It appears that the officials at Carnegie SVRA are not supporting their effort and they have come up with another plan. Click on a Better Plan you can see that they plan to give Tesla Park (their name not ours) to the East Bay Regional Parks District to run our park. See: http://www.teslapark.org/?page_id=171
Consistent with natural resource protection, low-impact non-OHV recreation, such as interpretive history and nature trails, hiking trails, wildlife viewing, bird watching and horseback riding could be established along with dedicated preservation areas.
East Bay Regional Parks District supports the objective to establish park and hiking access around the Tri-Valley metropolitan area. EBRPD has recognized the importance of Tesla Park by adding it as an area of interest to its Master plan map.
It seems that they have the officials at East Bay Regional Parks on board with their scheme to take over our land.
Mark Connolly, whose family’s 6,000-acre ranch to the south borders the existing park and the new acquisition, said that concerns about wildlife have been enough to torpedo two environmental studies… For now, access to that land is restricted, with the exception of a neighboring cattle rancher, some local historians researching the old towns and those who can otherwise arrange tours or secure permission to travel in the area. Read more: Tracy Press – Big hill to climb at Carnegie
This unique and valuable land borders on Connolly’s ranch – how coincidental – more on that later. But it seems a little strange that these rare plants, animals and cultural artifacts can only be found on property that Mark Connolly and his wife, Celeste Garamendi, don’t own and which they are trying to wrestle from the grasp of OHV enthusiasts.
I have heard unsubstantiated rumors that Connolly wanted to buy the property but the owners did not want to sell it to him. There are even rumors that his cattle are grazing on our land. Is it coincidental that the East Bay Regional Parks District leases out some of their park land to cattle ranchers? Cattle grazing and hiking are compatible in some East Bay Regional Parks. I know because they are in my back yard.
Do these rare and valuable species also exist on Connolly’s ranch, which shares a border with the Alameda/Tesla property? If so why are the creatures on our property so rare and valuable? Why haven’t their experts combed through other habitats in the vicinity to justify their assertion that these species can only be found on our little piece of property? What will happen to the value of his holdings if our property is officially declared to be deserving of special protection?
We know that Friends of Tesla and their allies have been on our land and studying it extensively. This can be inferred by detailed descriptions of our property, sightings of rare and valuable species and detailed close up photographs on their website.
It also appears they have had sole access to our park since the first EIR in 2000. How are we expected to fight for our park? We are not allowed entrance onto our own property while our opponents gather evidence to banish us from land purchased with our money for OHV recreation.
Another person who has been on our property is the park’s interpreter. What is even more disturbing is that a rider reported seeing her giving a tour of Carnegie to people in an East Bay Regional Parks District truck.
For a little background on how this group and Celeste Garamendi specifically has been paving the way for their vision of our property as a park that prohibits OHV use – see also Group Envisions Tesla Park not Carnegie Vehicle Play Ground written in 2008:
Celeste and her brother, an elected member of the House of Representatives, John Garamendi grew up on a large ranch Mokelumne Hill in Calaveras County.” She married attorney Mark Connolly in 1990 and moved to the sprawling ranch southwest of Tracy on which his family has lived for generations.”
She obviously has deep pockets as well as political connections. A lot of people say that they suspect that she and her husband have ulterior motives. First we need to see how she takes liberty with the truth in order to spread her gospel. These are some of the same facts that her husband repeated in the lawsuit against our park.
Allowing vehicles there will contribute to erosion and water run-off problems into Corral Hollow Creek, posing a threat to fish there. It would also ruin habitat for various endangered plants and such species as the red-legged and yellow-legged frogs, she said.
The Public Resources Code holds the OHV Division of State Parks and Recreation to the highest environmental standards for soil conservation and conservation of wildlife habitat. The Division of OHV Recreation has developed procedures to meet those standards on property used for OHV recreation. These procedures have been tested and approved. Habitats for endangered species are fenced off and protected from being disturbed. What sort of monsters do they think we are?
Also, there are no fish in Corral Hollow Creek. They are a figment of her imagination or maybe she is confusing tadpoles with fish. Tadpoles (not fish) only exist in vernal pools that dry up in the summer or in specially constructed sediment ponds (both off limits to off highway vehicles). For a person of her education and supposed expertise in conservation this probably just an oversight (if you believe that I’ve got a bridge to sell you).
The state should come up with a bigger vision for the land, one which help build a corridor linking Mount Diablo with Mount Hamilton with trails and endangered species habitat. Species could then travel from one area to another. The land is also well situated to provide a nature corridor from the Bay Area to the Central Valley, said Garamendi. The state is in a perfect position to accomplish such a major green achievement, because it already owns the land, said Garamendi.
Except the urban development, roads, freeways, farmland, vineyards and private property between Mount Diablo and Mount Hamilton might get in the way of these species right of way…
The state bought the land with OHV trust fund money for OHV recreation. Again Celeste shows that she is not clear on the law. The roads and highways that get in the way of her plan for a nature corridor are built with fuel tax dollars which she and/or her friends pay when they fuel up their SUVs to pursue their agenda against off highway vehicle recreation (unless she owns an electric vehicle which gets its propulsion from batteries charged by hooking into power produced by power plants using mostly gas, water, coal or nuclear power). http://www.iepa.com/video/IEPA_Power_of_California.pdf
Asked about the needs of OHV enthusiasts for recreation in a growing California population, Garamendi said that the OHV community needs to live within its means, just as she does as a hiker. The federal government regulates the number of permits it issues to Sierra hikers. The state park system requires reservations at many of its campgrounds. The system doesn’t expand to meet everyone’s needs, she said.
I have to laugh here because she and her husband have seven to nine thousand acres where they can go on solitary hikes any time they please. Excuse me if I cannot feel compassion for her predicament. Maybe she is wary of stepping on cow turds.
She “lives within her means” because she has to get a permit. This is because she prefers to drive hundreds of miles to go hiking in the Sierras rather than just hike in her own back yard or someplace like Mount Diablo where we peons go hiking.
The ranch’s close proximity to the Tesla property ensures that it too is home to biodiversity, endangered species and archaeological artifacts (so long as he cattle haven’t destroyed these treasures).
She ignores the fact that there are about 271 state parks in California where OHV recreation is not permitted and only 9 OHV parks run by the state. There were one hundred and fifty thousand visitors at Carnegie last year. There is nowhere else we can ride. Carnegie is often overcrowded on the weekends and they want to take away land that was bought with our money to expand the park.
There are thousands of local parks where OHV use is prohibited. Visitors to the limited number of OHV parks are often turned away when they get too crowded. There is no reservation process to reserve our right to ride.
Where I live in the East Bay there are thousands of miles of hiking trails right in my back yard (East Bay Regional Parks District) and nowhere where I can ride my dirt bike. The closest place for me to go riding is over fifty miles away at Carnegie.
Garamendi said that since the state purchased the land with vehicle-related revenue, the state’s argument is that the money should go to the OHV park. Garamendi’s response is that only 7 percent of the money represents fees from sticker sales for OHVs. The remainder is gas tax money, which is not specifically related to OHVs. There are plenty of other needs that the gas tax revenue could finance, she said.
She does not understand the fuel tax law. In California fuel taxes are collected at the refinery or terminal level and distributed to benefit the end users of the fuel being taxed. This plan of distribution can be found in the Revenue and Taxation Code. Fuel taxes do not go into the general fund like income taxes and sales taxes which support her parks. Instead, they go into the Aeronautics Account, Harbors and Watercraft Revolving Fund, Department of Food and Agriculture Fund, Off-Highway Vehicle Trust Fund and Highway Users Tax Account. The majority goes in the Highway Users tax Account from which a substantial amount is transferred each year to other non-OHV state parks. These other state parks also get money from an array of special funds including our OHV trust fund.
My question is why should my tax dollars for fuel that goes into the tank of my off-road or dual sport bike not go to maintain the very parks where I can ride my off road bikes? The state taxes that I pay, as well as everybody else, supports her 270 non-OHV parks where I can’t ride my off road bike. Yet she wants to claim that she owns our 9 OHV state parks because she pays fuel tax, neglecting to mention that the vast majority of fuel tax goes into the highway users tax account including the tax on fuel she uses.
Her views incorporate the distorted perspective of Karen Shamback of PEER (one of the organizations that filed suit against Carnegie). Karen likes to quibble with the way off highway vehicle taxes are calculated. Revenue and Taxation Code section 8352.6 is very specific about how OHV taxes are calculated based on OHV fuel use and fuel used by other vehicles eligible for tax dollars from the OHV trust fund.
Karen believes that off roaders get more than their fair share of fuel tax money because fuel tax used for off-road recreation includes fuel used by illegal off highway vehicles. She forgets to mention that the OHV trust fund is used to restore property damaged by illegal off highway vehicle use. Where does she think this money should go?
Karen’s analysis is out of date. After she completed her analysis an audit showed that the OHV Commission was dysfunctional and OHV money was being misused. The law was subsequently amended which also resulted in raising the price of “sticker sales for OHVs”. See: http://www.corva.org/pages.php?pageid=80
Today park officials recognize that Tesla property was purchased with money from the OHV trust fund for OHV recreation as required by state law. They cannot let wealthy, politically connected outsiders who do not contribute one penny to our park dictate how it is going to be used. Neither can they turn our park over to the East Bay Regional Parks District without ignoring the law.
I wonder how East Bay residents will feel about supporting a park where they would have to drive about fifty miles when they have thousands of miles of hiking trails in their own back yards. East Bay residents also have Black Diamond Park which celebrates the history of coal mining, as well as many other parks that celebrate geology, biodiversity and cultural artifacts. If they do turn our park over to East Bay Regional Parks the cattle ranchers will not complain since they will be assured of a long term lease.
An article by in Tracy Press describes how this group was pushing for the same objectives in 2009.
Mark Connolly, whose family’s 6,000-acre ranch to the south borders the existing park and the new acquisition, said that concerns about wildlife have been enough to torpedo two environmental studies. In particular, he said the state has an obligation to protect the breeding grounds of the California tiger salamander, a threatened species that lives in ponds in those hills.
“They have a huge problem opening that up to off-highway vehicle use,” Connolly said. “Our position is, it needs to be a passive-use park.”
He added that off-road vehicles cause erosion at the park, and new trails will only make that worse.
The Public Resources Code is very specific about the duties of the Division of OHV Recreation (the Division) and their responsibility for the environmental protection of our park by repairing and continuously maintaining areas and trials, preventing erosion, and restoring lands damaged by erosion. They ensure that soil conservation standards are met and habitat protection plans are preserved on lands used for OHV recreation.
These objectives are being met as can be inferred by the settlement of the lawsuit against Carnegie alleging failure adhere to soil conservation standards and failure to protect wildlife habitat. Although the stipulated settlement makes no such admissions, Carnegie’s success in obtaining a MS4 permit from the regional water board and the adoption of the Storm Management Plan for Carnegie allows for no other conclusion.
The requirements are very strict and are imposed to require OHV parks to meet the highest environmental standards. The Division is also required to monitor and protect cultural and archaeological resources within the state vehicular recreation areas. Monitoring and protecting these resources does not mean tuning the park over to another entity to be run as a park that does not allow OHV recreation. It means just that…protecting them.
“There’s a trend, unfortunately, where more and more off-highway-use areas throughout the state are starting to close down, and that’s concentrating more and more users into a very finite area among off-highway parks,” Ramos said. “So we really have to manage to the highest degree and explore other riding areas.”
Ramos also acknowledged that horseback riders, hikers, environmentalists and history buffs will influence the state’s decision on how to use that land.
Although we have to fight the influence of the conservationists, Carnegie SVRA is not about to turn the Tesla portion of the Alameda/Tesla property over to another entity to be run as a non-OHV park.
The park will preserve these resources just like they do in the original 1500 acres by fencing them off. Off road riding will still be permitted in the rest of the Alameda/Tesla property. See the Carnegie SVRA web-site where they admit as much: http://carnegiegeneralplan.com/faqs
Our adversaries want to turn our park into a historical reserve not even realizing that the huge piles of refuse left over from coal-burning kilns that they celebrate as valued historical artifacts on the new property are most likely one of the main sources of heavy metal concentrations in the creek. See: http://www.sfgate.com/green/article/Government-touts-benefits-of-coal-waste-3206201.ph
There is one major problem to their analysis. They conveniently ignore the fact that money appropriated by the legislature to purchase the new property and to maintain our park is for off-highway recreation – PERIOD.
I doubt that small detail will give them pause, because when the Carnegie SVRA refuses to turn it’s acquisition over to the East Bay Regional Parks District to be run as “a non-OHV low impact park” they will run over to the courthouse and file suit just like they did three years ago.
It’s not like the Connollys are all that popular in Tracy.
“I can’t believe that the Connollys are once again telling the residents of Tracy what is good for them. I must have missed the memo where God made them the king and queen who make the decisions for the poor peasants in Tracy…
Mark Connolly lives high on his hill, yet believes he knows what is best — for Mark Connolly and Celeste Garamendi, that is. He has brought lawsuits against anyone he can think of. Les Serpa tries to build some beautiful homes in Tracy by offering to assist in building a long-needed swim center, and Connolly sues.
Now, Carnegie Park, which has been a family recreation area for years, is suddenly in his sights. We could have had a swim center open in the near future if it were not for him and Garamendi.”
We have to remind ourselves to write letters to our representatives or people who can make a difference, send e-mail messages to our elected officials and vote… Perhaps registering and voting is our best weapon. We need to elect people who do not have an agenda against motorcycles, i.e., Republicans
We have to ally ourselves with groups dedicated to protecting our rights. Who are these groups? I can’t name them all but they go to commission meetings, committee meetings and elsewhere advocating tirelessly for our right to ride. They need our support with tax-deductible donations and volunteer efforts. Some of them are included below with links to their web-sites:
- AMA District 36
- American Recreation Coalition
- American Trails
- Blueribbon Coalition
- Off-Road Business Association
- Tread Lightly
What else can we do? We can do what Friends of Tesla are asking their supporters to do which is comment on the EIR on the Carnegie SVRA General Plan Website. http://www.carnegiegeneralplan.com/ and click on visitor survey now available until October 12 :http://www.carnegiegeneralplan.com/surveys/1/responses/new or the online comment form. http://www.carnegiegeneralplan.com/contact-us
Let them know why off-road vehicle recreation is a valuable resource for you and your family. Managed off-road recreation is not harmful to the environment. It is the best use of the Alameda/Tesla property which is desperately needed due to the overcrowding in Carnegie proper.
Carnegie and other state off-highway vehicular parks have never been dual use and Carnegie must remain devoted to only off-highway vehicle recreation. If they want to share our park then they should let us use their parks. Our park is often overcrowded and we have no room for non-OHV recreation, especially those demanding to be segregated from the off-highway vehicle crowd like Friends of Tesla.
Celeste and Mark own thousands of acres right next to our property that could be used for OHV recreation. Lets make a deal! Our land for yours (that’s a joke).
The emphasis should be that it is our park which was purchased and managed with our money for off-highway vehicular recreation – period. The money was properly appropriated for off-highway recreation and cannot be legally diverted from that use by anybody. That includes Friends of Tesla no matter how powerful their connections in California. Even they cannot ignore the law.
Riders who use Carnegie regularly know it intimately and have more knowledge about Carnegie than conservationists who have never even hiked there due to the steepness of the terrain. The property was purchased with our OHV trust fund money for OHV recreation.
We don’t try to manage their parks and they should butt out of trying to turn our park into something it was never meant to be. OHV recreation areas are by their very nature natural (wild and untamed) and home to rare and valuable species. The new property is a unique and valuable resource for off-road recreation which is totally compatible with the preservation of wildlife.
Our park is the one place that wildlife can find protection from our neighbor’s profitable hunting business. There is killing happening in the hills of Tracy. http://www.tracypress.com/view/full_story/19214567/article-Your-Voice–Elk-hunt-a-black-eye?instance=home_opinion_lead_story