Carnegie brick factory

Carnegie brick factory

Lets compare off road motorcycle recreation with other sports like, for example, mountain climbing. We need to understand why our opponents discriminate against us. This comparison might provide us with some ammunition to combat their prejudice.

Mountain climbing can be a lot of fun. Some climbers, like many off road motorcyclists, enjoy doing things that are beyond the capabilities of the average person. Climbers often go for the summits of big mountains like the Grand Teton in Wyoming or Mount Rainer in Washington. The big walls in Yosemite, California and mountains like K-2 and Everest in the Himalayas are popular climbing destinations. Climbing involves skill and preparation. Beginning climbers start off with easy climbs. They learn specialized skills and slowly develop the strength and stamina that allows them to face the challenge of increasingly more difficult climbs.

Off road racers, enduro riders, hill climbers and trials riders go through a similar initiation to develop the skills and strength needed for serious competition. Beginners start out with the basics. They learn rudimentary techniques and with practice they slowly master the expertise needed for for advanced moves on challenging terrain. In the interim they develop the strength and stamina needed to compete. Often the terrain they traverse is not for the faint hearted.

There are standards for climbing developed by climbers and their allies.

In North America climbs are assigned difficulty ratings using the Yosemite Decimal System (YDS). Different countries use different rating systems. The YDS was initially developed by the Sierra Club in the 1930’s to classify hikes and climbs for mountaineers in the Sierra Nevada. Before that climbs could only be compared to other climbs. The Sierra Club established a numerical system of classification that was easy to learn and was practical in its application. Difficulties ranged from class one to class five. They have gone up from there as climbing standards have increased since the 30’s.

There are standards for off-highway motorcycle riding developed by non-riders.

In California, state off-highway vehicle  (OHV) parks require that riders stay on highly groomed trails that would barely register a “class one” if such routes were designated akin to hiking and climbing routes. At Carnegie trails are designated by green circles (beginner) blue squares (intermediate) and black diamonds (expert) but these designations are meaningless for anybody but the least advanced off road enthusiasts (some might say with the exception of a certain unnamed trail in the summertime). Hordes of slow moving beginners often create road blocks on these so called “intermediate” and “expert” trails.

The original black diamond trials were fenced off and “restored” (See: California Public Resources Code 5090.11)  because they were considered environmentally unsound despite the fact that they had been in existence for decades.

Most of us “old-timers” who rode Carnegie when it was privately owned know why Carnegie was classified as extreme terrain.

That was then: This is now.

Now Carnegie is becoming more and more like Hollister, except with two way trails. They are not the jaw dropping descents that once scared the daylights out of riders before they learned to ride extreme terrain.

When we first tackled the intimidating hill climb trails at Carnegie, the excuse was always that we couldn’t get over the top because our bikes weren’t powerful enough. Those words rang hollow when our friend, Bobby, who is an expert trials rider, took all our bikes up including a Honda TL125 which is a notoriously underpowered machine. It takes skill and experience to conquer steep Carnegie hills regardless of the displacement of the engine. I have seen mini bikes conquer some of the steepest and toughest climbs. (of coarse a bigger displacement machine was and still is an advantage in the right hands).

Now a lot of the hills are fenced off and the kids don’t get the chances to test their limits like they did in the old days.

Why are climbers, rafters, and other outdoor enthusiasts allowed to attempt challenging terrain where off-road motorcyclists are prohibited?

One main problem is image.  Many Americans think that motorcyclists are Hells Angels; misfits that wreak havoc on society and – by association – the environment (think the power of the media with movies like Low Rider, The Wild One and Hells Angels on Wheels).

A common false stereotype includes the often repeated illustration of off road motorcyclists tossing beer cans off the side of the trail or shooting wildlife from the seat of a four-wheeler. We have to be “corralled” by the authorities or there is no telling what sort of destruction we will leave in our wake.

To the intelligentsia and the elite in the universities, we are the unwashed masses; ignorant rednecks who don’t care about nature and despoil it at every opportunity with our “loud and obnoxious machinery”.

Mountain bikes to a lesser extent are crammed into the same distorted characterization. Unrestricted mountain bike riding is outlawed in the Bay Area and experienced mountain bikers have to travel great distances before they can ride their mountain bikes on the black diamond trails that they prefer.

The political elites associate OHV recreation with practices like clear cutting and mountain top mining. Thus, in addition to the loggers and miners, we are prohibited from millions of acres of wilderness areas and national monument sites on the presumption that we wreak havoc with our “insufferable machinery”.

The internal combustion engine is the device that “despoils nature” and by association anything mechanical that travels on two wheels is the enemy of conservation. Beware of the traditional American family playing together on their motorcycles.

Passive activities like climbing, mountain biking, hiking and horseback riding are considered environmentally sound compared to  so called “non-passive activities” like off-road motorcycle riding.

My question is what is the basis for this distinction? We all use the same trails: Trails that are subject to erosion when it rains.

If noise is a consideration, our enemies ignore the fact that bikes are a lot quieter today due to improved technology and stricter standards. The truth is that today at Carnegie you can’t hear anything once we ride away into the hills.

Many off highway riders (me included) ride only in areas specially set aside for off-highway vehicles in order not to offend other trail users by our internal combustion motors. State public off-highway parks like Carnegie are are bought and maintained with user funded OHV Trust Fund money and these parks are created for OHV recreation – period. Therefore, with current noise standards, loud bikes should never be a consideration in our parks. THEY ARE OUR PARKS.

The foregoing includes the “new” (it has over ten years since it was purchased) property. The Alameda/Tesla property was purchased with OHV trust fund money for OHV recreation. It should not be turned over for so called “passive use”. There already are 272 (passive use) non-OHV parks versus only 8 parks where we can ride our bikes.

We can’t ride in their parks. Once they get their foot into the door of our park we will  get kicked out. Don’t forget what happened at Mammoth Bar when we let the Kayaks use our access road.

Carnegie is a State Recreational Vehicular Area. The state has a duty to protect our rights. They have a duty to open the Alameda/Tesla property for OHV recreation and nothing else. According to California law the Alameda/Tesla expansion belongs to the OHV community. However, some people say that the fix is in and we are going to lose big chunks of our property.

So called “passive” recreational enthusiasts band together to outlaw activities that don’t measure up to their exalted sense of environmental stewardship. They do this they say because they love and cherish nature.

We all love and cherish nature. Their true motivation is to put the blame on others for environmental degradation and let themselves off the hook. They are like the Nazis except they are looking for a scapegoat for environmental conditions. Especially for what we as humans living in a highly industrializes society have done to this planet.

Like other outdoor sports enthusiasts, off road motorcyclists love the outdoors. There is nothing more beautiful or inspiring than a sunset with the jagged silhouette  of pink and mauve tinted mountains outlined against an azure sky or a rainbow hovering over a verdant lush meadow; grasses glistening in the rain. We have all been there done that on our bikes!

Whether we are hikers or climbers; and whether we travel in the outback by canoe, horseback, mountain bike or motorcycle (I’ve done them all) we are all moved by the same sense of natural beauty. The idea that mechanical devices destroy wildlife habitat is a myth perpetuated by those who do not understand our sport.

They forget that much of the habitable land area in the U.S. is developed and/or covered with asphalt. Nature doesn’t stand a chance. The surprising number of endangered species today is caused by the need to provide homes, business parks and infrastructure (which displaces wildlife habitat) for an ever increasing human population, not because of OHV recreation off road. There are over seven billion people on this planet at the latest count.

The United States is the third most populous country in the world today behind China and India (a good deal behind). Farm land, ranch land and nature are all sacrificed to the need to build more homes and business complexes to accommodate an expanding population. Also, then there is the challenge of providing power, water, food and other commodities for our towns and cities without harming the environment.

We almost all use machines for transposition, whether it is getting to work or going shopping. The machines are not themselves to blame for despoiling the earth: It is their sheer number and the miles and miles of asphalt that is laid down to accommodate them.

In the United States it is estimated that asphalt is laid down over 4,360 square miles just for parking lots alone which is an area larger than Puerto Rico. It is projected that in cities such as Los Angeles and Orlando parking lots cover at least one third of the land area. That doesn’t count the thousands of miles of roads and freeways in this country or the cities and suburbs that are literally covered with housing and business parks.

The earth is covered by impervious surfaces which contribute to toxic runoff and pollution as well as the loss of wildlife habitat worldwide.

Off road motorcyclists don’t ride on asphalt. Our footprint is minuscule compared to the footprint of automobiles and trucks. If our knobbies displace a speck of dirt we are accused of environmental sabotage. Our impact on the earth is entirely different from the effects of natural erosion. We displace very few particles of dirt (if any) with our tires, while natural erosion is applauded for being responsible for carving out the great mountain ranges of the world and scenic wonders  like the Grand Canyon.

The soil conservation standards we are forced to adopt were originally designed for farmers. Applying them to motorcycle trails is just another excuse to destroy our sport by overly creative politicians and their wealthy backers.

Unlike golf courses, we have a duty to preserve natural habitat by closing off trails and restoring the land back to its “natural” condition. This is true even though golf courses are stripped and replanted with non native grasses. They are also designed with asphalt or gravel paths as well as sand traps. OHV parks do not replace native grasses and fauna, and they are repositories of natural ground cover and wildlife, even in the absence of legislatively mandated rehabilitation, especially compared to golf courses.

This is just another ruse by politicians, who are funded by our enemies, to restrict off road recreation. The rangers are forced to follow the law and as a result more and more of our trails are fenced off.

Rough steep trails are off limits for motorcyclists. Hikers can use trails that are so steep that they require climbing aids. Erosion is still erosion. All trails erode when it rains. The East Bay Regional Park system’s hiking trails are graded every year after the rains and even with all the heavy equipment some of the trails are still severely eroded year round. So the problem is not erosion; it is how our sport is perceived by outsiders.

The problem is that we all share the same love of the natural world, but we (off-road motorcyclists) don’t control the media, or have the ability to counter our enemies’ anti-access propaganda. Neither do we have the immense political power of our wealthy and often land rich foes especially here in California.


Dan Canfield, a spokesman for the OHV division of state parks, said Tesla will likely be zoned for different uses based on what’s suitable, as is done in other parks, rather than an overarching plan. The public will then give input on each zone.

The writer of the article basically adopts what the anti-OHV crowd says without question and the response that she chooses from public officials mirrors the distortions propagated by our enemies, except that nobody from the OHV division ever said that OHV parks are anything but OHV parks.

She mixes up the idea of a public park (non-OHV state park) with an OHV park purchased with state OHV Trust Fund money for OHV recreation and then misquote a park spokesman to amplify this false characterization. See:

Let’s take a look at reality and leave behind the fantasy world of our adversaries by examining climbing as it exists today and the desecration occurring beneath pristine and beautiful snow capped mountain peaks. This is a sport embraced by the wealthy.

When George Mallory first attempted Mount Everest, empty oxygen canisters were either abandoned on the mountainside or heaved into the glaciers thousands of feet below. In those days it was considered perfectly acceptable to abandon equipment in the mountains. It was thought that the Himalayas would never be a popular destination for climbers due to the primitiveness of the equipment used both to get to the mountain (Yaks) and then to climb to the top. They were recognized as the tallest and most inhospitable mountains in the world. The thought was that nobody would notice a  few discarded pieces of equipment.

Things have changed a great deal since then.

The original wooden pitons used by Mallory’s party have given way to metal and even titanium pitons, and weak hemp line has been replaced with strong nylon rope. Climbing aids like modern crampons have replaced metal studded boots. Karabiners clip easily into place. Rappel devices make it easy to descend rapidly especially when conditions are less than ideal. Nuts and slings make it possible to safely climb sheer walls.

For the cold weather leather boots have been replaced with insulated nylon boots and layers of wool and linen have given way to down filled garments. Remote peaks are much more accessible today due to advances in technology and the opening up of countries once closed to Westerners.

Climbing Everest has become very popular even for those who are not real mountaineers, and if you have enough money anybody can do it. Guides can take even the most unprepared climbers up to the summit of Everest with fixed ropes, oxygen and hordes of Sherpas.

Even if reaching the summit costs more than a brand new luxury car or two, it’s not stopping people from attempting to scale the highest point on Earth. In fact, there are so many people climbing Mount Everest that it’s causing human traffic jams with throngs of people lining up and climbing throughout the day and night. On a recent weekend during climbing season; it was reported that 300 people tried to climb the mountain at the same time.

As a result Mount Everest has also become the world’s highest junkyard. The garbage strewn on the sides of the mountain is not just energy bar wrappers, cans and orange peels. Mount Everest is littered with abandoned tents, tent poles, fuel containers, oxygen canisters, ropes, assorted climbing gear, sleeping bags and other abandoned gear.

Sometimes gear is left behind because the climbers perished on the slopes above their camps or packing it up and taking it down would be inviting the loss of a limb to frostbite or worse.

Everest is also covered in non-decomposed poop, human poop which does not break down in the frigid temperatures. There are makeshift outdoor toilets on all the routes up the mountain. A pile of poop could sit there for centuries. For example, since 2008, waste-management collectors have cleared over 880 pounds of human feces from Mount Everest. Along with their heavy load of human excrement, garbage collectors on the mountain also scooped up 14 tons of trash.

Are you picturing our greatest peak as some sort of nasty pile of garbage? I am and it is not just Everest that is suffering from overuse.

In Bill Bryson’s book A Walk in the Woods he documents trying to walk the entire Appalachian trail and describes the poor condition of the once-revered path. He paints a realistic picture of what hikers might find if they choose to follow the route from Georgia to Maine. Along with great views and lovely foliage, there’s a lot of trash, and huge crowds, with too many places to spend money on knickknacks (tourist traps).

A lot of people are not happy with the way things are going. I remember when we hiked parts of the Appalachian Trail in the early seventies it was practically deserted.

OK so the reality is that there are just too many people and it is too easy for amateurs to climb with climbing guides, money and all the modern conveniences. That doesn’t mean that all climbers are guilty of leaving litter on the slopes of the mountains. Most climbers are very conscious of their impact on the natural world. Real climbers and mountaineers generally always pack out what they bring in, including their garbage.

The same is true in the off road community. Most riders are responsible.

In the past there were some riders who thought that it was OK to denude a hillside (riding in the grass outside of competition). This is visible scarring and gave our adversaries something to complain about.  The authorities see a denuded hillside (destroyed wildlife habitat) and list it as area to be “restored”. After that happens nobody gets to ride there even on whooped out slick trails.

These  ad hoc “hill climb areas” are not in and of themselves environmentally harmful. They don’t destroy wildlife habitat. They are extremely steep. But perceptions are everything and riders need to be careful not to add to the perception that we don’t care about the environment.

The problem is not the climbers, hikers, horseback riders or off road motorcyclists per say. The problem is that there are too many people recreating on too little space and a few irresponsible individuals wrecking it for everybody. They exist in every sport.

For us the problem of not having accessible to places to ride our bikes. This is especially true for off road motorcycle riders in California who have seen many of the trails that they have used for decades disappear due to overly harsh legislation and government bureaucrats. We cherish everything we have, and we won’t give in to those who want to take away the few areas where we can still ride.

Our opportunities even in parks made for OHV recreation are severely curtailed.

In Carnegie trials bikes are restricted to an area less than an eighth of an acre with man-made trials obstacles to play on (maybe it is meant for “extreme” enduro racers). The bureaucrats who designed this “playground” and who prohibit trials riders from riding natural terrain are not riders and don’t understand our sport. We have traditionally ridden natural obstacles and the challenge was doing it with our feet up. We also prefer long, slightly hairy loops. No more…

Although the extreme environmental crowd says that we are destroying the soil, our sections are just logs, rocks and tight turns where we test our riding skills. Our sections grow over with new vegetation as soon as we stop using them.

The regional water board wrongly believes that off road activity at Carnegie and other OHV venues pollutes our water supply. They hold us to the highest standards and restrict us from using trails we have ridden for decades. Their actions are based on their bias against our sport not on empirical evidence.

It isn’t off road vehicles that are responsible for toxins in the water supply especially here at Carnegie. It has never been explained why the authorities maintain that our bikes shed toxins as we ride through the hills at Carnegie. That is a huge misconception propped up in the media by our enemies.

The reality is the source of these threats although numerous are not easily identified. You have to remember that Carnegie and Tesla were both heavily industrialized before earthquakes and floods swept it all away in the early part of the twentieth century.

In Carnegie there were coal, manganese and clay mines, a gravel pit, as well as a pottery and brick factory. The kilns were fueled by local deposits of coal, and the residue that was left over after the coal was burned, still lays in piles throughout the hills above Carnegie. There was also a major factory town for workers on the site.

In Tesla there were coal mines and another large factory town. Foundations, mine tunnels and piles of tailings can still be found at the Tesla site to this day.

Tesla today

Tesla today

There were also railroads taking the coal along Corral Hollow Creek to Stockton. None of this was cleaned up after it was destroyed and abandoned.

The tailing and other toxins leftover from the heavily inhabited and industrialized areas surrounding Tesla and Carnegie were and still are leaching into the canyon. In those days there was no environmental movement and so it was not regulated. The industrial waste ran into Corral Hollow Creek.

Tesla was never cleaned up

Tesla was never cleaned up

The floods that destroyed and swept it all away was the last time the creek overflowed into the protected Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. Ever since that time any water flowing into Corral Hollow Creek has sunk down into the flood plain and then evaporated in the summertime. In the rainy season, if  there is enough water to collect water samples; you only need to stir up the bottom of the creek where it flows into Carnegie to get elevated heavy medal readings . It’s still there.

In the late 1800s, coal was discovered in the hills, and boomtowns sprouted overnight. At its peak, 1,500 people called the Tesla area home, more than lived in Livermore at the time, according to Livermore’s city historian.

But in the 1910s, the mining companies went bust, and that was the end of Tesla. For the next eight decades, Tesla was used for grazing cattle and pretty much reverted to its natural state.


Tesla never reverted to its natural state. The remnants of a highly industrialized site still dominate the hillsides and valleys in both Tesla and Carnegie.

Grazing cattle is a recent use and can hardly be designated as natural. The effects of cattle grazing can be seen from Tesla/Corral Hollow Road where overgrazing has caused massive amounts of erosion. The huge herds that graze above and in the canyons are a source of pathogens that pollute the creek. The cattle are also a huge source of methane gas which contributes mightily to global warming. In fact, eighteen percent of all green house gases come from livestock production, more than all forms of transportation combined. In the United States thirty-three percent of all water pollution is caused by livestock production.

It seems ironic that our neighbors, who were instrumental in bringing the failed lawsuit against Carnegie SVRA for alleged water pollution and who are behind the effort to take the Carnegie expansion away from the OHV community and give it to East Bay Regional Parks District for “passive use”, raise cattle on their nine thousand acre ranch.

Contrary to what this article says; Tesla is not now and never was a wilderness area.

The only authority for the adverse affect of OHV recreation quoted in this article, with the exception of members of the anti access group “Friends of Tesla”; is the U.S. Geological Survey where it is reported that: “A 2007 study by the U.S. Geological Survey described the effects of off-highway vehicles on soil, watersheds and habitats as diverse and potentially profound.”

I read all of the sixty-two pages of this survey, in addition to doing a word search, and did not find a single mention of the effects of off-highway vehicles on anything. This is a pure fiction. Shame on the San Francisco Chronicle for not doing any fact checking before publishing this article.

Moving on…

It isn’t just trials riders who are losing public riding areas. Anybody who goes to Carnegie  is  stuck on the improved surfaces of the “new” heavily groomed trails that “our betters” (the politicians and their agents) design for us. They do not understand what motivates us to ride off-road. We are not road bikers content with riding on improved surfaces. We like challenging trails just like rock climbers like challenging climbs.

The authorities have a distorted view of what causes heavy metal accumulation in Corral Hollow Creek. Along with past industrialization and human occupation, we can’t ignore the effect of Site 300 across the street from Carnegie, a Superfund Site owned by the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory which is principally responsibility is ensuring the safety, security and reliability of the nation’s nuclear weapons. Nor can we ignore the independent non-profit research site above Carnegie (SRI International) that tests explosives. Also 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 adding to sediment and who knows what else.

Hetch Hetchy tailings dumped in the canyon

Hetch Hetchy tailings dumped in the canyon

Neither do the so called “experts” understand erosion. Their heavily graded trails (some with a solid rock foundation) rather than reducing erosion actually add to erosion. The same applies to the Tesla/Corral Hollow Road that runs along the side of Corral Hollow Creek and also the overgrazed hillsides above the road.

Contrary to the assertions of our enemies and the media, we are not harming the environment by riding traditional steep, gnarly trails at Carnegie. We want our trails back. The barriers and fences have to go. They are taking away everything we love about riding our bikes.

If we are forced to find another place to ride, we will have travel a lot further even if it adds to global warming. None of this makes any sense to anyone except the ninnies who hate our sport. The gallon or two of gas we use in our bikes is peanuts compared to the fuel used to get to Carnegie. If we are forced to travel a longer distance, fuel use will go up exponentially.

Tesla belongs to the off road community and it is not just a  public state park like the other 272 non-OHV parks. It was bought with our money for OHV recreation. We only have eight state OHV parks and we want our park back!  All of it…


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