THE REALITY BEHIND THE ALAMEDA/TESLA EXPANSION

I remember driving to Carnegie from Berkeley more than thirty-five years ago when there was little or no development along the 580 corridor. The route was basically rural. Besides a few ranches and wineries, there were no buildings along Vasco Road. Now it is built up on both sides. Also there are multistory housing developments and business parks stretching all the way from the Bay Area to the Vasco turnoff. It seems strange, given this unabated development, that the Livermore City Council is concerned about the effect which the three thousand acre Alameda/Tesla Expansion is going to have on the city.

The city of Livermore should be grateful that the off road community purchased the Alameda/Tesla Expansion for Carnegie Sate Vehicle Recreation Area (SVRA) and prevented the property from being bought by developers. The Alameda/Tesla Expansion is not open yet, but when it does open it will be a great addition to Carnegie SVRA. It is close to Livermore and will attract local residents. Others from the Bay Area will go there on the weekends and drive through Livermore supporting the local economy(and tax base) by stopping for gas, food and other items.

The Alameda/Tesla Expansion won’t just be a park solely designed for registered off-highway vehicles. There will be back country trails accessible by normal street registered SUVs. There will be places to park and view natural and cultural resources far from the hustle and bustle of civilization in an unspoiled environment. In other words, valuable resources will be protected and kept in pristine condition.

A public museum or interpretive area in the Alameda/Tesla Expansion will  showcase native fauna, native wildlife, and the cultural and historical background of the park, including the site that was once the Tesla coal mine. It will also highlight the history of Native Americans who passed through the region at one time.

In addition, there are plans for trails for beginners and intermediates designed to challenge and increase rider skill levels. There will be a four wheel drive technical course and multi-use trails for ATVs, ROV’s, 4WDs and motorcycles. There are plans for off road access to non-vehicular recreation opportunities.

The idea is to ban all off-highway vehicles in the sensitive areas (marked in green on the map), or about one quarter of the Alameda/Tesla Expansion. This will protect creeks from erosion and sedimentation, minimize impact on natural resources and also preserve cultural and historical artifacts.

There are plans for various gathering areas and picnic spots.

In other words, the Alameda/Tesla Expansion is designed to be a place that welcomes all varieties of outdoor enthusiasts. It will attract everyone whether or not they own and drive off road vehicles.

The Draft Purpose and Vision Statement includes the following: “The OHMVR Division works to ensure quality recreational opportunities remain available for future generations by providing for education, conservation and enforcement efforts that balance OHV recreation impacts with programs that conserve and protect cultural and natural resources”.

The property as it exists today is not as “pristine” as our opponents would like you to believe.  The Alameda/Tesla Expansion includes a site where in the early part of the twentieth century a mining enterprise dug and operated coal mines. The coal mines, now abandoned, consist of collapsing mine shafts, torn lumber, tailings, scraps from mine operation and mounds of soil extracted from the shafts. Heavy metals from these abandoned mines still leach into the soil.

There is nothing left of the mining town which is depicted in their website. All that remains today are one or two scraps of lumber strewn along the hillside. The state will have to do a lot of renovation to make the site safe for visitors.

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Across from Carnegie on the other side of Corral Hollow Road is Lawrence Livermore National Lab’s (LLNL) site 300, which is used to process and test high explosive materials mainly used in nuclear weapons.

In 1990 LLNL site 300 was deemed a Superfund site due to releases of radioactive tritium among other heavy metals and contaminants. The Department of Energy is still trying to figure out how to start the remediation process and is monitoring flows from that site into Corral Hollow Creek inside Carnegie. It is fenced off.

On the other side of Carnegie and the Alameda/Tesla Expansion is a nine thousand acre cattle ranch which is owned by the main, long time opponents to our off road park.

Cattle do not stay on trails. They eat and tread on the native fauna which supports native wildlife. This is especially true in the semi-arid region on the eastern side of the coastal range where the ranch is located. The landscape that you can see from Tesla/Corral Hollow Road where cattle are grazed is almost bare of vegetation and highly eroded.

The owners of the nine thousand acre cattle ranch sponsor hunting parties. For example, they charge about $10,000 to bring down an elk. It is obvious that wildlife is not safe on the cattle ranch. Native wildlife cannot safely migrate into the ranch on the one side of our park and into the Super Fund site on the opposite side.

Then there are the freeways, highways, vineyards, ranches, residential developments and business parks in the area that surrounds our park. These things inhibit the flow of wildlife. In other words the idea that our three thousand acres is a lynchpin to the migration patterns of wildlife is a wildly inflated fantasy.

There is also the SRI facility that develops and tests explosives which also borders Carnegie to the east. Again this neighbor is not a great place for wildlife archeological artifacts or native fauna.

If the City council is concerned about the three thousand acre Alameda/Tesla Expansion in a public park, why aren’t they concerned about the huge number of wineries near Interstate 580 in Livermore? Wineries do not preserve native habitat. Toxic residue from fertilizers, insecticides and herbicides find their way into the water supply.

I have to wonder whether a thirsty crop like grapes really belongs in a semi-arid region where water is scarce and resources overtaxed by development. Although wineries are a tourist attraction, they are certainly not environmentally friendly.

In analyzing the effect of a few trails used on the weekends, we mustn’t forget that  the rush hour traffic that goes up and down Tesla/Corral Hollow Road winds around the hills above the creek bed. Any concern about how our trials are going to affect the creek  seems overblown in comparison. The general plan for the Alameda/Tesla Expansion bans OHV recreation above the creeks to protect them from erosion and sedimentation.

Oil and fluids from thousands of cars and trucks rushing along Tesla/Corral Hollow Road each day are washed into Corral Hollow Creek whenever it rains. Because the road is paved and is impervious to liquids, rain rushes off the asphalt and it does not have a chance to sink into the soil thereby increasing erosion.

The affect of asphalt on the erosion and the water supply can be multiplied by the tens of thousands if you take into account all the roads and freeways in and around Livermore.

I have also noticed that road kill is prevalent along the Tesla/Corral Hollow Road. I have never seen any road kill on any trail in all the years that I have been riding at Carnegie. In addition, not one of the roads or freeways in Livermore, including Tesla/Corral Hollow Road, are  diverted to avoid nearby sensitive resources or endangered species like the unpaved trails in our off road park.

The state, by law, must protect, preserve and nurture archeological sites and the environment. The development plan for the Tesla/Alameda Expansion outlined in the Preferred Option of the General Plan does just that and is supported by data and science, balancing use with the latest best practices for the preservation of natural habitat and cultural heritage.

Instead of feeling threatened by the expansion of this public park, the city should be grateful that the off road community is developing the site using money from the user funded OHV Trust Fund to purchase, develop and maintain this area for trail driving and to provide a back country experience for everyone.

All Livermore residents will be able to drive on these trails whether or not they own an off road vehicle. Even the disabled and elderly will have access. There will be opportunities for learning about natural resources, local culture and history where visitors can get out of their vehicles, observe nature and take photographs.

In other words, you don’t have to be a “died in the wool” off road enthusiast to see the benefits of this park.

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