Myth Busters

OHV users and lobbyists perpetuate misinformation and myths about Carnegie SVRA and Tesla Park (the Alameda-Tesla purchase). Myth Busters separates fact from fiction and sets the record straight.

 

Myth #1 – OHV users paid for Tesla Park. 

Fact – It is misleading and inaccurate to state that OHV users, like those who use Carnegie SVRA, paid for the Tesla Park land.  The OHMVR Division is not supported exclusively or even primarily by SVRA entrance fees and “green/red sticker” registration fees.  Fuel tax transfers make up the vast majority of the OHMVR budget, and the majority of the fuel tax transfers are not attributable to OHV use like that which occurs at Carnegie SVRA. The general outdoor non-OHV recreation public that purchases gas in California paid for about 55% of Tesla Park through fuel taxes. Read the “Truth about OHMVR Divi$ion Funding” to get the facts.

 

Myth #2 Tesla Park is owned by the OHMVR Division.

Fact Property title on deeds and public records for the Tesla Park land show that the property is held by the “State of California, Department of Parks and Recreation”. It is correct that the purchase funds were from the OHMVR Division, but Tesla Park is owned by the State of California Parks Department, not the OHMVR Division.

 

Myth #3 Tesla Park has to be used for OHV use because it was bought with OHMVR funds.

Fact It is not accurate that Tesla Park has to be used for OHV use like that which occurs at Carnegie SVRA because it was bought with OHMVR funds.

The OHMVR Division receives funding for and is statutorily responsible to provide motorized off-highway access to non-motorized recreation. At Tesla Park, limited street legal vehicle off-highway access to limited parking areas and trails heads for non-motorized recreation meets all requirements of the OHMVR statutes and provides the type of resource protection and low impact non-motorized recreation appropriate for Tesla Park.  It is consistent with OHMVR laws that define how OHMVR funds are to be used to operate Tesla Park as a sensitive natural and historic area with limited street legal off-highway access to non-motorized recreation.

Further, the OHMVR Division did not conduct an acquisition EIR prior to purchasing Tesla Park. Contrary to Public Resources Code Section 5090.43(b), the OHMVR Division purchased Tesla Park for OHV use even though essentially all of Tesla Park should be established as a sensitive natural and historic/cultural area. Tesla Park is inappropriate for OHV use. That is why two prior attempts in 2000 and 2004 to gain EIR approval to open Tesla Park to OHV use were abandoned.

One of the major failures of the OHMVR Division, as explained by former Deputy Director Daphne Green in her interview with the Attorney General as part of the 2012 State Parks Department secret fund investigation, was the Division’s acquisition or planned acquisition of property which was not suitable for OHV use. Tesla Park was not appropriate for OHV when it was purchased in 1996 and 1998.

Had the OHMVR Division completed necessary due diligence before the purchase as required by law, the sensitive natural and historic/cultural resources in Tesla Park would have been identified and Tesla Park would never have been purchased for expansion of Carnegie SVRA.  Having failed to perform such pre-acquisition evaluation, the OHMVR Division is now attempting to justify opening Tesla Park to OHV use simply because they intended the property be designated for OHV use and they used OHMVR funds for purchase.  Just because someone buys a piece of property does not mean they can do whatever they want with it.

 

Myth #4 The Carnegie SVRA and Tesla Park land is not good for anything else so it is good that it be used for OHV use.

Fact Setting aside its rich biologic and cultural value, Tesla Park land and most of the land surrounding Carnegie SVRA and Tesla Park is productive grazing land and has been for over 130 years.  The OHMVR Division even continued to lease Tesla Park for cattle grazing from the time it was purchased in the late 1990s until mid-2012.  At a General Plan/EIR Stakeholder meeting in November 2012, ranchers who operated on the Tesla Park land up to mid-2012 expressed their desire to continue operating cattle on this grazing land.   Property surrounding Tesla Park continues to be productive grazing land. Alameda County records and soil and agricultural classifications show it as productive agricultural land.

Additionally, Tesla Park and the Corral Hollow Canyon have been long known for their historic significance, including the historic Carnegie and Tesla mining district, and for the unique biological diversity of the area. In the last 25 years the ecological importance of the Tesla/Corral Hollow region has made it a target area for conservation easements and natural preserves, not development.

 

Myth #5 Carnegie SVRA was a motorcycle park before the State bought it and it was already damaged.

Fact Carnegie SVRA was a private motorcycle park prior to purchase by State Parks in 1979.  While there was some damage from prior motorcycle use, the intensity of the use has increased significantly under the 30 plus years State OHMVR management, and, as a result, increased environmental destruction has occurred. Review of historical aerial photographs and Google Earth images document that environmental damage at Carnegie SVRA has increased under State OHMVR management.

 

Myth #6 Carnegie SVRA and Tesla Park is the perfect location for an off-highway motor vehicle park.

Fact Without considering the rare biologic and historic/cultural resources, Carnegie SVRA is an inappropriate place for an SVRA based on its terrain. Carnegie SVRA is located in a geologic environment incompatible with the activities of OHV use and the protection of water quality.  As in Tesla Park, Carnegie SVRA’s steep hills and canyons all drain into Corral Hollow Creek making it difficult, if not impossible, to control the erosion caused by the constant denuding of the landscape and off-highway vehicle use.

At Carnegie SVRA, the OHMVR Division tries to control the erosion into Corral Hollow Creek by building sediment retention ponds in all of the canyons to catch the muddy, polluted runoff; The ponds, however, fill up with sediment, overflow, and send muddy water into the creek. The OHMVR Division plans to build even bigger sediment retention ponds to try to capture the erosion.  The eroded soil, which has to be dredged from the ponds, is forever lost. The hillsides continue to erode and are not restored to their prior condition.

See Myth #3 about Tesla Park being inappropriate for OHV use because of it sensitive natural and cultural/historic resources.

Myth #7 Carnegie SVRA has changed and is now operating appropriately.

Fact Since Carnegie SVRA and the State Parks Department OHMVR Division was sued in 2009 for violations of water quality laws resulting in Clean-up and Abatement Order No: R5-2012-0700 from the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board, the OHMVR Division has made some limited attempts to improve management practices at Carnegie SVRA, primarily by fencing off part of the creek that had been a free ride zone from 1980 to 2009 and attempting restoration and new management practices in a relatively small test area. These changes, however, affect only a small portion of the entire park and Carnegie SVRA still operates under a Clean-up and Abatement Order.

Carnegie SVRA is also not operating in compliance with the Public Resources Code Sections 5090.02 and 5090.35 which require that SVRAs operate in a sustainable manner, including with sustainable trails, and to close areas that are not sustainable for restoration and keep them closed if that cannot be properly maintained in a sustainable manner.  The 2009 and 2010 Carnegie SVRA Habitat Monitoring Systems (HMS) report documents the extensive network of unsustainable trails that still exists with new rogue trails continue to be cut. The required annual Habitat Monitoring System report for 2011 due in February 2012 was still not issued as of February 2013 reportedly due to insufficient staff resources.

The environmental damage at Carnegie SVRA is so great and continues to occur that it will take major changes in management practices, decades of time and tens of millions of dollars to bring Carnegie SVRA into compliance with the law.

 

Myth #8 The pollution at Carnegie SVRA is caused by the historic Tesla coal mine and Hetch Hetchy tunnel which are up stream of Carnegie SVRA.

Fact Water quality studies conducted between February 2008 and March 2009 show that the pollution found in Corral Hollow Creek originated within the boundaries of the Carnegie SVRA and that upstream sources did not contribute to the pollution.  The studies were submitted as part of the 2009 law suit against the State Parks Department OHMVR Division and Carnegie SVRA.  These documents, which are in the court record, document that the sediment and heavy metals in the creek water resulted from OHV activity within Carnegie SVRA.  They show that Corral Hollow Creek water was found to be free of the pollutants immediately upstream of Carnegie SVRA when the creek within the SVRA was polluted, consequently eliminating upstream sites, such as the historic coal mine and the Hetch Hetchy tunnel, as possible sources.  The water quality pollution in Corral Hollow Creek in the SVRA was from eroded materials directly attributable to OHV activity in the park.  Erosion of soils and sediment by OHV’s into the creek and the disturbance of sediments within the creek by OHV’s created conditions of extremely high turbidity and high concentrations of suspended sediment which contribute to the elevated concentrations of toxic heavy metals.

 

Myth #9 If OHV use is not allowed in Tesla Park, OHV users will trespass on other property.

Fact Threats of trespass are not justification to allow OHV use in Tesla Park and damage to a sensitive natural and historic/cultural area that should be managed as a natural and cultural preserve. The OHMVR Division must stop tolerating threats of illegal conduct as justification for expansion of Carnegie SVRA or any other administrative action the Division wants to take.

While Carnegie SVRA users do commit some trespass and vandalism, the problem is primarily the failure or inability of the OHMVR Division to enforce laws at Carnegie SVRA and properly manage the park. This problem would only be expanded at Tesla Park because Tesla Park is more remote and over twice the size of Carnegie SVRA.

Issues of OHV trespass on BLM or National Forest land involve a different set of factors that are not applicable to Carnegie SVRA or Tesla Park which are fenced and will be fenced from adjoining private property.

 

Myth #10 OHV use, including at Carnegie SVRA, is growing and more OHV use areas are needed.

Fact The most recent 2009 California State Park Department “Survey on Public Opinions and Attitudes on Outdoor Recreation in California” finds that OHV use is among the least important type of outdoor recreation to California residents.  Walking, day hiking, viewing natural scenery and wildlife, and outdoor photography and many other types of non-OHV activities were all more important to survey respondents than OHV use (with OHV use including use of motorcycles, ATVs, dune buggies, and 4WD vehicles). In terms of outdoor recreation parks and facilities, wilderness type areas, areas for environmental and outdoor education, and trails for non-motorized recreation were among the most important to respondents; facilities for OHV use were among the least important. In terms of amount of use, more California residents use parks that have wilderness type areas, areas for environmental and outdoor education, trails for non-motorized recreation, and historic and cultural sites than use OHV areas. As a representation of unmet latent demand, when asked which recreation activities would survey respondents like to participate in more often, the majority of respondents identified walking for fitness or pleasure, camping, bicycling and day hiking on trails.

The frequency of use of some forms of outdoor recreation decreased from 2002 to 2008, including for OHV use. This is supported by decreasing SVRA attendance since 2003, including at Carnegie SVRA, as reported by the OHMVR Division.

While there is an OHV user constituency that wants more land for OHV use, OHV use remains a relatively small proportion of total outdoor recreation demand in California.  Based on the 2009 California State Parks Department study, and consistent with prior year’s studies, OHV use remains among the least important outdoor recreation uses for California residents when compared with other non-OHV outdoor recreation uses.

Myth #11 If use at Carnegie SVRA is restricted for restoration, Tesla Park will be needed for more OHV use.

Fact Public Resources Code Section 5090.35 identifies the appropriate utilization of land and conservation of land resources as the OHMVR Division’s highest priority in the management of SVRAs. Sections 5001.96, 5002.1, and 5019.5 require a capacity limit be established and implemented for all State Parks to ensure proper resource management and sustainable operation. Section 5090.02 requires that SVRA be operated in a sustainable manner.  There is a capacity to how much use and impact a natural resource, such as a SVRA, can take without being unacceptably degraded.

The OHMVR Division has not applied reasonable capacity limitations on the number users at Carnegie SVRA, enforced laws on where users can ride or maintained sustainable trails.  As a result the OHMVR Division has over-burdened the land and Carnegie SVRA has long operated in violation with the Public Resources Code.

The OHMVR Division is attempting to justify expansion of Carnegie SVRA into Tesla Park because they are being pressured to operate Carnegie SVRA in a sustainable manner as required by law.  Rather than operate Carnegie SVRA in a sustainable manner, the response by the OHMVR Division is that they need to expand Carnegie SVRA into the virgin Tesla Park land.

All parks have limits. Two-cycle jet skis have been banned from Lake Tahoe because of unacceptable impacts on water and air quality. Hiking and camping in wilderness areas is limited by permit so as not to over-burden pristine natural resources.  Camping sites require reservations. Hunting tags for many types of game are limited.  SVRAs and OHV use is no different. SVRAs must operate within limits and cannot expand into areas that are unsuitable for OHV use just because users want more riding areas.

Myth #12 – Carnegie SVRA has approval to expand into Tesla Park.

Fact - The State Parks OHMVR Division does NOT have any required environmental approvals to expand Carengie SVRA into Tesla Park.  The OHMVR Division did NOT do an acquisition EIR prior to purchase.  The OHMVR Division tried to get CEQA environmental approval to expand Carnegie SVRA into Tesla Park in 2000 and 2004, but both EIRs were abandoned and never certified.  The OHMVR Division’s intended plan to expand OHV use into Tesla Park does NOT equate to any legal approval to expand OHV use into Tesla Park.  The OHMVR Division has started a third CEQA review that is in process.  The Draft EIR is expected to be issued in Summer 2013.