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Your GPW Editor-on-Occasion is Petra Fried in the City.
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stories along The Way

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Off-road vehicle parks planned for LA County

Speaking of wheels and spin, where exactly was this "Well-publicized public input at every step" actually publicized?

From the Pasadena Star News:

Off-road vehicle advocates work to smooth path to future parks

By Daniel Tedford
10/20/2009 01:47:32 PM PDT

After 25 years of spinning its wheels, the county is trying to back off the accelerator and get a little traction on an effort to build small off-road parks all over the county. Since the 1980s, the county has been trying build more parks, including smaller parks in urban areas. But efforts have been mired in fights over land use with environmentalists, bicyclists, horse riders and other opponents. The subject is so touchy, the county's lead agent on the project is leery to talk about it. "The last think I want to do is stick my foot in my mouth and set this thing back another 25 years," said Robert Ettleman, an off-highway vehicle and trails park planner with the Los Angeles County Department of Parks and Recreation.

At the San Gabriel Canyon Off Highway Vehicle area on Highway 39, Sunday, Oct. 11, 2009. (Staff Photo by Eric Reed/SVCITY)

Ettleman for the last month has been holding meetings where he pitched guidelines for opening new parks, including meetings this month in Azusa and Rowland Heights. Ideally, the plan would create small off-road parks all over the county. "The reality is we would want one (urban park) in every community because just one of these would be overwhelmed," said Paul Slavik, who sits on the advisory committee for the county's parks and recreation as well as being a commissioner for the Off-Highway Motor Vehicle Recreation Division for the state' department of parks and recreation. Bringing parks into the city is one thing everyone can agree on.

While off roaders see a little mud play in the wilderness as a good time, members of the Sierra Club see it motor-powered habitat destruction. Putting parks in new wilderness areas is out of the question for many environmental advocates. "It is locating it in sensitive habitat itself that is the primary concern," said George Barnes, the California Sierra Club co-chair of the off-road vehicle task force. He agrees that the county needs some sort of guidelines for acceptable off-road parks. If not, people will off road illegally. "If you don't have parks, then the vehicles should be banned outright," he said.

Right now, riders have to venture outside of Los Angeles County for most recreation activity, usually hours away to San Bernardino County deserts and other areas. That is despite the fact 14-to-15 percent of people in Los Angeles County are licensed riders of off-highway vehicles and the population is increasing, according to Department of Motor Vehicle statistics. Issues with management and proper designs have turned off environmentalists to OHV parks in the past, Barnes said. But the county's latest efforts signal a turn in the right direction, Barnes said. "In general, I think Los Angeles County's approach is a good one," Barnes said. "Well-publicized public input at every step." Advocates know that without a shift in public perception toward such parks, it will be difficult to get a project started. "You are never going to get a park, especially in a urban area, without involving the community," Slavik said.