Judge’s decision encourages off-roaders; Ocotillo Wells SVRA topic of Saturday workshop
By Karen Brainard
While the off-road community is celebrating a partial victory with the courts, an environmental group is planning to amend its complaint to shut down open riding at Ocotillo Wells State Vehicular Recreation Area.
“It wasn’t a complete victory, but it was a real good win,” said Amy Granat, managing director of the California Off-Road Vehicle Association (CORVA).
Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) filed a lawsuit against California Department of Parks and Recreation that asserted the state agency has mismanaged Ocotillo Wells by allowing off-highway vehicles too much access to sensitive lands. State Parks and CORVA filed demurrers, asking the court for dismissal on the point that PEER failed to allege sufficient facts. At a Dec. 13 hearing, a judge in Sacramento County Superior Court ruled in state parks’ and CORVA’s favor; however, he gave PEER 20 days to amend the complaint.
Karen Schambach, California field director for PEER said the ruling wasn’t against the organization’s basic complaint but was more of a technical glitch.
“The judge indicated in his ruling that there is another avenue PEER could take,” she said. The group plans to re-write its complaint, according to Schambach.
“There’s no denying the damage that’s occurred there from the open riding,” she said.
PEER in its lawsuit said Ocotillo Wells is home to more than 1,200 archeological and historic sites with few having restricted access, and plant life is completely unprotected.
Families have participated in off-roading at Ocotillo Wells for over 30 years, said Granat, and those frequenting the area are concerned about environmental conditions. Since becoming a state park, Ocotillo Wells’ conditions have improved with more environmentally sustainable practices, she said.
“The state is really dedicated to making sure they follow the best environmental practices,” said Granat, adding that parks and recreation is supportive of the off-roading community.
Ocotillo Wells recreation area topic of workshop on Saturday
Ocotillo Wells is working on its General Plan update, which will address environmental concerns, and will host a public workshop this weekend for comments.
The workshop will be held from 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 28, at Ocotillo Wells State Vehicular Recreation Area, 5172 State Route 78, in Borrego Springs.
Ocotillo Wells District Superintendent Garratt Aitchison said the park is divided into 11 zones. Off-roaders will be able to select their preferred alternatives for each zone or suggest their own alternative. The three alternatives, legacy, rugged, and developed, proposes a range from leaving each zone as it is to offering some improvements.
For more information about the workshop, see www.PlanOcotilloWells.org.
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