After a four-year effort by the non-profit Eastern Sierra ATV (All Terrain Vehicles) Adventure Trails organization, residents of Inyo County and the City of Bishop will now have an opportunity to provide public comments regarding a proposed ATV trails system that would link public lands that are managed for Off Highway Vehicle (OHV) recreation to towns in Inyo County.
Eastern Sierra ATV Adventure Trails advocates Randy Gillespie and Dick Noles originally brought the issue before the County Board of Supervisors, and with the Board’s support, to Sacramento, resulting in the eventual passage of Assembly Bill 628. While the combined-use of County maintained roads by OHVs is not permitted at present, AB 628 establishes a five-year pilot project that will allow Inyo County to designate specific County streets and roads as combined-use routes.
Combined-use streets and roads can also be used to link existing OHV trails and trailheads on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) or U.S. Forest Service (USFS) lands to create a unified trail system for OHVs, according to the Inyo County Local Transportation Commission website.
According to a Bishop City Press Release, any County road or City street that may become a travel way for ATV/OHV access will require a licensed, insured operator, obeying traffic laws and speed limits. ATV travel on any public routes will be limited to daylight driving, with a maximum speed of 35 mph.
Should the AB 628 pilot program be successful, said Gillespie, “other counties in California, if they’re a rural county and they meet the guidelines of AB 628, will also be able to do the same thing.”
The first public meeting, to be held at the Bishop Senior Center on Sept. 25 at 6 p.m., will offer an opportunity to show the proposed routes within the Bishop City limits, as well as those routes leading out into the County.
Bishop Public Works Director Dave Grah expressed the City’s interest in the economic development possibilities of the pilot project, which would bring OHV riders into the City to shop and dine. However, he said, “We’re also aware of some concerns about the noise, as well as whether this is an appropriate activity in the Eastern Sierra.”
Wednesday’s public meeting will be just the first opportunity for the public to comment on, and learn more about, the proposed ATV trail system, Grah explained. Currently, the County is drafting a CEQA document for the project; once it is completed, both the County and City will hold formal hearings. The environmental process, including the hearings, should be “about a year to completion,” said Grah.
In the meantime, Gillespie said, Eastern Sierra ATV Adventure Trails will continue to work on the existing OHV trail system. Because County OHV trails lack the necessary signage and maps to establish a coherent network, “Our goal is basically to create a road map,” he said.
Eastern Sierra ATV Adventure Trails recently secured a government grant because of AB 628 to do just that; “to install kiosks and signage and mapping that the Adventure Trail will eventually link into,” Gillespie said. He called this signage and mapping “confidence markers. A visitor that comes up can now grab a map and explore around with confidence that they won’t get lost.”
Gillespie expressed his desire to listen to the public at Wednesday’s meeting, “and get their input on this.”
AB 638 has been a long time coming, he said; “It’s time for this to happen.”