By Victor Meier
“If there are any concerns, we want to hear about them.” explained Bishop City Administrator Keith Caldwell prior to Wednesday night’s first of three public meetings to discuss the ATV Trail System proposed in collaboration by the City of Bishop and Mono County.
According to Caldwell, “Bishop is the first town in California to offer a program like this one.” Caldwell enthusiastically urged residents to get involved, saying, “We are seeking your input.”
City of Bishop and Mono County Officials, CHP Officers, Bishop Police, other members of law enforcement and interest groups gathered in the parking lot of the Bishop Senior Center to give Bishop and Mono County residents the opportunity to voice their concerns and get close to the types of vehicles they might encounter should Assembly Bill 628 successfully become implemented; which city and county officials are expecting to happen within a year and upon completion of the Environmental Impact Report (EIR).
AB 628 establishes a five-year pilot project that will allow Inyo County to designate specific County streets and roads as combined-use routes for OHVs.
“How much does the EIR cost the town of Bishop?” one member of the public asked. According to Director of Public Works, David Grah and Inyo County Transportation Planner, Courtney Smith, the City of Bishop’s cost will be, “Little to nothing.” This is due mostly to a generous grant generated by revenue from the California Department of Motor Vehicle’s Off Highway Vehicle (OHV) Green Stickers.
Green stickers are issued for all California OHVs year model 2002 and older, including those that were previously issued a red sticker, and to 2003 and newer complying vehicles. Green stickers are issued to OHVs for year round use at all California OHV riding areas.
That same man brought up another point about the need to have an economic analysis conducted, which there have been none. He also asked about the possibility of the city’s increased expenses for First Responders. Who would guard the high traffic volumes that may potentially occur and if it was going to be Bishop…“How much is that going to cost?”
Bishop Chief of Police, Chris Carter asserted that with implementation of the ATV Trail System, the city would apply for more funds generated from the Green Stickers. He also made mention of his ability to coordinate with other available law enforcement and praised their support. A sentiment that was echoed by the strong presence of law enforcement at the meeting. The Chief also expressed a desire to “reach out to law enforcement where this sort of program is already in place.”
A local woman was concerned about her street, which is along the town’s proposed ATV access route. “Are the routes set in stone?” the woman asked. “My street has no sidewalks and the kids have to play in the street. It worries me.” Grah assured the woman that, “OHVs are just like traditional vehicles and follow the same rules.”
“Yes, within the city they are like any other vehicle,” followed Chief Carter. Grah had stated earlier that the residents of Bishop who were living along the proposed routes had been notified about their proximity and opportunity to be involved personally by the city of Bishop at each resident’s home. “All the routes are yet to be agreed upon,” said Grah. “We want to increase recreational opportunities in the Eastern Sierras,” continued Grah, “Our goal is to connect OHV areas with services in Bishop.”
Bishop Mayor, Laura Smith added, “This can be a great opportunity to bring tourist dollars into Bishop.”
Another man expressed concern about the inability to state his questions, comments and/or concerns anywhere other than in public forums like the one offered Wednesday evening.
“Go to the (Inyo) County website and click on the “Interested Parties” link,” Inyo County Transportation Planner, Courtney Smith suggested. Grah told the man, “Our intention was to be informal.” Collectively Bishop’s Officials supported the idea of being open to change and applying the resident’s valuable concerns and experiences to the program planning.
“This is a pilot program and we want your feedback,” said Caldwell. “This is an exciting venture and we are seeking your input.” The Bishop City Administrator was adamant in expressing Bishop’s commitment to “Operating with transparency and taking all the right steps to make sure that it [the proposed ATV Trail System] is safe.”
The next public meeting on the matter is Monday, Oct. 7 at 6 p.m. in the Tallman Pavilion, located at the Tri-County Fairgrounds.
Proposed Trail System Facts:
-There are no plans that are set in stone -— this is a pilot program with room for adjustment.
-Routes have yet to be agreed upon.
-There has been no CHP Safety determination yet.
-The Environment Analysis will be conducted next and thanks to a Green Sticker funded grant will cost Bishop “little to nothing” and will take about one year to complete.
-All signage is being paid by the State of California.
-Any additional First Responder cost can be offset with Green Sticker funds.
-OHV operators are licensed drivers who are required to carry auto insurance.
-OHVs must stay on clearly marked and designated routes and are limited to certain vehicles.
-No economic analysis has been done relating to the operation of these trails.