Family fun – or environmental threat on wheels? Jun Bato’s 5-year-old son is one of many  children you’ll spot on the trails of Carnegie SVRA. (KQED/Rachael Myrow)

We’ve heard a lot over the last couple of years about all the money troubles the California state parks have been having—but not all state parks are starved for cash. Eight “off-highway vehicle parks” get a steady stream of gas-tax funds guaranteed by state law. These parks are a different breed from the rest. They’re even run by a separate division within the Department of Parks and Recreation. And in many ways, off-roaders struggle with Californians who have a very different idea of what a park should be. Take, for example, the story of Carnegie State Vehicular Recreation Area.

About an hour’s drive east of San Francisco, Carnegie draws motorcyclists from all over the western United States to tear up and down its hills. The challenge is pretty obvious—climb about 500 feet in a matter of seconds without losing control of your vehicle. It looks exhilarating—and terrifying.

An Outlet for Kids

Hamid Majidy of Piedmont loves to come here. He rides a Honda CR 250 dirt bike, and he notes many of the biggest names in the sport have come to Carnegie, too, including California-grown greats like Modesto’s Kenny Roberts and Berkeley’s Brad Lackey.

Like many parents who frequent Carnegie, Majidy says the promise of a weekend on dirt bikes is an excellent way to encourage kids (especially boys) to behave at home. “Even though we don’t come out here very often,” Majidy says, “it just motivates them to have something to look forward to other than, you know, playing video games and watching TV all the time.”

Although the Diablo Range park is most accessible to motorcycles, other four-wheelers such as sand rails, razors and military jeeps also ply Carnegie’s territory. The state purchased this stretch of 1,300 acres from a private operator in 1979. In the years since, the Department of Parks and Recreation bought another 3,400 acres.

Clash Over Environmental Reports

But that property is still off-limits to off-roaders because the state didn’t do an environmental impact report first. Pre-purchase EIRs weren’t standard practice in the past. But then, most state parks involve a few hiking trails and a parking lot. Local environmentalists argue the need for an EIR at Carnegie should have been obvious from the get-go.

One of those environmentalists is Celeste Garamendi, the sister of Rep. John Garamendi. (She’s quick to say he’s not involved in this conflict).

Off-road riding damages the land, she says: “It erodes the hillsides. It destroys vegetation. It pollutes the water.”

Garamendi married into a local ranching family with big holdings near both Carnegie tracts. She said state parks officials should lay off their expansion plans—and do a better job of caring for what properties it runs now.

Where some might see an endless range of undifferentiated rolling hills, Garamendi sees a delicate ecosystem deserving more respect than it gets. “When I first came here [in 1990], I certainly didn’t have an appreciation for what this is,” she says. “Over the years, I’ve come to understand how very special this is.

Corral Hollow, looking its best in winter when the hills are as green as they can be. (Credit: Jim Town)
Corral Hollow, looking its best (to humans) in winter, when the hills are as green as they can be. (Credit:

“High ridge tops, cascading canyons, a wonderful riparian Corral Hollow creek, variation in vegetation from savannah grasslands to blue oak woodlands, chaparral, sage, pine forests: all of this is contained within Tesla Park,” she continued.

Tesla Park? There is no Tesla Park, yet. But Garamendi wants to establish one on the very land the state bought to expand the Carnegie SVRA. (Why name it Tesla, you ask? The area is the former site of an industrial town named Tesla, once the site of the most productive coal mine in California. There’s no connection between the proposed park and with Fremont’s Tesla Motors–except for the fact the Teslas are named for the Serbian-American inventor and alternating-current pioneer Nikola Tesla.)

Marilyn Russell, an avid horse rider who taught biology at Livermore High for 33 years, would also like to see a park here. Russell says the hills are home to all kinds of critters, from spadefoot toads and whipsnakes to red-tailed hawks and golden eagles. She adds, with a wink in her eye, “It would be wonderful to connect trails from Yosemite to Mount Diablo and beyond. You know, that’s a vision I have.”

It’s not just a question of love for the flora and fauna. Backers of Tesla Park also argue more attention should be paid to the region’s history. In Carnegie, a now-defunct mining site has been cordoned off to protect it from bikers. (The area has also been left free of signage to protect it from archeological poachers, a common problem in California.)

Over the last 13 years, the Off-Highway Motor Vehicle Recreation Division of State Parks has launched and abandoned two EIRs for the Carnegie expansion. The division is working now on a third one, which is the first one to consider the old property as well as the new.

Defining ‘sustainable’

In an effort to counter accusations that Carnegie isn’t being run properly, park Superintendent Randy Caldera does a lot of monitoring.

“Every bare piece of dirt in this park has been GPS’ed, and it’s evaluated annually for soil loss. Pictures are taken,” Caldera explains. “These all are required now to meet our resource code. You can have a denuded area, or an area that doesn’t have vegetation. As long as we’re monitoring it and identifying that, it’s sustainable.”

Now, just to be clear, “sustainable” doesn’t mean sustainable for flora and fauna, so much as it means the soil isn’t eroding down the hillside.

What the grooves look like. (Credit:
What the grooves look like. (Credit:

As Caldera talks, there’s no escaping the visual of deep grooves worn into the hillsides behind him. But the hills outside the park also show evidence of human interference.

Diana Mead of Concord comes here on a regular basis with her family, including her 18-year-old son, Logan, who’s become a top competitor on the hill-climb circuit. She’s also an organizer with CORVA, the California Off Road Vehicle Association.

Impacts on the Landscape

She points out that ranchers have remade the local landscape. With the naked eye, you can see how nibbling grazers in the area have worn ridges of their own into the hills, (albeit soft horizontal ones that grass grows over quickly). Those small clutches of oak trees surrounded by green in winter, yellow in summer? That’s a new vista, too.

“The wide open vistas are not indigenous to this area,” Mead says. “They’re that way because of the cattle. It’s beautiful, but let’s understand: There’s all kinds of human activity that impacts our environment.”

hdpublicplaces-modYes, she acknowledges, motorbike trails tear up the hillsides and some of her fellow Californians might find that “abhorrent. I understand that when you see that trail, that that viscerally bothers you in the pit of your stomach.”

But she pointed out that ranching carries a cost, too. “I find what cattle do to our water systems to be abhorrent,” she said. “But I’m not a vegetarian, so I kind of understand we need to manage this.”

Mead argues off-roaders are trying to operate inside the boundary lines set by the law, the Off-Highway Motor Vehicle Act of 1988. Garamendi counters the law needs to be reassessed.

In the coming months, there will be a series of public meetings over Carnegie’s environmental impact report and general plan. The process is expected to wrap up by the end of the year—but that just means the state parks’ Off-Highway Division will then be free to start the approval process with the general parks leadership, the state Finance Department and state lawmakers. That could take another three to four years.

Hear the story as it sounded on The California Report:

Funds for coverage of California state parks are provided by the S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation.

Tussle in Tracy: Off-Roaders, Nature Lovers Fight over State Park’s Future 13 September,2013Rachael Myrow

  • Celeste Garamendi

    Thank you for bringing this story to your listeners’ attention.

    Because of the rare and unusual biologic, cultural and historic resources
    in Tesla Park, there is broad support – from Save Mount Diablo to the Livermore
    Heritage Guild – to protect this unique public land from the destructive
    impacts of OHV use. Some of the organizations
    working to preserve Tesla Park include:

    ·Alameda Creek Alliance
    ·California Oaks
    ·California Sports Fishing Association
    ·Center for Biological Diversity
    ·Citizens Committee to Complete the Refuge
    ·East Bay Chapter of the California Native Plant Society
    ·Friends of the Arroyos
    ·Friends of Livermore
    ·Friends of Springtown Preserve
    ·Friends of the Vineyards
    ·Greenbelt Alliance
    ·Livermore Heritage Guild
    ·Livermore Hill Hikers
    ·Ohlone Audubon Society
    ·Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility
    ·Regional Parks Association
    ·Save Mount Diablo
    ·Sierra Club
    ·Tri-Valley Trail Blazers equestrian group

    Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, State Senator Mark DeSaulnier and City of
    Livermore Mayor John Marchand have stated support for protecting the Tesla Park land.

    Please join us at Friends of Tesla Park at

    • lola

      This is a case of interest and influence by the few verses the ownership, interests and livelihoods of the many. Don’t be fooled by the long list of orgs mentioned. It is merely political influence and hidden agendas at play.

    • Diana Mead

      As I understand it, Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan has not even visited the current Park; Livermore Mayor Marchand is back pedaling (he didn’t realize there we so many off highway recreationists in Livermore (many of whom like wine!) and Senator DeSauliner will hopefully remain neutral.

      Other than that, can you honestly tell me there are any surprises on that list? Maybe the equestrians. OHV funds go to maintain many of the trails outside of the State park system for their use. They probably don’t know that.

  • I don’t ride, but appreciate the fact the off roaders have a place to enjoy their sport. Human activity is better in a manged area, than running rampant through the forest. California offers an abundance of protected areas for the environment. Let them enjoy themselves!

    • Peter

      The California Legislature mandates the expansion of State Vehicular Recreation Areas (SVRA). Which of California’s open spaces will you select for such expansions ?

      Are you satisfied that California already has enough protected areas for the environment and does not require more ?

      How would you manage (I assume you meant to write “manage” and not “mangled” ?) these SVRAs –as the OHMVR has done during the past 30 years, or differently ?


      • Yes, Peter. I see that California has over 10% of it’s land in protected status that will never be used by OHVs, another 60% is also never going to be used by OHVs due to ownership and land use zoning. There is less than 1/10 of 1% of California land designated for OHV use by the public. But hey, you go ahead and ban everything you find offensive, like hunting, fishing, ohv use, mountain biking, etc… because God died and left YOU in charge.

    • Diana Mead

      Thank you Jp! My point exactly.

  • Concerned Protect Flora but kill elk on your ranch. No you are using us, and giving true environmentalist a bad name.

    • Peter

      Is that your best shot ? You apparently don’t even know where the target is, much less what the environmental issues are regarding expansion of the CSVRA.

  • nothanks You can’t claim to protect the environment then kill and hunt elk on your ranch for $11000. You are using us and giving true environmentalist a bad name.

    • Joshua

      Well said

    • Peter

      Of course that claim can be made, and validly so. You are still not even aiming at the target –the proposal to expand the CSVRA into the Tesla-Alameda landscape. Perhaps you do not understand that landscape, and therefore do not value its ecological services, its strategic environmental values, nor the destructive impacts that ORV travel such as occurs in the present CSVRA bring to the landscape.

      • Diana Mead

        We do understand. Quite well in fact.

  • Karen Schambach

    “Every bare piece of dirt in this park has been GPS’ed, and it’s evaluated annually for soil loss. Pictures are taken,” Caldera explains. “These all are required now to meet our resource code. You can have a denuded area, or an area that doesn’t have vegetation. As long as we’re monitoring it and identifying that, it’s sustainable.” Is he kidding?

    The Off Highway Vehicle Division of State Parks is required by statute to “promptly repair and continuously maintain areas and trails, anticipate and prevent accelerated and unnatural erosion, and restore lands damaged by erosion to the extent possible.” Cal. Pub. Res. Code § 5090.35(a).

    Monitoring as described by Caldera isn’t sustaining; it’s just watching as the soil, vegetation and habitat disappears.

    • Perhaps posting your title and who you work for is appropriate here, Karen. To post like you are not paid to attack anything OHV related is a bit cheap, don’t you think?

  • Joshua

    The monitoring as described by Caldera is part of sustaining. There is evidence of rehabilitation and good stewardship all over the park and I think its in large part due to that feedback loop. It allows for corrective action if and when its needed.

    • Peter

      There is no evidence of “rehabilitation”. There is much OHMVR smoke and mirrors which hopes to provide an illusion of good stewardship. There is evidence, instead, that the only-recent “rehabilitation” efforts fall far short of adequate stewardship. The “feedback loop” you allude to is so internalized within OHMVR that it can not fail; by definition, it succeeds simply by changing the definition of good stewardship.

  • Simono

    Why is a % of tax revenue from every gallon of gasoline sold in this state going to support this ORV parks? How many benefit from this tax vs. how many people pay it? How many people even know that they pay for ORV everytime they buy gas? I don’t support it. It angers me that public land is bought and maintained for ORV users using gasoline tax I have no choice but to pay. What is the history of that? Do the ORV users pay a fee everytime they enter the park on top of any license they have to have as other state park users do? Do ORV users understand that they are getting a handout from the government and the taxpayer? Seriously, probably 99% of this states population pays to subsidize how many peoples’ ORV recreation ? When were we asked if this was something we wanted our tax revenue spent on?

    • Peter

      Actually, whatever amount of revenues/income that goes to the OHMVR, it is NOT spent “to support” the SVRAs (ORV parks).
      If OHMVR were to spend what is needed to repair, rehabilitate, restore, and protect in a sustainable manner its SVRAs, OHMVR would go broke in an instant.
      OHMVR is unsustainable. It thrives only amidst uncontrollable environmental destruction.

    • Well, for the uneducated and ignorant, a little lesson. A portion of every gallon of gas IS NOT given to ORV use. A small percentage of gas is concluded to be used for ORV use and a portion of that gas money is given to ORV to be used to manage, maintain, and mitigate OHV use. Since gasoline taxes are applied to all gasoline sold for use fees, it makes sense that some of those use fees are applied to non-paved road use, no? Also, the OHV fund receives money every year from the registration fees of the OHVs that operate in the park, whether from California or from another state, California requires out of state users to get a out of state registration as well, it is just a little less than in state residents pay. So, YOU, Simono, do not support OHVs with the gas you buy, get over it. And for Peter, the fund OHV has is the ONLY find State Parks has that IS solvent. One of the reasons is because the board of directors for OHV has been packed with environazis like yourself over the last couple decades who have refused to use the funds to purchase any new land, so it just keeps accumulating. Oh, but they have used the funds to purchase PLENTY of land to NOT BE USED by OHV folks in the name of mitigation. So both of you should shut up and learn before you type. It makes you look like fools when you try to comment about something you obviously know nothing about.

      • simono

        So what happens is that there is a gas tax that EVERYONE pays for gas. The state then estimates how many miles are being driven for OHV and gives money to an OHV trust fund based on that, in effect discounting OHV users’ tax rate on gasoline for using it off road. So, I want money from a percentage of a tax that everyone pays including OHV users, every time they buy gas, that is based on how much mileage I spend and others like me spend on fire roads to go exploring, camping and hiking to experience and appreciate native plants, animals and environments.

    • Diana Mead

      The gas tax revenue has it’s origins in State tax law. Prior to 1973, California citizens who filed the long form, could take a credit for tax paid for fuel used in off highway vehicles, tractors, back hoes, farm trucks, etc. It was a fairness issue. These vehicles didn’t travel on highway so why should those taxes go to repair the highway? Over the subsequent decades there have been changes to the law and the formula used for the calculation. It isn’t perfect but it is still a fairness issue. Our SVRA’s and the trails we use are our “roads” and we expect our money to go to maintain them.

      We also pay entry fees to the 8 SVRA’s in California and we pay to register our OHV vehicles, the equivalent of highway vehicle registration.

      It is also worth noting, for you bitter taxpayers who resent any money going to OHV, that our fund has been raided by the State legislature many times over the last 30 years to balance the state budget. While some of this money has been forgiven, none has been repaid. We are talking millions of dollars…so if any of us should feel a bit bitter…..

  • JIcanberry

    Viewing the Environment Lightly

    In reference to the April 6 article in the Independent, and contrary
    to Mr. Caldera’s statements on the state of the Carnegie OHV Damage, that the
    “green trails are sustainable, meeting all of the environmental requirements”
    is viewing the environment very lightly.
    Considering that OHV trail damage of Carnegie as is evidenced by anyone
    within viewing distance from Tesla Road, particularly from overhead satellite
    images, would have to wonder what Mr. Caldera is smoking and what environmental
    laws (extraterrestrial?) he is referencing. His “green trails” are only sustained (rested) by the
    OHMVR for more OHV usage and degradation, not for environmental enhancement of
    any kind. California and federal
    environmental laws do not condone the in-perpetuity type damage and destruction
    that OHVs inflict on the landscape nor the degree of environmental degradation
    that is inherent to OHV usage, especially in environmentally sensitive habitats
    that are represented on the 3400-acre Tesla-Alameda property.

    Those “steep rugged grassland” areas that Mr. Caldera feels
    are perfect for developing 4-wheel all terrain vehicle trails, according to the
    Sierra Club biologists, need to be further studied to better define their
    native grassland qualities and the grasslands importance to grazing by numerous native mammal

    Mr. Caldera states that “Our opponents statements about potential degradation in Tesla are
    not based on any scientific data” is a bold and uninformed statement
    considering the state of condition of his Carnegie SVRA model which exhibits 1600
    acres of a totally destroyed environmental landscape via OHV usage. Also, contrary to his statement,
    his opponents’ statements about the potential degradation in Tesla, are,
    indeed, based on scientific data.
    Although, the science data available to the public from the OHMVR
    Division is extremely limited and incomplete (and in most cases unavailable to
    the public), Friends of Tesla Park has assembled “Listed Species” (listed in various status categories by
    State, Federal and California Native Plant Society categories) data for
    Carnegie SVRA and adjacent properties, Tesla-Alameda and LLNL Site 300 (located
    across Tesla Road from Tesla-Alameda and Carnegie SVRA properties) from
    available public documents and literature. These data show that Carnegie SVRA has four
    Threatened and Endangered species (as classified by the State, Federal and
    California Native Plant Society’s listings) observed on site compared to four
    T&E species on Tesla-Alameda property. These similar results are data from a common source, the OHMVR
    Division. However, across the road
    on LLNL’s Site 300, biological experts there have observed and identified 36
    Threatened and Endangered plants and animals. These same data sources show 52 “listed” plant and animal
    species observed on Carnegie SVRA, 62 on Tesla-Alameda and 164 on LLNL Site
    300. Again, one can plainly see
    the discrepancies in the completeness and validity in OHMVR’s limited data and
    that depicted by biological experts on LLNL Site 300. It’s highly probable that the OHMVR Division is missing many
    T&E and other listed plants and animals, since the abundances reported at
    LLNL Site 300 are located just across Tesla Road.

    The overfunded, environmentally indifferent, OHMVR Division
    looks at environmental destruction without the need for biological mitigation
    of its OHV in-perpetuity type impacts.
    Environmental destruction is taken lightly by the OHMVR Division and
    contrary to Mr. Caldera’s statement that “We are under the same operational
    codes and regulatory requirements as other departments” is ludicrous given that
    they are in violation of most of the existing California environmental codes
    and create incomparable environmental impacts to other departments within the
    California State Park system.

    • Diana Mead

      Taken out of context, but why bother with all the facts when portions will do a better job of supporting hate of a group of California citizens?

  • Peter

    Here are some 570+ reasons why to NOT expand the Carnegie SVRA into the Tesla-Alameda 3,400-acre parcel.

    This entire parcel should be set aside by OHMVR as mitigation for the extensive habitat destruction it allowed on the original 1,500-acre during 30+ years of reckless mismanagement of that site.


  • dre

    You can’t claim to protect the environment then kill and hunt elk on your ranch for $11000.
    See for yourself

    I’m pretty sure that gun killed that Elk not a motor bike.

    • Peter

      That elk was not hunted/killed on the 3,400-acre Tesla-Alameda parcel owned by OHMVR. It was killed in what is clearly healthy elk-sustaining habitat, taken out of a herd managed for long-term sustainability under CDFW authority.

      BTW, the T-A parcel also hosts (unhunted) elk presently, as well as cattle grazing.

      Presumably, that T-A habitat is still ecologically productive and healthy, as well.

      One can claim to protect the environment and also produce sustainable elk herds.


      • Diana Mead

        One can recreate off highway and still sustain the property on which one recreates.

  • Joanna Garaventa

    The destruction at the Carnegie Vehicular Park is clearly evident: deeply rutted tracks, huge amounts of topsoil lost as well as loss of natural habitat and pollution of air and water. Is this the example we should set for future generations? That nature is nothing more than a utility to be used by humans for their amusement? I wonder, do the parents and families using the park know that it takes more than a 1000 years to replace one inch of the topsoil that their helping to degrade from the site? Or, do these families realize that this type of destruction will only ensure that their children will grow into adults who see nature as a utility for their own use rather than as a source of life the key to human’s continued existence?

    We must model the behaviors we wish future generations to emulate: a respect for nature, the desire to improve the conditions of the world rather than destroy it and the need to leave behind those we have taught these values to as our legacy.

    The Tesla property must be preserved in its natural state and protected in perpetuity. By supporting this effort each of us makes one small stand for nature and one very large example of what we value as individuals.

    • Diana Mead

      Joanna, do you also feel that we should all subscribe to a single political party or religion? Your post, like several after it, fails to acknowledge that we, as a responsible citizens, have learned to manage many aspects of our world where we would personally choose differently. I don’t happen to attend church, but don’t object to the number of churches in any given neighborhood. I believe golf courses are water wasting uses of property, but since many very wealthy people seem to love golf, I understand that we’ll keep on building and irrigating golf courses.

      I invite you to join us in responsible management of our sport.

  • dre

    2013 Hunt Prices
    4 Day Tule Elk Hunt$11,000 on the Connolly Ranch
    Go check it out for yourself.

  • Paul W

    Only so many places in the state to ride. Carnegie people are great people and are good neighbors if given a chance to work with people of interest. It is indeed OHV property and should be used as such. Lots of folks spread the word that the OHV community just doesn’t care and that’s fare from the truth. Pretty unfortunate that people like to throw stones. No one person should think they have that much power

  • Chuck

    In regard to thecurrent debate regarding the use of a State
    Park owned open space called Tesla Park (SE of Livermore). Should this
    richly historic (indigenous people, early California town and coal
    mine) and pristine open space rich with flora and fauna be saved as a
    nature preserve or opened to Off Highway Vehicle use. I am a
    motorcyclist and respect and enjoy OHV but the decision regarding Tesla
    Park is a clear one. We must save and preserve this land in it’s
    natural state for our children and their grand children to hike, picnic
    and enjoy. To link this park with other parks and ring the bay area
    with natural open space is a gift for our descendents. One look at the
    despoiled landscape of neighboring Carnegie OHV Park and the answer must
    be…preserve Tesla Park.

    • Jerry fouts

      The simple fact is that there are two distinct properties involved here, the Tesla, (where the mine site, dump,coal mines are) and the alameda property. By law the historic site at tesla will be preserved as a park itself, and maintained by off highway money, the Alameda will be a designated trails only area for OHV activity, not the go anywhere activity that caused the damage to the original Carnegie, before the State acquired it. One only has to look at the acquisition to the Hollister hills SVRA, it has been maintained as a sustainable OHV addition of that park for many years. By law the State Vehicular Recreation Areas, (SVRA’s) have the highest benchmark for environmental responsibility of any State Park. That benchmark was agreed upon by ENVIRONMENTALISTS, as a way to guarantee the protection of water, species and other precious things in these areas. The Garamendis argument is another NIMBY by a powerfull well connected bully.

  • I would like to clarify and expand certain statements on Rachael Myrow’s,
    California Report, aired this morning.

    As a biologist who has visited the 3400 acre Tesla Park, there are more than
    just critters there. There is a unique and rich native landscape that
    should be preserved for future generations. This area is at the transition
    zone between ecological zones which leads to its long recognized
    biodiversity. It is at the Northern-most range of some plant and animal
    species from the Mojave Desert zone. There are numerous threatened and
    endangered species. These features and many more make Tesla Park an
    important area for university level research and K-12 education.

    I am also a rancher. In addition, the prehistoric landscape of California
    was shaped by a drying, warming climate and the rise of hoofed mammals to
    graze on the developing grasslands. Elk, bison, and pronghorn (antelope)
    who once grazed in large numbers and helped shaped these hillsides were
    replaced by cattle over 100 years ago, but the rich natural features of the
    landscape, including the purity of the water in Corral Hollow Creek, have
    been maintained. It is the destruction at Carnegie SVRA that has wreaked
    havoc with the environment.

    Just look at recent photos of the Carnegie hillsides compared to what the
    Tesla Park looks like today. My vision is for the children many generations
    into the future to know what our original landscape was like and to enjoy
    the unique diversity of special plants and animals and geologic features of
    this region. That place is Tesla Park. Check out the website at:

    • Diana Mead

      Marilyn, I respect your knowledgable and your post. However, there is no Tesla Park. Referring to the the property as Tesla Park, doesn’t make it true. The landscape is not unique. Your statement calling it that, doesn’t make that true either. The photo, posted above could easily be some sections of Carnegie SVRA today, except in most of Carnegie, there are more trees. The State has been a very good steward of our existing park and the plan for expansion will protect endangered species, archeological sites and the beauty of the area, while making it responsibly accessible to many more people.

      I am certain that you are proud of the diversity in our state, or maybe you and I define diversity differently. OHVR is going to happen; far too many of these vehicles are owned by California citizens to imagine them just going away. Is it at all possible for you to consider ways that this form of recreation might be managed? Your input and knowledge are valued, and could be helpful in the process. Simply saying “no”, even eloquently, fails to acknowledge the reality of the situation. It further paints you a as a “my way or the highway”, (no pun intended) sort of individual.

      Do you react the same way toward religion, politics or football?

  • mnb

    This is a classic case of unwavering environmentalists that refuse to respect the interests of others or differing points of view. Most OHV enthusiasts love nature, too. And they prefer to enjoy it on a dirt bike, ATV, etc. Just like cyclists like to mountain bike, trekkers hiking or equestrians riding horses. All leave a mark. Even with no human involvement at all, marks are left by animals. They create their own trails.

    The California SVRAs are well versed in trail management and minimalizing erosion through proper trial design. No, not every trail at every park is a pristine example of that done at its best. It has been a learning process. But they are very good at it now.

    OHV fans don’t mind large swaths of land being dedicated as a wilderness preserve. It would be nice if enviornmentalists would be as cooperative and allow OHV enthusiasts some trails on which to enjoy the wonderful outdoors of our beautiful state.

  • Mr Mike

    Do some educated research and you will see why a % of fuel tax goes to OHV. It is the % of fuel used by the OHV community. The “Tesla” property that was purchased with OHV money need tobe used for what it’s intented purchase was. There are thousands of acres of land that are hiking only. Many other for equestrian and or MTB. There are very few acres for motorized recreation. For those of you that feel that your way is the only way and anybody recreating in a dffrerent way than what you see fit is what I call a “Close Minded Bigot”! Next your going to tell people where to live and what kind of transportation they will use. Look up Agenda 21. I am an OHV recreationalist. And an avid out doors guy. Although I don’t hunt. I do enjoy Hiking fishing and just about any other type of out door recreation there is. I have seen about every kind animal/widlife that is in CA. Including several Bobcats while riding in Hollister SVRA. I spotted two different cats in about 10 minutes. Tell me wildlife doesn’t coexist in OHV parks. I have to admit that Carnegie could have been managed better. And could have some work done to heal some of the land. But managed correctly could have a lot less impact than many other type of uses. Look at Ski areas and golf courses. Clear cutting for ski runs. Clearing for golf courses, and fertilizers and waste of water to keep the grass green. Hollister’s Renz property is a perfect example. The trails in Renz were engineered to have no more impact than hiking trails. They are designed in a way that people could not walk side by side if they were hiking on this trails. Drainage is managed. It is a eviromental friendly way to participate in Motorized recreation.

    This should the example and plan for the new property. It should be opened for what it was purchased for, with OHV funds.

  • Nancy

    The comment is made in the story that off-roaders are trying
    to operate within the law – but the State Parks OHMVR Division is currently
    operating Carnegie SVRA in violation of the Public Resources Code and has for
    decades. This is an image of Carnegie SVRA from Google earth that tells the
    truth about what is happening at Carnegie SVRA and the ultimate fate that awaits
    Tesla Park if it is not permanently protected from OHV use.

    • Diana Mead

      Nancy, there is no Tesla Park. Sorry, but that is a fact. I am further sorry that you see no redeeming aspects to off highway recreation. However, OHVR is not going away and I sincerely invite you to become part of the process to manage our sport responsibly.

  • Nancy

    Here is the image of Carnegie

  • Dirt Biking Girls

    In California there are 37 Million people and of that 14% of them own an Off-Highway Vehicle. Each OHV is registered and this brings in many millions of dollars each year. All of the State Vehiclular Recreational Areas are paid for ONLY by OHV’owners. No tax dollars go to support these parks and they are the ONLY state parks that are working with a positive amount of money.

    Each of these parks employee many employees and for every person who uses an OHV those dollars spent getting to the park, staying or purchasing food, equipment and gas to recreate on public lamnd is millions each year.

    To have kids and families spending time together out doors is one of the best ways to grow up! How many kids are texting to their friends or doing drugs while riding a dirt bike? None that I see.

    It is sad to see that the newest ideas are to keep everyone indoors and AWAY from public use land. Imagine where else can a family of four go and camp over night for $10.00 and enjoy learning to ride, help others and how to take respoinsibiliuty for themselves. Kids as young as 5 can easily ride with the entire family and anyone who has ever ridden in our wonderful SVRA’s knows some of the best parts are stopping to see the snakes, deer, wild pigs and birds that LOVE our OHV parks. We have seen Condors flying at Hollister Hills, deer and pigs walk right past us as we have a picnic luinch on the trailside and the small animals are easily seen by those who ride in the early morning and afternoons.
    WIth as few available areas to ride as there are those parks need to be expanded and made larger due to the fact that the residents of California are realizing spending time OUTDOORS in activty family life is what kids and parents want to do. These state parks have wonderful activities like Junior Ranger programs, charity events and races for all people to be able to participate in.

    The OHV community is really one huge family that loves nature, animals and excercise. I woulkd much rather have my kids dirt biking with me than sitting at home playing a vidoe game. We always help other riders and almost all riders help others, I have had mine haul out adults whose bikes broke down and the one man would have had to walk a few miles if we had not helped him out. Unfortunately when one group is upset because the option for the use of the land is NOT of their choosing they choose to take from all and state unfair and biased infornation. If these unhappy people would get out and ride with us they would see how families recreate and have fun.

  • Celeste Garamendi

    It is often said that “we”, meaning the OHV (Off-Highway Vehicle) users at State Vehicular
    Recreation areas (SVRAs) such as Carnegie SVRA, paid for and purchased the
    Tesla Park land. This statement is misleading, inaccurate and provably false.

    In 1997/1998, the period during which most of the Tesla property was purchased,
    79% of the OHMVR Division Budget, was from Fuel Tax Transfers. The other 21% of
    the budget was made up of park entrance fees, green/red sticker fees and
    miscellaneous other state contributions. Green/red stickers are the special DMV
    registration program for non-street legal motorcycles, All Terrain Vehicles
    (ATVs) and other vehicles that can legally use SVRAs and ride off-road on other
    public lands (1).

    The amount of the Fuel Tax Transfer was based on a 1990 study and Department of Finance analysis which included estimates of all 4-Wheel Drive (4WD) and 2-Wheel Drive
    (2WD) vehicles, legal and illegal ORV vehicles and miles driven on dirt roads
    in the formula. A 1999 analysis of the Fuel Tax Transfers showed that only 9%
    of the fuel tax transfers were actually attributable to legal green/red sticker
    vehicles eligible to use SVRAs, such as Carnegie SVRA. This information is documented in California Off-Highway Vehicles: In the Money and Out of Control (2).

    This was the general composition of the OHMVR Division budget until 2008 when new
    legislation (SB 742) reauthorizing the OHMVR program approved the doubling of
    sticker fees. Today the OHMVR Budget is about 69% Fuel Tax Transfers and 24%
    park entrance fees and green/red sticker fees and 7% miscellaneous other state
    contributions. In 2006, a new Fuel Tax Transfer study was conducted that found
    that that only 13.3% of the fuel tax transfers were attributable to legal green/red
    sticker vehicles eligible to use SVRAs, such as Carnegie SVRA, and over 82% was
    for street legal vehicles for all types of recreation. In addition to the vast majority of fuel tax transfers being attributable to street legal vehicles, nearly 50% of the use was specifically for non-OHV uses such as camping, picnicking, fishing and hiking. The 2006 study also determined that the Fuel Tax Transfers to the OHMVR Division were actually 2 TIMES as much as they should be based upon actual dirt road recreation use, not considering the fact that nearly 50% of that dirt road use was for non-OHV use recreation. Unfortunately, the 2008 OHV program reauthorization bill did not change the OHMVR Division funding methodology and the OHMVR Division continues to receive about 75% more in public tax dollars that can objectively be attributable to the type of OHV use that occurs at SVRAs. This information can be found in the 2011 State OHMV Commission Report (3) and 2006 Fuel Tax Survey (4) and Recreational Pursuits and Destinations 2007 Final Report (5).

    It is misleading and inaccurate to state that OHV users, like those who use SVRAs, paid
    for the Tesla Park land. The general public and general recreation public paid for the vast majority of Tesla Park. The OHV Lobby over the course of many years has successfully lobbied the State Legislature to misdirect a large portion of Fuel Tax Transfers to SVRAs and OHV use on public lands that no other State Park has. The OHV Lobby has been able to get legislation that defines OHV use as broadly as possible to collect the maximum amount of public tax dollars into the OHMVR Division and then redefine it as
    narrowly as possible through administrative policy to establish that those tax
    dollars can only be spent for the type of ORV use that occurs at places such as
    Carnegie SVRA.

    OHV users did not exclusively pay for Tesla Park – all recreation users that purchase gas
    in the State of California paid for the vast majority of Tesla Park. Because
    Tesla Park is public state park land, it is important that we ask “what is the
    best public use for this historically and culturally significant, biologically
    diverse and unique, and wonderfully scenic park land?”

    The answer is unquestionably, not as expansion of Carnegie SVRA as an off-highway vehicle park.


    (1) OHMVR Division funds are also
    used for OHV on BLM,, National Forest and other public lands.

    (2) The report California Off-Highway Vehicles: In the Money and Out
    of Control can be found on the Center for Sierra Nevada
    Conservation at

    (3) The 2011 OHMVR Commission
    Report is on the State Parks OHMVR Division Web Site under Home, Publications/Reports

    (4) The 2006 Fuel Tax Survey,
    Estimating the State Fuel Tax Paid on Gasoline Used in the Off-Highway
    Operation of Vehicles for Recreation, Survey Results, September 2006 is on the State Parks OHMVR Division Web Site
    under Home, Publications/Reports at

    (5) The report Recreational Pursuits and Destinations, Final Report, September2007 is on the State Parks OHMVR Division Web Site under Home, Publications/Reports at

    • Diana Mead

      More numbers…more insinuations.

      OHMVR funds are used through the grant program for BLM, National Forest and other public lands but not so we devils can run rampant on these properties. “Use” vs. “Manage”. The grant program funds many things; some of them even directly benefit OHV.

      Might you have noted that OHMVR funds also go to the CHP, nothing to do with OHV? Doesn’t fit your agenda?

      I suggest that the most important aspect of your agenda isn’t addressed in your post. You own adjacent land and simply despise OHV. Guess you must use horses and electric golf carts to navigate your ranch. Why didn’t you build a coalition of investors to purchase the Alameda and Tesla properties and then donate them to E. Bay Regional Parks? My research shows that the property was for sale, (not bothering with a link, sorry,) OHMVR didn’t steal it. Perhaps too costly to mitigate?

      You have been repeatedly offered opportunities to give input and collaborate. Reading your posts, I know your vocabulary isn’t limited to “no”.

  • Steve

    Lots of mis-information here – especially from crazy Karen and the Carnegie neighbor Celeste. It is sad so many people do not understand how the gas taxes work and how responsible OHV recreation areas are currently and should continue to be managed heree in CA. Celeste & crazy Karen have never seen an OHV they could live with and they act as OHV hunters – taking shots at responsible OHV recreation every chance they get – blatantly spreading mis-information to support their shared anti-OHV biased agenda. Their goal is to eliminate all OHV activity anywhere, especially near their homes. Do your research before you believe anything they claim to be true…because in most cases it is not.

  • Art Hull

    Ms. Myrow’s story mentions that the State Parks OHMVR Division receives most of it funding from gas tax while all other State Parks struggle to stay open. This is correct.

    In the fiscal year 2013-2014 budget, the Off-Highway Motor Vehicle Recreation (OHMVR) Division of the California State Parks Department is slated to collect about $82 million dollars. Seventy-five percent (75%) of that money will come from motor vehicle fuel tax, which represents the tax on over 150 million gallons of gasoline, mostly sold to average drivers of street legal vehicles. Less than 25% will come from entrance fees and Off-Highway Vehicle (OHV) sticker fees. Of that 150,000,000 gallons of gasoline, only 13.3% is for registered OHV vehicles. The OHMVR Division is handed this fuel tax wind-fall based upon an outdated formula. The State Legislature has thus far been unwilling to correct this inequity because of OHV lobby pressure.

    The contention that OHV users pay to play is false. OHMVR parks cost 6 times as much as other state parks to operate. OHV use as consistently reported in State Parks surveys as among the least important form of outdoor recreation to residents. Yet the OHMVR Division is most highly subsidized form of outdoor recreation in State Parks.

    We know that OHV use is the most destructive use on our public lands. That is why Tesla Park – which has so many special resources – should be protected. But the State Legislature should also tell State Parks that OHMVR can have their 13.3% of the gas tax, but the other 86.7% will be redirected to fix our roads and other support state parks that rightly deserve our tax money. That is the fair and equitable thing to do.

    • Diana Mead

      Lot’s of facts and figures, some accurate, others misleading. True Fact: The OHMVR division of state parks takes no money from the state general fund. Regardless of the fuel tax debate, this fact is relevant.

      Also note, OHMVR does not receive all the gas tax dollars collected as you insinuate.

      Where does this “windfall” go?

      1. To support the 8 SVRA’s solely funded by the OHMVR trust fund.

      2. CHP (yup, per legislation, we off roaders significantly contribute to the CHP budget!)

      3. Grants: BLM, USFS, Counties, County/city, Law Enforcement, non profit entities, are awarded grant dollars to maintain a statewide trail system (used by equestrians, mountain bikers, (dare I say it?) hikers, hunters, campers, etc. ) educate the public, employ youth, and enforce state law.

      Land acquisition.

      While this may be”the least important form of outdoor recreation”, to California residents as a whole, it is very critical to many of us. I further believe it might be important to many others if we really had that “powerful lobby” that influences our government and would also educate all Californians as to our contribution to recreational lands in the state.

      We are not “bad” people who don’t care about the environment. Quite the opposite. Most of us care very much and understand that many fellow Californians are unable/unwilling, to help us manage this form of recreation.

      I wish I could show bring each one of our detractors to any of our SVRA’s during a family weekend. Our children are generally not screen centered. They are active human beings learning to take care of our environment, our resources, our equipment and our bodies.

      Please consider exploring ways to work with us.

  • Geoff

    is the story implying that off-roaders aren’t nature-lovers? The
    whole reason I enjoy offroading is because I am a nature-lover! Nothing
    exposes me to more of our country’s beautiful backcountry and gets me
    further away from the hustle and bustle of the city than my Jeep. My
    bad knees don’t allow me to hike into wilderness areas anymore, so my
    Jeep is my means of getting back to nature.

    sure would be nice if the anti-access faux-environmentalists let us use
    this small parcel of land which we purchased specifically for OHV use
    without giving us grief. It’s nothing but an old mine site! We’ve
    already lost all the prettiest areas to the anti-access groups in the
    form of Wilderness Areas. There are already 65 East Bay Regional Parks to visit if you don’t like OHVs. Tesla/Carnegie is the ONE AND ONLY Bay Area park for OHVs.

  • Jim

    I’m sorry to see so much overheated information being thrown back and forth. Reminds me of a rotten-vegetable-throwing contest. I’ll just state my own opinion, shared with a great number of other citizens whom I respect: This “debate ” over the Tesla property’s use is just one instance of a huge on-going battle between those who value open-land preservation as a necessity for our descendants well-being and those others who would develop it now for various current purposes that they believe in. Well, you’ve aleady guessed my opinion, so I will say no more.

  • Diana Mead

    Thank you Rachael for one of the more unbiased reports I have heard/read. There are at least two sides to every story and you gave us a voice. Despite what one of the comments below says, we do not have a powerful lobby supporting OHV. We are only now learning how to speak for ourselves with clarity and a single message. Our community would like to manage and preserve OHV recreation, responsibly. This can be done, with education, tolerance and understanding. For those that will partner with us, we welcome your input. For those who dislike OHV so much that they would legislate our opportunities away, we are prepared to protect access for our community and those who require OHV’s to achieve access, the elderly, the disabled, etc. This too, we will do responsibly, with honesty and a nonpartisan voice.

  • D. Schmidt

    If you live in a house, use electricity, drive a car, or take advantage of ANY convenience modern society has to offer, you have no right to complain about the small amount of land put aside for OHV. Environmentalists, what do you think was here before man started building houses, roads, businesses, schools etc? Land. Natural, untouched land. How can you justify your position on land use when you yourself live in a developed area? Sustainability? That is just a catch phrase you use to make you feel good about yourselves.

    OHVer’s are not interested in tearing up everything. We don’t want to ride your hiking trails, we don’t want to disturb your tranquility. We want to ride our bikes in fairly designated areas to get away from this rat race every once in a while. Please explain to me how you can justify taking away the opportunity for me to bond and connect with my 13 year old daughter on a level I cannot even put into words. We enjoy an amazingly close father/daughter connection BECAUSE of dirt bikes.

    Unless you are prepared to stop using natural resources to survive, just like the rest of us, don’t you DARE try to tell me I can’t recreate with my FAMILY outdoors, on dirt bikes, in little areas you have decided to ALLOW us to use. Hypocrites!

    Diana mead, you are awesome! Thank you for standing up to these environmental bullies. Until just recently, us off-roaders just want to be left alone and not get involved. But now that our very way of life is being threatened, we are starting to come together. Perhaps too late, but I hope not…


Rachael Myrow

Rachael Myrow is KQED’s Silicon Valley Arts Reporter, covering arts and culture in San Mateo, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz Counties. She also guest hosts for The California Report and Forum, and files stories for NPR and the KQED podcast Bay Curious.

Her passion for public radio was born as an undergrad at the University of California at Berkeley, writing movie reviews for KALX-FM. After finishing one degree in English, she got another in journalism, landed a job at Marketplace in Los Angeles, and another at KPCC, before returning to the Bay Area to work at KQED.

She spent more than seven years hosting The California Report, and over the years has won a Peabody and three Edward R. Murrow Awards (one for covering the MTA Strike, her first assignment as a full-time reporter in 2000 as well as numerous other honors including from the Society of Professional Journalists, the Radio Television News Directors Association and the LA Press Club.
Follow @rachaelmyrow

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