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From the Landuse Frontlines - California Recreational Trails Act of 1974

The below is research compiled from a number of sources over the past 10 years concerning the California Recreational Trails Act of 1974.  In the 1971 Chappie-Z’berg Off-Highway Motor Vehicle Law (the Law), the Legislature addressed the growing use of motorized vehicles off-highway by adopting requirements for the registration and operation of these vehicles. In addition, it provided funding for administration of the OHMVR Program along with facilities for OHV recreation. The Law was founded on the principle that "...effectively managed areas and adequate facilities for the use of OHVs and conservation and enforcement are essential for ecologically balanced recreation...” Since then, other laws have been enacted that revised the OHMVR program to: Expand, manage, and sustain existing OHV areas and support motorized off- highway access to non-motorized recreational opportunities;  Monitor, conserve, and maintain resources;  Establish the OHMVR Division within California State Parks to administer the OHMVR Program;  Increase funding to the OHV Trust Fund; and, Establish the OHMVR Program as a permanent Division within California Department of Parks and Recreation.

Assembly Bill 3594 of 1974 created the California Recreational Trails System, which was amended in 1975.  This system is governed by Division 5, Chapter 1, Article 6, Section 5070 of the Public Resources Code.  Element (e) of this system are "Trails and areas for off-highway recreational vehicles".

Two major components of the act were the re-authorization of the "California Recreational Trails Committee" and the requirement to develop a "California Recreational Trails System Plan".  These two requirements of the act are:

  • "5070.7.  The director shall cause to be prepared, and continuously maintained, a comprehensive plan for the development and operation of a statewide system of recreation trails."
  • "5075.5.  The director shall prepare a guidebook, including trail maps, describing the system."

The Parks and Recreation Department published the Trails Plan in May of 1978 in the form of a summary volume and four element volumes.  Off Highway Vehicle Recreation, and Hiking and Equestrian Trails were two of the elements.  As of the summer of 1990, a guidebook has never been published.
Hiking and Equestrian Trails Element

The "Hiking and Equestrian Trails Element" has a section titled "The Plan for California".  On page 50 there is a map of California titled "California Trail Corridors" which is defined as:

"State trail corridors are linear zones of urban and rural landscape of unspecified width, within which specific hiking and equestrian trails can be located.  Such corridors should be viewed as long-range planning tools to link natural, historic, and recreational resources to the state's urban population, we (sic) well as providing areas for potential loop and spur trails near urban landscapes."

Off Highway Vehicle Recreation Element

The Off Highway Vehicle Recreation element did not have a Trail Corridors plan or map.  In a section titled "Land", it identified the state OHV parks and forty-nine other OHV parks of which nineteen were publicly operated.  It also noted the large portion of state that is controlled by the USFS and BLM and available for OHV use.

In the section titled "Roles and Responsibilities", the roles of the Forest Service, the BLM, and the State Park System are described.  On page 60 of this section, the plan states that:

"The California State Park System will allow off-highway vehicle use as a secondary function at selected other units of the State Park System."

"Off-Highway vehicle use will be permitted for utilitarian transportation at the following units of the State Park System:

  • "Anza-Borrego Desert State Park - Designated routes of travel; there are some 600 miles of trail that may be used by off-highway vehicles."
  • "Red Rock Canyon State Recreation Area - Designated routes of travel through the state recreation area, to other off-highway vehicle routes."

Although the Off Highway Vehicle Recreation element of the "Trails Plan" does not contain an OHV Trail Corridor Plan, it does state in Appendix 1:

"The California Recreational Trails Plan is a policy plan intended to assist and guide trails development throughout the state."

California OHV Recreation and Trail Study

Assembly Bill 990 of 1980 became chapter 809 of the 1980 Statutes supplemented the Budget Act of 1980.   The bill appropriated money from the Off-Highway Vehicle Fund to the Department of Parks and Recreation for the following:

"California Off-Highway Vehicle Recreation and Trail Study $250,000 - provided, that funds appropriated by this category shall be available for

(1) a survey and evaluation of the recreation interests, activities, and needs of off-highway vehicle users,

(2) a survey and evaluation of existing areas, trails, and facilities available for use by off-highway vehicles,

(3) a determination if additional trails and facilities are needed to meet the immediate and future needs of off-highway vehicle users

(4) an evaluation of the effectiveness of the department's off-highway vehicle program in meeting the recreational needs of off-highway vehicle users."

Requirements 1, 2, and 3 of the California Off-Highway Vehicle Recreation and Trail Study are quite similar to the requirements of the phases of work specified in the request for proposal for the Adequacy Study.  The phases are:

1. Inventory of Facilities

2. Analysis of Demand

3. Determination of Facility Adequacy

4. Recommendation of additional facilities/locations if applicable

EDAW Contract

The Department fulfilled the requirements of the California Off-Highway Vehicle Recreation and Trail Study by contracting with EDAW, Inc. to prepare a Statewide Off-Highway Vehicle Trails Plan for the sum of $250,000.  The EDAW report consisted of four volumes titled:





EDAW fulfilled requirement 1 of the Trail Study by performing an inventory of OHV use areas.  The Trail Inventory Report volume primarily consisted of an inventory of the sub-agencies that manage OHV use areas.  The agencies surveyed are the National Forests, the Bureau of Land Management, State Parks, and California Department of Forestry, along with Private, County, and City Parks.  The inventory also identified OHV use areas by State Parks planning Districts but did not actually identify trails or trail systems.  It did identify four existing long distance OHV corridors.

EDAW fulfilled requirement 2 of the Trail Study by subcontracting with Economics Research Associates (ERA) to conduct a Needs Analysis Study for $40,000.  The study included a survey to compile profiles of OHV user recreation patterns, attitudes, and demands for additional trails and facilities that was used as a basis for the Needs Analysis Report.

The survey contacted 1,201 OHV users but because it relied heavily on a mail survey to the membership of various user organizations it was not a random sample of the complete population of OHV users.  When determining what new facilities users wanted, the study only established which were the most popular, not, which were most important.  Users were not asked what they wanted to spend their limited fund money on first.  Since there was no dollar limit specified, users tended to name every amenity they could think of this is known as the Candy Store Syndrome.

EDAW fulfilled requirement 3 of the Trail Study by determining that a preponderance of OHV users wanted a statewide system of interconnecting trails.  To fulfill this desire, EDAW developed the California Statewide Trails Plan consisting of 152 individual trail corridors connected at 152 staging area nodes.  The Implementation Workbook contained the Trail Plan along with a complete implementation plan.

The Draft Principal Report volume was a summary of the complete Trail Plan.  Which presented:

"...a set of proposals for a statewide system of recreational trail corridors, staging areas and access points for off-highway vehicles."

One of the Trail Plan's key recommendations was for legislation that would:

"...amend the Vehicle Code to permit, on a limited case-by-case basis, the use of non-street-legal vehicles on highway rights-of-way, shoulders or actual highways in that order of preference."

The OHMVR Commission adopted the EDAW Trail Plan completed in May of 1983 as policy in September of 1984.  The EDAW Trail Plan fulfilled the never completed requirements of the California Recreational Trails Act of 1974 for the OHV element.

The requirements of AB 990 for "an evaluation of the effectiveness of the department's off-highway vehicle program in meeting the recreational needs of off-highway vehicle users" was not fulfilled by the work performed by the contractor or any other party.

Guidebook for the OHV Trail System

As stated, AB 3594 of 1974 required the director to prepare a guidebook of the OHV system.  This guidebook was never published.  In 1982, AB 2379 had the effect of removing the OHV Recreation Element and the guidebook from the California Recreational Trails System as specified in 5070.7 and 5075.5 and assigning it to the OHMVR Commission with the addition of Section 5090.34 to the Public Resources Code:

"Under the direction of the commission, the division shall publish a guidebook, including"..."maps of areas and trails for the system."

The Commission has contracted for the preparation of this guidebook.  As of April 1990, the draft version has not been completed.  By comparison, the state of Washington's OHV program published their first ORV Guide in 1980 and a second edition in 1985.

AB 2397 also defined the trail system with the addition of Section 5090.44:

"State vehicular recreation trails shall consist of corridors which are designated and maintained for recreational travel by off-highway motor vehicles,.....”

In 1988 SB 877 added two sentences to the Section 5090.44 to the PRC:

"State vehicular recreation trails shall be selected and managed in accordance with this chapter. Trails designated pursuant to this section may be known as the California Statewide Motorized Trail."

Combined Use Highway Program

Assembly Bill 1201 which became chapter 676 of the 1985 Statutes amended the California Vehicle Code to provide a combined use highway program for Off-Highway Motor Vehicles.  The need for this program was identified in the EDAW Principal Report as a way to facilitate a statewide motorized trail system for "Green Sticker" vehicles.

In October 1988 the OHMVR Division released a document that delineates the process used to designate a segment of a local highway for combined use.  In August 1989 the California Highway Patrol issued General Order 40.5, which establishes how they will review proposals for potential traffic safety hazards.  In February of 1990, the Department of Transportation approved the highway signs required along the combined use segment of the highway.- 

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From the Landuse Frontlines (Nov 2019)
From the Landuse Frontlines (Oct 2019)

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