I had the chance to sit down and chat with the superintendent of Ocotillo Wells district recently. Steve Quartieri was just promoted to this position and we are really lucky to have him. Steve is a nice guy, very bright and capable. We talked about OHV money, of interest because he now manages two non-OHV state parks as well as Ocotillo Wells and Heber Dunes. Steve assured me that they are very strict on how employees bill their time. Law enforcement and other employees spend working time all four parks and we want their time billed appropriately. I asked Steve what his biggest challenge is now and was surprised what he said. Keeping good law enforcement on staff is the hardest thing for him. Most law enforcement employees spend one season there and then transfer away. It is to the park user’s benefit to have more stable law enforcement. If you are thinking of a career in law enforcement and love Ocotillo Wells, there is a good chance you could make a career there. Just call the office and start asking questions. By the way, head ranger Andy Ahlberg (who is also a great guy) sometimes patrols on a KTM 500 motorcycle.
I don’t love some aspects of how Ocotillo Wells is managed. I hate the fences, don’t like the road signs, kiosks, shades, tables and other man-made stuff out there. I know I am not alone in this thinking, as I have spoken with other park users who feel the same way. We like a natural desert with no man-made stuff around. What we have to understand is that this park is governed by state law. If Steve and his staff choose not to follow the laws that govern how a State Vehicular Recreation Area is managed, they can and will be replaced. I strongly suspect any replacements would interpret the laws even more strictly than they are currently, so try to be patient with the work that the park does. If something really does bother you, call them and ask to speak to someone about it. If you have trouble getting through, drop me a line at [email protected] and I will be glad to help.
Our state lobbyist has helped us identify a priority list of bills we will be working on this legislative session. We have eight bills we consider important we will be weighing in on.
AB2316 (Support) This bill will allow for roads to be designated for dual use up to ten miles in the city of Needles. This is like last year’s bill that did the same in Inyo County. Current law allows no more than three miles.
AB2551 (Oppose) This bill is just like last year’s SB767 that would authorize the state to sell or preserve the expansion area of Carnegie, SVRA called Tesla.
AB2761 (Support) This bill was brought by our lobby coalition to treat Arizona and Utah just like they are now treating us. Both of those states passed laws that say if Californians go off-roading in their states, they need to get special out of state registrations. Imagine driving your car in another state and needing another drivers license for each state you drive through. California currently recognizes other states’ off-road registrations. This bill says that if your state doesn’t recognize California off-road registration, then California will not recognize yours. We call this bill Reciprocity and hope that it will cause these two states to change their practice.
AB2785 (Support) This bill removes some obsolete language about OHV registration work that needed to be done before 2009.
SB767 (Oppose) This is the bill from last year that would allow the state to dispose of the Tesla property at Carnegie SVRA. It was “held” in committee, which ended its advance last year. Since this is the second year in the two year legislative cycle, it could come up in that same committee again.
SB1024 (Support) This would allow non-green sticker vehicles (like race-only vehicles) to have registration and identification stickers. This will allow what are now red sticker vehicles to be registered when the red sticker program ends at the end of 2021.
SB1032 (Support) A few yeas ago, the OHV program was legislatively made permanent, at least the SVRAs, OHV Division and the grants. The OHV commission still had a sunset. This bill would remove the sunset on the commission and adjust the required background of commissioners.
SB1147 (Oppose) This is the third active bill this year that opposes Carnegie State Vehicular Recreation Area. This bill would redefine Carnegie to be “preserved for conservation purposes”.
State parks gives out millions of dollars of OHV money in the form of grants to agencies and nonprofits each year. After the grant applications are turned in, they become available for public comment. The current group of grant applications are available for comment now through May 4th. Each year I review grants in the southern half of the state and comment on any that look really good or bad. I have just started reading and found that the San Diego Police Dept is applying for its first grant ever to buy ATVs and side by sides to patrol San Diego beaches and other areas. I plan to comment that I have surfed San Diego beaches for decades, many, many times and I have never seen an illegal off-road vehicle on a beach. I will also point out that the city also has life guards (who are qualified as law enforcement officers) patrolling beaches. The grant application never mentions the city police having any kind of agreement or relationship with the life guards. The application also mentions patrolling Corral Canyon and Otay areas, both well outside the city limits of San Diego.
If you want to comment on any grants (like for Corral Canyon or Glamis) but don’t know how, email us at i[email protected] and we will walk you through it.