Let Off-Roaders Roam in Their Own Park
By U-T San Diego Editorial Board 12:01 a.m. June 17, 2013 Updated 4:54 p.m. June 14, 2013
Two environmental groups are suing the state, seeking to force California’s parks department to scrap its “open-riding policy” giving off-road vehicles free run of the 85,000-acre Ocotillo Wells State Vehicular Recreation Area. We hope the effort fails.
Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility and the Desert Protective Council Foundation say overuse is destroying the park, which attracts more than 1 million visitors a year, many from San Diego County. The groups say off-roaders are damaging the environment and archaeologically sensitive areas.
We’re all for protecting the desert, but let’s be real: This area was set aside by the state in the 1980s expressly for dune buggies, ATVs, three-wheelers and dirt bikes. It’s a tiny sliver compared to the vast acreage of open space in California’s desert, including the neighboring Anza Borrego State Park, where all 600,000 acres are off-limits to off-roaders.
Over the years, the number of federal sites available for off-roaders has dwindled, mainly due to environmental concerns. Other than a few remaining chunks of federal Bureau of Land Management property south and east of Ocotillo Wells, this state park is about it for the off-road crowd.
Public land is supposed to be for everyone – even those with motorized desert toys.