Updated 10/19/2023. 

1. Why is State Parks undertaking this initiative? 

This initiative is undertaken in response to Senate Bill 155 (Ch. 258, Statutes of 2021). In September 2021, the California State Legislature adopted Senate Bill 155, which amended the Public Resources Code (PRC) Section (§)5090.42. It directed the California Department of Parks and Recreation (State Parks or the Department) to explore acquiring and developing properties and opportunities to expand off-highway vehicle (OHV) recreation in new and existing facilities. This bill also recommended prioritizing opportunities that serve large urban areas such as the Bay Area and Central Valley and offer potential recreational opportunities for OHV recreation and motorized access to nonmotorized recreation. 

2. What options can be considered for new sites? 

State Parks has many options for expanding OHV recreation throughout the state through purchasing land, a lease, land swap or transfer, partnership with another land manager, donation, legislation, and other means as established in PRC § 5005, 5006, and other State and Department policies. There are many considerations for each option, for example: 

a) New property. Acquiring new property would allow State Parks to develop an SVRA with various OHV recreation opportunities and experiences. However, purchasing land is very expensive, and it would take at least 5-10 years to purchase, plan, and develop the property before it can be opened to the public.

b) Land swap with other public entities. A land swap with another public entity, such as the US Forest Service (USFS), Bureau of Land Management (BLM), county, or city, could be less expensive but depends on the land available for the exchange. For example, if BLM owns land within an SVRA, it could be swapped with other lands to increase trail connectivity and other recreation opportunities. Land swaps could be anywhere in the state and be used to develop a new SVRA.

c) Acquire in-holdings within existing SVRAs. Like a land swap, this option would consolidate State Park property and offer trail connectivity and recreation opportunities. It is feasible because State Parks would be purchasing smaller parcels of land.

d) Leases and partnerships with other agency landholders. This option is viable because State Parks could lease and operate a developed property. For example, State Parks could lease an OHV area currently closed due to a lack of staff or other resources by the land manager.

e) Designate a section of a State Recreation Area (SRA) as an OHV area (e.g., Mammoth Bar is an OHV area within Auburn SRA). The SRA classification allows State Parks to designate an area within the SRA for OHV recreation if it meets certain requirements. This option is potentially the most cost-effective and quickest way to develop additional OHV opportunities.

f) Easements and rights of entry. Easements and rights-of-entry permits are agreements between public and/or private landowners that grant legal access to recreational trails and/or areas on that property. Easements and rights of entry permits are often used to connect long-distance recreational trails like the Pacific Crest Trail. These agreements can also designate legal access to OHV areas from State Highways, county roads, and/or privately owned land. 

3. How will State Parks consider park units for this initiative? What about parks like Henry Coe State Park? 

State Parks does intend to explore options to expand OHV access, as identified in Senate Bill 155, responsibly and consistently with its existing regulations, policies, and park unit classifications while also considering the impacts on resources and other recreation.

This initiative will result in an initial list of properties that State Parks will consider in more detail in subsequent phases, which include feasibility studies. All properties in the California State Park system and partner agencies will be considered for this initial study and adhere to the same evaluation criteria. The evaluation criteria will be developed in the second phase of this initiative.

While the bill specifically mentioned areas within Henry Coe State Park, this language does not require State Parks to allow OHV recreation at Henry Coe; it is a recommendation to explore the viability of that recreation. 

4. What about taking my OHV to a fishing spot, hiking, camping, or other activities? 

Senate Bill 155 also included language directing State Parks to consider expanding motorized access to nonmotorized recreation within existing state parks and state recreation areas with terrain appropriate for this type of recreation. For example, a visitor might want to drive their vehicle on a park road to access camping, fishing, hiking, and other activities in a remote part of the park unit. Selection criteria will explore options for designating segments of park roads for both street-licensed and non- street licensed vehicles that would give visitors the option of driving to their favorite fishing spot. The selection criteria for this option must be consistent with the unit’s classification, environmental impact considerations, and includes public input. 

5. What strategies does the OHMVR Program currently use to be good stewards of the environment? 

The OHMVR Program within State Parks is managed to provide sustainable OHV recreation while conserving and protecting the environment, cultural, and natural resources. To learn more about how State Parks manages State Vehicular Recreation, visit the OHMVR Program webpage and PRC §5090.35. 

6. Who is managing this project? 

The Strategic Planning and Recreation Services Division will manage this project’s planning phase in conjunction with the OHMVR Division and Commission. 

7. How is this project being funded? 

Senate Bill 155 directed $29,800,000 to be transferred from the General Fund to the Off-Highway Vehicle Trust Fund (OHV Trust Fund) to acquire and develop properties. The funds are not automatically transferred to the OHV Trust Fund. The state retains the funds until the Department requests them through the Budget Process for a specific project or acquisition. Should the legislature approve the budget request, the funds are transferred to the OHV Trust Fund to be expended according to the budget request. 

8. How soon will we see the results of this project? 

Depending on the recommendations in the OHV Recreation Access Plan, some opportunities may happen faster than others. Several factors, such as available funding, environmental review, and staff availability, can increase or reduce the times below. 

Acquiring a new property including planning for the property (minimum 5 years – 12 years)
3-5 years to purchase the property. Includes Department and State processes required to purchase the property and the State Public Works Board’s approval.

Once a new property is acquired, securing funding, and developing a planning document may take an additional 5-7 seven years. Includes environmental review and public input. Depending on the document, it may also require State Park and Recreation or OHMVR Commission review and approval.

Project planning for infrastructure and facility development
1-2 years to develop the project plan. Includes project design and environmental review.

Project implementation
1-2 years, depending on funding, staffing, contracts, and site conditions.

Purchase inholdings and land swaps (3-5 years)
Inholdings and land swaps may take less time than purchasing new property. The variables that change the time frame include funding availability, planning needs, facility and infrastructure improvements, staffing, and resource management.

Lease Agreements and Partnerships (3-5 years)
Lease agreements and partnerships with other agencies and organizations might be achieved quicker than acquiring property. Factors depend on the terms of the lease (1 year), planning for improvements needed to the property (1-2 years), getting funding (1-3 years), staffing and resource management needs (varies).

Easements and Rights of Entry (0-1 year)
0-1 year, depending on the conditions and complexity of the easement/permit. 

9. What happens next? 

The first step in this process – where we are now – is to gather information through public outreach and research. Then, State Parks will prepare a preliminary report, feasibility study, and the OHV Recreation Action Plan. Once these steps are complete, the Department will work on strategies to implement the OHV Recreation Access Plan recommendations.