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Parks users say, Keep your vague rules, Sacramento

"This is bureaucratic overreaching with a one-size-fits-all rule."

The large crowd seemed composed of people displeased with the proposed surrender of local control.
The large crowd seemed composed of people displeased with the proposed surrender of local control.

At least 250 state-parks users — many from the communities near Anza-Borrego Desert State Park — turned out for a Wednesday-night (June 22) hearing on a proposed new rule that would allow the Sacramento headquarters of the state parks to deny off-trail use in areas that are preserves and reserves.

Hikers, equestrians, mountain-bikers, off-roaders, and residents of towns whose economic survival is tied to the nearby parks all spoke against the rule's vagueness, lack of local control, and the parks' lack of ability to enforce current rules. Even people who strive to protect archaeological and cultural resources as well as endangered plants and animals, which the rule is meant to protect, expressed opposition to the proposed rule.

Frank Landis, from the local chapter of the California Native Plant Society — which wants to keep people out of "resource" areas — also criticized the rule.

"There are too any ways to implement this rule because of how vague it is," Landis said. "I think it will cause more trouble than it will resolve."

Landis also wondered what signs will be put up to explain trail closures.

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"Will it say there are archaeological resources here? That's an invitation to pot collectors," he said.

The proposed rule is designed to replace a process where, every year, local park-district superintendents have to renew restrictions in the parks' cultural and natural reserves. The 278 state parks include 71 reserves and preserves. Torrey Pines State Preserve, for example, is entirely a natural preserve.

The 1000 square miles of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park contain seven cultural preservation sites, according to Dave Duncan, a Borrego Springs business owner who is also an archaeological site steward.

"There should be limited access to sensitive resources," Duncan said. "But this is bureaucratic overreaching with a one-size-fits-all rule."

Duncan pointed out that there are 20 cultural preserves in state parks across the state, and 12 of those are in San Diego County; 8, he said, are in Anza-Borrego; 4 others are in Cuyamaca State Park.

More than 65 people signed up to speak at the hearing, and every one spoke against the rule, with its architects, Alexandra Stehl and Charlie Willard, at the table, calling speakers forward.

Stehl is the current Statewide Roads and Trails manager, a job that Willard retired from a decade ago.

In the hall outside the crowded meeting room, where about 100 people waited for a seat and a chance to speak inside the crowded, stuffy meeting room at Kearny Mesa's County Operations Center, a state-parks employee said the rule came out of failed prosecutions in the Idyllwild area. Hikers there were ticketed for going off the trail and crushing an endangered plant. They fought — and beat — the tickets by arguing that the "temporary" ban on going off the trail was not, in fact, temporary since the superintendent re-instituted the ban every year. Thus arose a need for permanent bans, that local superintendents are not empowered to put in place. (I have not been able to verify the story.)

Mark Jorgensen, the retired superintendent of Anza-Borrego park, said he drove 85 miles to speak at the hearing.

"It's not a common-sense regulation — it is a solution in search of a problem," he said.

Again and again, speakers repeated the common themes: local superintendents have local knowledge and community trust to make these decisions; the rule is too vague, and that there is no new funding for increased enforcement, signage, or education even if the rule passes.

Many speakers said that local parks employees say in private that they don't like the rule.

"We are very concerned about this — Sacramento could force trail closures without public input," said Kevin Loomis, president of the San Diego Mountain Biking Association. "A lot of the impact of rules is in the language, and in this one, the language is incredibly vague."

"We love the environment, " Loomis added. "We want to use it and enjoy it in a responsible and sustainable way."

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The large crowd seemed composed of people displeased with the proposed surrender of local control.
The large crowd seemed composed of people displeased with the proposed surrender of local control.

At least 250 state-parks users — many from the communities near Anza-Borrego Desert State Park — turned out for a Wednesday-night (June 22) hearing on a proposed new rule that would allow the Sacramento headquarters of the state parks to deny off-trail use in areas that are preserves and reserves.

Hikers, equestrians, mountain-bikers, off-roaders, and residents of towns whose economic survival is tied to the nearby parks all spoke against the rule's vagueness, lack of local control, and the parks' lack of ability to enforce current rules. Even people who strive to protect archaeological and cultural resources as well as endangered plants and animals, which the rule is meant to protect, expressed opposition to the proposed rule.

Frank Landis, from the local chapter of the California Native Plant Society — which wants to keep people out of "resource" areas — also criticized the rule.

"There are too any ways to implement this rule because of how vague it is," Landis said. "I think it will cause more trouble than it will resolve."

Landis also wondered what signs will be put up to explain trail closures.

Sponsored
Sponsored

"Will it say there are archaeological resources here? That's an invitation to pot collectors," he said.

The proposed rule is designed to replace a process where, every year, local park-district superintendents have to renew restrictions in the parks' cultural and natural reserves. The 278 state parks include 71 reserves and preserves. Torrey Pines State Preserve, for example, is entirely a natural preserve.

The 1000 square miles of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park contain seven cultural preservation sites, according to Dave Duncan, a Borrego Springs business owner who is also an archaeological site steward.

"There should be limited access to sensitive resources," Duncan said. "But this is bureaucratic overreaching with a one-size-fits-all rule."

Duncan pointed out that there are 20 cultural preserves in state parks across the state, and 12 of those are in San Diego County; 8, he said, are in Anza-Borrego; 4 others are in Cuyamaca State Park.

More than 65 people signed up to speak at the hearing, and every one spoke against the rule, with its architects, Alexandra Stehl and Charlie Willard, at the table, calling speakers forward.

Stehl is the current Statewide Roads and Trails manager, a job that Willard retired from a decade ago.

In the hall outside the crowded meeting room, where about 100 people waited for a seat and a chance to speak inside the crowded, stuffy meeting room at Kearny Mesa's County Operations Center, a state-parks employee said the rule came out of failed prosecutions in the Idyllwild area. Hikers there were ticketed for going off the trail and crushing an endangered plant. They fought — and beat — the tickets by arguing that the "temporary" ban on going off the trail was not, in fact, temporary since the superintendent re-instituted the ban every year. Thus arose a need for permanent bans, that local superintendents are not empowered to put in place. (I have not been able to verify the story.)

Mark Jorgensen, the retired superintendent of Anza-Borrego park, said he drove 85 miles to speak at the hearing.

"It's not a common-sense regulation — it is a solution in search of a problem," he said.

Again and again, speakers repeated the common themes: local superintendents have local knowledge and community trust to make these decisions; the rule is too vague, and that there is no new funding for increased enforcement, signage, or education even if the rule passes.

Many speakers said that local parks employees say in private that they don't like the rule.

"We are very concerned about this — Sacramento could force trail closures without public input," said Kevin Loomis, president of the San Diego Mountain Biking Association. "A lot of the impact of rules is in the language, and in this one, the language is incredibly vague."

"We love the environment, " Loomis added. "We want to use it and enjoy it in a responsible and sustainable way."

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