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Bay Nature magazineJuly-September 2012

Tesla: Offroad expansion, park, or both?

by on July 01, 2012

Photo (c) California State Parks.

While many of California’s state parks are on the chopping block, there is one state park that has the res-ources to amend its general plan and expand its acreage. Carnegie State Vehicular Recreation Area (SVRA) in eastern Alameda County is one of eight SVRAs that form the off-highway motor vehicle (OHV) recreation division of California State Parks and are funded by a gas tax and a portion of OHV registration fees.

East of Livermore, Carnegie stretches across 1,300 acres of dry, windy hills. In 1998 the state bought an adjacent 3,000 acres, dubbed the Alameda-Tesla Expansion, to increase Carnegie’s trails and facilities. Park officials have twice tried and failed to complete environmental impact reports for the project. This time, the expansion and the associated environmental review have been folded into a larger General Plan revision, which includes a series of community meetings. “We’re excited to meet with groups and accommodate the widest range of recreational activities,” says park sector superintendent Joe Ramos. The only thing Carnegie can’t accommodate, he says, is a request for no motorized vehicles.

But that’s exactly what the all-volunteer Friends of Tesla Park wants. This group of citizens calls the expansion property Tesla Park and wants the state to change the intended use of the land to a nonmotorized historic and natural resource park and preserve. Bay Nature first reported in 2001 on the reasons some consider this a poor spot for off-road vehicles: Park critics look at Carnegie as a landscape battered by hard use, and they want to keep the same fate from befalling the vibrant property next door. “Beauty and the beast,” says Friends member Celeste Garamendi, when asked to compare the two properties. The “Tesla Park” parcel is home to endangered and rare species, a historic town and mine site, wildlife corridors, and Native American artifacts. As we reported in 2001, it is the northernmost range for several reptiles, amphibians, birds, and flowers. It is also home to endangered or threatened species such as the Alameda whipsnake, red-legged frog, California tiger salamander, and San Joaquin kit fox.

“The resource features are so diverse, so concentrated, that you can’t fragment them with an OHV trail system and not damage them,” says Garamendi, sister of U.S. Representative John Garamendi (D-CA). “Fragmentation would create unacceptable damage to this incredible parkland.”

Ramos argues that ohv users are just as passionate about their form of outdoor recreation as are hikers and horseback riders, and that their activities need to be permitted but responsibly managed. “Times have changed and users are aware that they have to be environmental stewards,” he says, adding that these days OHV park managers place a greater emphasis on protecting watersheds, reducing pollution, and minimizing erosion.

Follow the process and learn about upcoming meetings and comment periods at carnegiegeneralplan.com. Visit the Friends of Tesla Park at teslapark.org.

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Richard and Doris Ryon on October 10th, 2012 at 10:43 pm

Your article states clearly the reasons that the Tesla Park property should not be used to expand the Carnegie Off-Road Vehicle Park. It has too many precious resources that merit protection.
Tesla is controlled by the State Parks OHMVR Division and is adjacent to Carnegie off-road vehicle park. Final use of the area has not been determined. The Environment Impact Report is still in the preliminary stage, and must consider alternate uses. We hold that the valuable natural and cultural resources would be highly compromised or destroyed by off-road vehicle use, as evidence by the condition of the Carnegie site. We are asking that East Bay Regional Parks keep the Tesla site in its 2012 Master Plan for possible inclusion into its system, with only low-impact uses such as hiking, bicycling, and horse-back riding allowed.
Tesla is a great site to mitigate the damage that has occurred at Carnegie.
Richard and Doris Ryon, Livermore

Greg on January 29th, 2013 at 1:43 am

Hasn’t it occurred to anyone that the reason why the landscape is battered is because large amounts of enthusiasts are being restricted to small areas? Honestly, anyone with a brain can figure this out. You get enough people hiking on the same trails there will be an impact. There would be less impact on the land if you let rider, 4wheelers, etc.. Spread out. There would be less traffic on trails thus leading to less impact. Face it, we aren’t going to quite our hobbies. I wouldn’t expect you to quite yours.

Ray Delgado on March 22nd, 2013 at 11:56 am

The Alameda Tesla expansion property is CA park property because it was bought with Off Highway Vehicle fee and tax monies. To repurpose the land for land for other uses would be unethical at best. Also The scarcity of off-roading opportunities concentrates off-roading to dangerous levels and is hard on the land. Something no one wants. Of the 278 State parks only 8 allow OHV recreation. Carnegie OHV park is self sustaining.

Karen on June 25th, 2013 at 9:25 pm

I say that if off-road enthusiasts want additional space for such a destructive activity, it should be done on privately held land. A representative organization can try to find someone with property who will then charge users to play on their land. Conservation, with taxpayer’s dollars, should trump destructive pastimes.

Austin Ford on November 27th, 2013 at 2:14 pm

“The Alameda Tesla expansion property is CA park property because it was bought with Off Highway Vehicle fee and tax monies.” That’s right, who paid for it? OHV did. Case closed.

Mike Vandeman on May 27th, 2015 at 5:41 pm

Paying for land doesn’t give you the right to harm the wildlife, who are the RIGHTFUL owners of their habitat. They are protected by the ESA. Motor vehicles are obsolete. The Age of the Automobile is OVER. You are welcome to WALK there.

John Toeppen on May 28th, 2015 at 7:40 am

Some lands are not easily accessed on foot, and motorized vehicles do not have to trash land or be noisy. The areas of heavy use in Carnegie park may be seen as as impacted from Google Earth. It is not pretty, but is is sure fun, and a part of a large sport and recreation industry that does create jobs and provide happiness for many. This is a recognized form of recreation that needs a place to flourish along with other land uses. Areas to the East of the Carnegie seem better suited for heavy climbing use as those hills are smoother and treeless. The barren big basin at Tesla, East of Bald mountain, is attractive for motorized use, but there would be concerns about run off of clay that could be controlled. Areas to the South and West of Carnegie are remote and have existing trails that would be suitable for motorized access like quads at low speeds, but off trail use would damage those hills and habitats. The idea of motorized eco-tourism is potentially a good use for that remote land if we can preserve what we have created access too.

Tesla should become a very nice park that makes effective use of the land purchased that is not suitable for motorized use. The Alameda side of the acquired lands are visible from Livermore wine country and that is not a good fit at all. Further, the Livermore side is scenic, has minimal damage now, and is suitable for quieter uses. A pedestrian/equestrian, and bicycle trail to Bald Mountain would provide the only accessible high view of East Livermore and the Tri-Valley. It is likely that any environmental report will find serious fault with erosion into Arroyo Seco and view shed impacts. I believe that there are ways to make this work for everyone if we can respect each others right to use the land while sharing with other uses.

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