Publisher by Judy Hodgson Plenty of blame to share
Four wheelers are fun. I know this personally. I rode one last year on private property, a vineyard in Hyampom, in Trinity County. I raced between the tight rows and up over the ridge and across the gully. It was especially exciting up the steep bank into the woods behind the vines. I was reluctant to give up the vehicle when my turn was over. Not very dignified for a 48-year-old woman.
When I looked at the aerial views for this month's cover story, such as the one on this page, and when I heard the description of the giant waves of sand on the former Louisiana-Pacific land, I could easily imagine how fun it is to ride on those dunes.
But I also remember the painfully long - five years long - process of public hearings leading up to the adoption of the county's dune management plan, the one that banned all-terrain vehicles on all parcels except two on the north spit of Humboldt Bay.
(The reasons have been well publicized: with more and more ATV riders, there are issues of safety. The ATVs are noisy and disruptive to others. They compact the soil, tear up vegetation, destroy habitat, etc.)
I agree with ATV fans that they should have some place to ride. Private ATV parks are OK if they pass the same environmental review that the rest of us have to pass if we want to use our property in a certain way. I don't even mind that public dollars are spent on this type of recreation (such as the current right to ride on certain land owned by the federal Bureau of Land Management).
So what's the fuss about one piece of property that Louisiana-Pacific sold last year to the Humboldt Buggy and ATV Association?
Plenty, as you will learn when you read this month's cover story, "Riders in the sand."
There's quite a bit of blame to be spread around for the current situation.
First, there's former 5th District Supervisor Anna Sparks. Sparks declined to be interviewed for this story but according to other sources, including present and former Louisiana-Pacific employees, Sparks engineered the sale of the critical piece of dune land to the buggy club when the Nature Conservancy was willing and able to match the sale price.
One can only assume, based on her track record as a supervisor, Sparks was acting on her belief in the rights of property owners over any claim the public may have. That would be a kind explanation. The unkind explanation is that she did it to spite environmentalists before she left office to accept a job offer from L-P.
Sharing the blame, of course, is L-P. After acting in good faith and in cooperation for so many years under the cooperative management agreement, L-P officials made a hasty decision to sell the parcel to a group certain to misuse the land at the very time the county and state were adopting a permanent dune management plan.
We understand that L-P Division Manager Bob Simpson had tried unsuccessfully to put together a deal with the Nature Conservancy, but Sparks, with the help of L-P employee Bill Windes and another employee who was later fired, moved quickly to complete the transaction with the buggy club.
Finally, the members of the dune buggy club, angry by the county adoption of the ATV ban, purchased the land with full knowledge that riding such vehicles is now illegal - even though it had been unregulated in the past.
I don't know of anywhere else in the state of California that you can build a road without permits in the coastal zone and get away with it.
Editor and Publisher
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