April 4, 2014
Statewide Trails Program Manager
California Department of Parks and Recreation
P.O. Box 942896
Sacramento, CA 94296
Dear Ms. Stehl,
As you know, our state is known all over the world for its beautiful parks and trails. That is why we were so disturbed to hear of the proposal to limit public access to pedestrians on many of the trails in our public parks. These trails were created for a variety of public leisure activities, including mountain biking and horseback riding. Removing the ability for bicycle and equestrian enthusiasts to enjoy these trails goes against the mission of the Department of Parks and Recreation, which promises in part to create "opportunities for outdoor recreation."
People from across the country and around the world visit California to participate in the kind of activities that these changes would prohibit. Many families and businesses in our districts depend on visitors to iconic places such as Folsom Lake State Recreation Area, Bidwell-Sacramento River State Park, and Auburn State Recreation Area for their livelihood. Mountain bike rental facilities, horseback tour guides, and general tourist accommodation businesses near state parks would all suffer greatly under the proposal, despite the findings in the Economic Impact Report. Many of these businesses would be forced to hire less seasonal employees, lay off full-time employees, or even shut down altogether as a direct result of this change.
Additionally, local business communities have reminded us that these increased regulations would also require a greater law enforcement presence -- whether locally or by State Parks Peace Officers. This increases costs at a time when we should be doing everything we can to lessen costs on state and local governments.
Furthermore, even trails currently designated for biking or equestrian use would be threatened under this proposal, as a District Superintendent would have unilateral authority to remove this authorization at any time.
These steps seem premature given that Parks is currently proceeding with the "Parks Forward Initiative" which, according to information provided by the California Department of Parks and Recreation, "is undertaking a thorough evaluation to improve and sustain California's under-funded State Park System as we search for ideas to improve the way parks serves the public."
We believe that our State Parks, and the trails that run through them, should be as open as possible. Public trails, paid for with taxpayer dollars, should only be closed on a case-by-case basis, under specific circumstances and only after a rigorous public input period in which meetings are held in the affected community.
That is why we support Alternative Amendment #3 in, which would "provide that all trails are designated as open to bicycle, pedestrian and equestrian uses unless designated as closed by the District Superintendent " We would, however, still urge for the inclusion of a local public input period before any trail closing.
These shared trails enhance the quality of life for all Californians and should not be subject to such restrictive regulations. We speak for a large community of concerned citizens and have received countless comments regarding the inconvenience and heartbreak these changes would cause.
As representatives of suburban and rural communities across Northern California where many of these trails are located, we urge you to reconsider your position on this matter and allow all Californians to fully enjoy all our state parks have to offer.
Assemblymember Brian Dahle
Assemblymember Beth Gaines
Senator Ted Gaines
Senator Jim Nielsen