Carnegie SVRA Status
Mark Twain once said: “The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.” That has been true for Carnegie as well. I still have to assure people that Carnegie is open.
The closure of Carnegie Off Highway Vehicle State Park was narrowly averted by an Appeals Court ruling that overturned an order issued by Judge Roesch of the Alameda Superior Court in December of 2009 directing the suspension of all OHV activity. Since the appeals court ruling overturning the judge’s order Carnegie has been open and is still open to this day.
First a little history… Carnegie has been known for its extreme riding terrain since even before it became a private park. Carnegie was purchased by the state in 1979 with Off Highway Vehicle Trust Fund monies to create the present-day Carnegie SVRA. Since that time the park has been run and maintained by the state using those same trust fund monies, primarily funded by off road vehicle license fees. The park is across the road from The Lawrence Livermore secret site 300, a testing site for nuclear and chemical weapons test and a superfund site. See, SFGate for more info.
Then in 1989 the state purchased about three thousand acres called the Alameda/Tesla property for off-road vehicle use, but due to difficulties getting an Environmental Impact Report approved that property has never been opened to the public. For over ten years now a group of Carnegie riders has been unsuccessfully trying to open the land for riding. The people behind this roadblock are identified in an article by the Independent Press in Livermore entitled “Group Envisions Tesla park, Not Carnegie Vehicle Playground”. See, The Independent for details. An article in the Tracy Press also describes why the land has not been opened and lets us know who is authorized to use it today.
Because Carnegie is located close to the Bay Area it enjoys a lot of use and the report of possible closure in December of 2009 was not taken lightly. Riders organized an event called Carnegie Freedom Day
Without boring you with legalese or civil procedure let me give you an idea of what the lawsuit is all about and who is behind this shameful attempt to shut down our favorite riding area.
But beyond just the people involved, an understanding of the actual lawsuit and the various motions and orders can be found at this link. Type in the case number RG09474549 and then hit register of actions on the left. Perusal of these documents will take you weeks if not months and unless you are a lawyer it is doubtful that you will understand their meaning. A short summation of the register of action before the time of the appeal can be found at the Carnegie Forever site. See Diana Tweedy’s comment of January 22, 2010.
In essence, the plaintiffs argued that the Porter-Cologne act requires a water discharge report for new sources. They argue that because ridership has increased at Carnegie, it represents a new source. Water discharge reports are usually required for industrial discharges. See, the Carnegie SVRA Lawsuit FAQ for more info. The judge agreed with the plaintiffs that off road riding caused pollution in the creek and ordered Carnegie shut down until a waste discharge report was submitted and approved.
After the Superior Court Judge ordered the suspension of off-road activities at Carnegie, the State appealed the judge’s order and a temporary stay was granted by the Appeals Court to keep Carnegie open until the issue was resolved at the appellate level. Before the appeal was heard, the state banned all riding in the creek bed except at designated crossings. That ban is still in effect today.
The water department, unhappy with the attempted usurpation of their duty, filed their own appellate brief as a friend of the court because they were not a party to the action. In effect they argued that the Superior Court’s Order interferes with the Water Boards’ Exclusive Discretion and the Real Parties in Interest Failed to Exhaust Administrative Remedies.
The Appeals Court agreed with their analysis and issued an order dismissing the petition filed in Superior Court reversing the order of the lower court closing down Carnegie. “Therefore, let a writ of mandate issue directing the Alameda County Superior Court to vacate its order overruling demurrer and granting petition for alternative writ of mandate, filed December 8, 2009, and to enter a new and different order dismissing the petition for failure to exhaust administrative remedies.” In effect the appeals court dismissed the first three causes of action including the cause of action closing Carnegie.
Now the only issue that is ongoing at the Superior Court level is whether the State is complying with the California Public Resources Code requiring the state to monitor soils, vegetation and wildlife, and to shut down for restoration noncompliant areas. This cause of action was not a part of the appeal and is still being litigated in the Superior Court.
Although the state closed many areas before this lawsuit was filed, the extent of closures has been dramatically increased during the last six or seven months. Although the California Public Resources Code requires that non-conforming areas be closed and rehabilitated and then where possible re-opened, practically none of the closed areas have been re-opened.
As a result of the lawsuit, a non-profit group of Carnegie riders has been organized and is currently waiting for the IRS to recognize their non-profit status. This group that calls itself Carnegie Forever is dedicated to protecting Carnegie and opening up the Alameda/Tesla property. Once their non-profit status has been established they will be able to accept tax deductible donations and will work to protect Carnegie for future generations and to make sure that riding opportunities are maintained and enhanced.