Carnegie OHV State Park Freedom Day - Dirt Rider Magazine

Let me introduce myself. I am an off-road rider who is as old as dirt. I have been around the block a few times, but it took a mind-shaking event to get my attention. Let me preface this with the admission that I have been an environmentalist from an early age.It all started when I was about 13. My brother and I commuted to Boston during the summer to sail on the Charles River. When my brother took the helm he liked to capsize the sailboat, and so we would often go for a swim before heading home on the bus. In those days the river was filthy and the other passengers would cringe and move away to avoid the fetid smell emanating from our damp clothing.OK, so now the river is cleaned up and the industrial polluters are being monitored and regulated. You're asking, "What does this have to do with dirt biking?"It all began last December when we were riding at Carnegie OHV State Park near Tracy, California. The rangers called a meeting and informed us that a lawsuit had been filed in Alameda Superior Court. The judge had closed the park until the state submits and gets approval for a waste discharge report with the regional water board. A waste discharge report is normally required from industrial polluters discharging toxic waste into the water supply. According to the plaintiffs' petition, pollution caused by off-road use was killing fish and something had to be done.There was, however, one problem with this ruling. There are no fish in the stream running through Carnegie. The creek bed is dry except during periods of heavy rains, which in drought-prone California means there is water trickling though the creek only a few weeks a year. Even then it doesn't go anywhere and is absorbed into the flood plain. We were incensed and organized a protest for December 28, 2009, which we called Carnegie Freedom Day. We also set up a website and organized a petition to keep Carnegie open.Thousands of off-road enthusiasts attended Carnegie Freedom Day in the rain on a weekday. The rally featured youngsters who ride Carnegie with their families, and speakers included such notables as Rodney Smith, Skip and George Horne (Carnegie hillclimb promoters) and two young local competitors, Pete Krunich Jr. (hillclimb champion) and Kacy Martinez (AMA woman of the year).The hero of that event was a little person less than four feet tall who said what everybody was thinking and what nobody dared say: "Screw the judge. We want the judge no more."Don Amador, a representative of the BlueRibbon Coalition, with fishing pole in hand got up to say that they have awakened the sleeping beast. No truer words were spoken. To date the petition has been signed by over 14,000 enthusiasts. Predictably, TV crews couldn't find the creek.There are other sources of alleged heavy metal contamination such as Lawrence Livermore Labs (a superfund site), abandoned coal mines, a former brick-making factory and illegal tunneling at Hetch-Hetchy. There is a difference between environmentalists such as I was as a kid, and the pseudo-environmentalists who hate our sport and will do anything to shut us down.Like so many other enthusiasts, although I read Jimmy Lewis' column about the need to support groups like the BlueRibbon Coalition, my crew and I were going about our business riding and not giving much thought to overcrowding caused by land closures. This Carnegie issue was a wake-up call, and I have since joined and contributed to the BlueRibbon Coalition.Alone we feel powerless and disenfranchised. The truth is, according to reliable estimates, 23 percent of Americans ride off-road vehicles. We are not a small minority. This is good news, but we have to stick together. I mean all of us, no matter what our preferred means of off-road recreation; whether it is horseback, four wheels, mountain bikes or motorcycles. We all have a common goal. Public recreation is coming under attack. Although Carnegie is open for now (we won the appeal) this has not ended, and we need to stay informed and fight for family recreation and our rights as Americans.