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Mixing Business and Pleasure in the Plumas National Forest
For people who love the outdoors, and especially the opportunity to see the back country on an off-highway or over-the-snow vehicle, California's Off-Highway Motor Vehicle Recreation commissioners may have the best positions imaginable.
Recently, five OHV commissioners from throughout California assembled in the small town of La Porte, population 53, for what proved to be an informative and rewarding two-day visit.
Hosted by the La Porte Snowmobile Club and the California Off-Highway Motor Vehicle Recreation Division, the commissioners were afforded the opportunity ride a snowmobile through some of the most breathtaking forests in northern California.
"OHV commissioners are vital to our program as they deliberate on tough OHV issues and review and approve our budget," said Cliff Glidden, deputy director of the state's OHV Division, "so it is absolutely essential that we afford them opportunities to participate in all facets of the program." Glidden explained that the commissioners represent not only the OHV community, but also biological sciences, rural landowners, soil scientists, and environmental protection organizations.
First stop on the La Porte commission tour was the Frank C. Reilly Museum, where they were treated to coffee and doughnuts and the opportunity to learn more about this historic mining town.
The next stop provided an opportunity for the commissioners to see a snow-grooming machine in action. Barry Jones, winter recreation specialist for the OHV Division, told the commissioners that this grooming machine was one of 14 state-purchased machines for grooming throughout the Sierra. Jones said there are 65 miles of groomed trails in the La Porte area; however, there are more than 1,700 miles of groomed trails in California.
"While we pay for the grooming machines," Jones said, "they are maintained by the U.S. Forest Service and the actual grooming is conducted by forest service personnel and volunteers from local clubs such as the La Porte club here." Jones explained groomed trails are used not only by snowmobilers, but also cross-country skiers, dog sledders, and snow-shoe enthusiasts.
After a hot lunch in the staging area warming hut, the real test was about to begin. Neal Peart, a member of the La Porte Snowmobile Club, provided the commissioners with a lesson in Snowmobiling 101 and the group began their 28-mile round trip ride to Onion Valley.
"This is really a thrilling experience for me," said Commissioner Curley Nobles of Fullerton. "The majority of my off-highway riding is in southern California and the desert, so this is a completely different world."
Commission chairman, Don Amador, of Oakley, appeared to be a very skilled rider, however, he admitted that he didn't have that much experience. "I have ridden off-highway motorcycles my entire life," Amador said, "so I think it gives me a sense of balance and confidence that is required to operate one of these machines."
In order to keep the group together, Peart kept speeds down to 25 to 30 m.p.h., but he said some of the newer models were capable of speeds up to 80 m.p.h. "We are very family-oriented and safety conscious in our club," Peart said, "so we watch our speed and operate our machines within our personal capabilities." Peart also serves as the safety director for the California-Nevada Snowmobile Association.
After a fun-filled day of snowmobiling, members of the La Porte club hosted commissioners and other guests to a progressive dinner at the homes of several members. The cabins were accessible only by snowmobile.
"I am very appreciative of the entire La Porte Snowmobile Club for their untiring efforts to make this a first-class event," said Commissioner Jan McGarvie, of El Cajon. McGarvie, who made the trip with her husband, Jim, is an avid all-terrain vehicle (ATV) and motorcycle enthusiast who usually rides in the California desert.
Ron Rawlings, president of the California-Nevada Snowmobile Association, told the commissioners that snowmobiling really became a managed sport and generally accepted by the public about 1971. "We were the first group to reduce noise levels on our machines," Rawlings said, "and we began promoting responsible use and controlling use of snowmobiles with the concept of a planned trail system."
Rawlings said that today, snowmobiling is the third fastest growing sport in America and more than 14,000 machines are registered in California.
For more information on the California winter recreation program, contact Barry Jones at (916) 324-4442 or for more information on the California-Nevada Snowmobile Association, contact Ron Rawlings at (209) 295-7852.