by Bob Ham
In the minds of OHV enthusiasts, the most critical aspect of State government is the OHV grants program administered by the OHV Division. This keeps our state vehicular recreation areas open and provides funding that assures access to California’s federal public lands.
I was asked how the OHV Division functioned during the first Jerry Brown administrations. First it is important to understand that the DIVISION did not do anything under Jerry Brown. It did not exist until he walked out the door. Priorto Assemblyman Bruce Young’s bill in 1982 that created the Commission and the Division we evolved under various Jerry Brown Directors.
A Little History:
The OHV Program was created when Reagan signed the original Chappie/Z’berg Off Highway vehicle legislation in 1971.
We had one year to get green stickers which meant it was June 30, 1973 before any enforcement of green sticker registration took place.v Money trickled in throughout 1974 as we got legislation that added gas taxes to the program. On January 2, 1974 Brown took over as Governor of California. At the time, the program was run in the Planning and Grants Division of DPR under a Division Chief, and directly managed by a single employee.
Jerry Brown kept the Reagan-era parks director Wm. Penn Mott for the first year. The Department added a few people on part time assignments to try to pretend something was happening with the program in the wake of OHV users screaming “where is all the money going?” Actually there was not much coming in as most OHV’ers were boycotting the program, and someone had even printed and distributed counterfeit stickers as a protest. Director Mott transformed a portion of Pismo State Beach into the first SVRA in the wake of the new Coastal Commission trying to shut it down to OHV use.
The SVRA in Oroville Dam area was also added as the DWR donated the land to DPR which then made it an SVRA. The next year the gas tax money started rolling in, and in the meantime Brown’s Resources Secretary, Claire Dedrick replaced Mott with her crony, Herbert Rhoads. By 1976 we realized that Parks was using much of this new money on administration of the Department and we got our first audit (thanks to Chappie) and found that they were already ripping off the money.
The program continued to be moved around from Planning to Grants to anyone who would look after the “red headed stepchild of DPR”. In about 1980 we got Assemblyman Bob Cline to pass a bill that created an “Office of OHV Recreation” to combine the people around the department who were billing time to the OHV Fund into a single point of contact and also added an advisory committee. They continued to manipulate the advisory committee however; so during the next session wegot Assemblyman Young to write the bill that created a Commission and a Division.
Under Brown the program was, by design, allowed to move around as long as they did not do too much for us. It was considered an ATM machine for the rest of the Department whenever they could justify it. Brown once said that he didn’t much care what we as a community wanted because “you are all Republicans anyway and you don’t vote, so why do I need to have give a damn about what you think?” At the time Cal 4 and CORVA had just filed suit against his Resources Secretary Huey Johnson over misallocation of Funds from DWR to speed up a wild and scenic river designation. The Secretary had to homestead his house because under the law on which we were suing, a state official could be held personally liable for misallocation of funds. The suit lost and days later the judge on the case, Rodda, was appointed to the court of appeals.
What about key appointments? Will Ruth Coleman stay? She came from legislative Democrats. Daphne Green, who knows? We do know that on Brown’s final day in office, which was also the first day of the existence of the new OHVCommission, Brown made the three gubernatorial appointments to the commission. He did these before noon when George Deukmejian was officially sworn in as Governor. Those appointments included: Howard Wilshire, an environmentalist scientist who was probably the most vocal anti-OHV individual in California; Steven Casagrande, a Sacramento dentist with environmental credentials and an openly anti-OHV bias; and Marty Coren, a Southern California democratic political activist who wanted to convert part of Hungry Valley into a county fairground for the San Fernando Valley. None of these persons were appointed because of their dedication to improvement of the sport and the stated objective of the new law which was to secure environmentally appropriate places for OHV use to take place in perpetuity.
We can certainly take hope from some of his statements that he is not beholden to any special interest groups and that he will take seriously his obligation to manage the program for the benefit of OHV and the environment. While you are all holding our breath in hopes that this will happen, I will continue to seek out good places to go off-roading near my second home in Baja California because I fear Jerry Brown will disrupt our sport again just as he did during his first stand as governor.
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