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Recommendations for Off Highway Vehicles Effects in Red Rock Canyon State Park

Red Rock Canyon State Park (SP) faces a number of complex issues, one of which is the management of off-highway vehicle (OHV) use.  A project was initiated (1) to investigate the state of knowledge on the effects of off-highway vehicles on public lands, (2) to investigate off-highway vehicle use and their effects upon cultural resources and natural values within Red Rock Canyon SP, and (3) to identify some practical measures to address problems associated with off-highway vehicle use.  The 2007 report by Michael Sampson, an archaeologist with California State Parks, outlines portions of the fieldwork results and provides the following recommendations on how to manage vehicular recreation in Red Rock Canyon SP that are potentially applicable elsewhere.

GENERAL RECOMMENDATIONS FOR OHV EFFECTS IN RED ROCK CANYON SP

     Provide a map of Red Rock Canyon SP to the public that clearly illustrates roads and trails and lists park rules and regulations.

     Permit OHV use only upon roads and trails where the least amount of resource damage will occur.  Selection of such areas should include consideration of topography, soil characteristics, precipitation     patterns, presence of sensitive resources such as, archaeological sites, traditional cultural places, plants, wildlife habitat, fossil deposits, riparian zones, etc.

     Apply standard engineering practices in the construction and maintenance of vehicular trails.  Devise means to contain the increased runoff and sediment loads associated with vehicle use.  Assure that routes used by vehicles in Red Rock Canyon SP have adequate trail drainage features. 

     OHV trails should not be permitted within creeks or other riparian areas.  Vehicle use can compromise or destroy riparian areas and the vegetation along a riparian corridor. 

     Implement an active program of archaeological, biological, and geologic monitoring in the park and include a provision to study vehicle effects. 

     Vehicles should be restricted from dune systems, due to their loose soils and to best protect sensitive plants and animals that live in dune habitats (e.g., desert tortoise, etc.).   

     Separate OHV use from other recreational pursuits, such as, camping, bird watching, observing wildlife, studying plants, seeking solitude, taking photographs, etc., where feasible.  OHV use is incompatible with Indian people conducting ceremonies.

     Evidence of off-trail riding by OHV users has been observed on vehicle routes in many areas of the park.  When an unauthorized vehicle track is found, it must be raked-out and blocked as soon as possible to prevent continued use.   Park staff could regularly patrol travel routes after busy weekends and holidays to maintain areas and block unauthorized trails.  Place Carsonite signs with a “Closed to Vehicles” sticker at periodic intervals along popular routes of vehicle travel.

     The closure of vehicle routes does not equate to land restoration.  Interim erosion-control measures, a plan for restoration, and (ideally) a funding source should be identified at the time routes are closed.  Inventory and map them throughout Red Rock Canyon SP, apply road barriers and interim erosion-control devices, prepare a plan to restore the abandoned trails, and implement the restoration plans. 

     Large boulders, fencing, and road obliteration will be the most effective barriers for closing roads and informal OHV trails and to protect sensitive habitat or archaeological sites.  Peeler log fences, for example, have been found to be effective barriers.

     Regularly patrol the backcountry portion of Red Rock Canyon SP.  Conduct focused examinations of vehicular trails after traditionally busy weekends, such as, Thanksgiving, Christmas break, President’s weekend, spring time with moderate temperatures, etc.  Be prepared to perform ad hoc repairs of vehicle tracks driven off-trail and blockage of unauthorized trails.