Renowned for its beauty, its panoramic views of the Sierra Mountains, its abundant wildlife and pristine vegetation, the undeveloped 3,100-acre Tesla Park site outside of Livermore remains one of Alameda County’s most irreplaceable gems.

Containing sacred ceremonial and burial sites, Tesla Park ties Native Americans to their ancestors who called it home first and serves as a biological and cultural treasure for archaeologists, historians and scientists who study California’s rich past.

We must call upon Gov. Gavin Newsom to stop the decades-old plan to turn the site over to off-road vehicle recreation, an idea that would destroy the landscape, harm protected animal species, and violate the land’s heritage.

Inexplicably, the state wants to allow the neighboring Carnegie State Vehicular Recreation Area to expand into the Tesla site. As five UC Berkeley professors argued in an article published last month in Bay Nature, “Sacrificing Tesla Park is one of the worst public land stewardship decisions that could be made in California in terms of biodiversity and public health.”

Off-highway vehicle recreation, the biologists wrote, damages not only the landscape and native species, it results in wind-born dusts, leads to erosive water flows that deposit sediment into streams, and ruins water quality. The noise, pollution and vibrations drive away birds, mammals, reptiles and frogs, not to mention causing needless roadkill.

Dick Schneider, who co-authored Measure D — the Save Agriculture and Open Space Lands Initiative approved by voters in 2000 — wrote in the San Francisco Chronicle last summer that “some of California’s earliest naturalists, including John Muir and Joseph Grinnell, recognized the conservation value of the area.”

From the late 1990s, Schneider wrote, the state has been “hanging tight to irrational plans to open Tesla to damaging off-road vehicle recreation,” a proposition that faces intense local opposition and would be greeted by a limited number of off-road vehicle riders.

In 2019, Newsom vetoed a bill co-authored by Tri-Valley Assemblywoman Rebecca Bauer-Kahan and Senator Steve Glazer that would have allowed the state to sell Tesla to a local agency for conservation. Newsom said he preferred that the state retain ownership of the site, saying it was “purchased for the benefit of all Californians and should remain a state park.”

Running motorcycles and ATVs over it would only benefit a small number of off-road enthusiasts. We urge Newsom to sign an executive order that preserves Tesla Park, designating it as a nonmotorized park. At the same time, he can retain state ownership.

Katherine Perez, a chairperson for the Northern Valley Yokuts, Bay Mewuk and Ohlone tribes, wrote last month in the Stockton Record that Newsom should “work with the local community and representatives of the local tribes to protect Tesla’s extraordinary natural and cultural riches.”

“This,” Perez wrote, “is the best way to serve Native Americans and all Californians, now and for the future.”