A 3,100-acre patch of open land in the hills southeast of Livermore is on the path to preservation. But the battle between off-road enthusiasts and environmentalists about the future of the area known
Before state lawmakers ended the legislative session for the year on Sept. 13, they approved a bill to allow the sale of the Alameda-Tesla Expansion Area for conservation purposes. Assembly Bill 1086 is now on its way to the governor’s desk to wait for a signature.
The decades-long debate was spurred by a California Parks Department plan to expand the neighboring Carnegie State Vehicular Recreation Area by opening the Tesla site for off-road recreation. The proposed expansion pitted riders against conservationists who worry dirt-bikes, ATV’s and other motorized vehicles used on trails could damage the environment.
Tesla Park is known for its biodiversity. It boasts numerous threatened and endangered species, wildlife habitat and native plants.
The land has history, too. More than a century ago, it was home to the miners of the booming towns of Carnegie and Tesla. By the 1940s, they’d become ghost towns. People started riding off-road in the rolling hills. The privately-owned Carnegie Cycle Park opened in the 1960s. Then, in 1979, the state bought the land with money from the off-highway vehicle trust fund and established the present-day Carnegie park.
The current plan adds the Tesla property to the Carnegie 1575-acre recreation area. However, lawsuits have been filed to challenge the expansion.
“Tesla Park is one of the most beautiful places in eastern Alameda County. The dust, noise and damage of OHV use makes it impossible to enjoy nature with motorcycles, ATVs and 4-wheelers scarring the landscape,” stated Livermore resident Nancy Rodrigue in a news release. She is a member of Friends of Tesla Park. “That is why people from across the region are working to preserve this exceptional part of our natural history.”
Members of the California Off-Road Vehicle Association disagree. They argue that selling the Tesla site takes away valuable recreation areas and that the state might lose money on the sale. They also point out that selling the property is inconsistent with parks and recreation plans that were approved by the state for the area.
State Assemblywoman Rebecca Bauer-Kahan and Senator Steve Glazer, both Democrats from Orinda, worked together to push AB 1086 through the two chambers late last Friday evening just before lawmakers wrapped up the legislative session for the year. It allows the state to sell the expansion area along Tesla Road to a local agency or nonprofit for park or open space uses if the Parks Department determines that doing so is in the public interest. The money would go back into the trust fund for off-highway recreation.
While the bill’s passage moves the process to protect Tesla forward, it is not the end of the road. Governor Gavin Newsom now has a month to decide whether to sign it into law. The Parks Department then has to determine whether a sale is in the public interest before Tesla can be preserved permanently.