California’s Clear Creek ORV Area May Reopen After 9-Year Closure

One of California’s most popular off-road riding areas may reopen after a 10-year hiatus.

The 63,000-acre Clear Creek Management Area has been closed for almost a decade over concerns about the prevalence of naturally occurring asbestos in the soil. Covering parts of San Benito and Fresno counties, the expansive trail system was a longtime favorite of off-road riders, and hosted several regional and national enduros. (Rode one of the latter myself on one of the first Husqvarna 4-strokes, and was suitably humbled. –Papa)

Introduced by U.S. Reps. Jimmy Panetta (D-Carmel Valley), David G. Valadao (R-Hanford), Jeff Denham (R-Atwater) and Paul Cook (R-Yucca Valley), HR 1913 would also protect 21,000 acres of Bureau of Land Management land adjacent to Clear Creek by designating the area as the Joaquin Rocks Wilderness. A similar bill, HR 1838, was introduced in 2015 by then-Rep. Sam Farr. Once considered a premier off-highway-vehicle recreation site, Clear Creek was temporarily closed to the public in 2008 after a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency analysis of the risk created by naturally occurring asbestos.

The current bill instructs the BLM to develop a rigorous plan to minimize the risk from asbestos exposure and educate visitors about the naturally occurring asbestos. The BLM also would be required to find ways to reduce the impact of off-road vehicles to protect the area’s habitat.

“As a Californian on the Natural Resources Committee, it is important to me to protect and preserve California’s public lands for future generations,” Panetta said. “This bipartisan bill not only bolsters our area’s conservation efforts, it also promotes recreation and tourism in our region. When this bill passes, locals and visitors will no longer be restricted from enjoying all that Clear Creek Management Area has to offer.”

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