Zeus Gazette

California coalition urges more forest roads for off-road vehicles

An 4x4 being driven off roadMembers of the Outdoor Recreation Coalition (ORC) in California reached out to Lassen National Forest officials about a proposal to allow more off-road vehicles on U.S. Forest Service-designated forest roads.

The Forest Service implements a policy across the country that dirt roads where low-clearance vehicles, including sedans, are considered as highways, according to Chris Bielecki, the Lassen forest’s engineer. The presence of off-road vehicles and regular cars on the same road presents safety risks.

Road Clearance

Bielecki said that California law restricts the use of off-road vehicles on highways. However, the ORC only seeks an approval for such vehicles to use forest roads, which is permitted in other states. In California’s Lassen forest, for instance, proponents want more than 225 miles of forest roads to be designated for mixed-use by regular cars and off-highway vehicles.

The plan would include the designation of the road sections in Shasta County, comprising the 34N29, 34N34 and 34N13 roads. An approval would likely require a downgrade of maintenance for these roads, one that only accommodates high-clearance vehicles, Bielecki noted. Chris O’Brien, an Lassen forest ecosystems staff officer, said officials expect to complete road evaluations and proposed a designated maintenance level by March 2018.

Legislative Changes

ORC member Liz Norton suggested reforms to the state’s vehicle code, which would allow off-road vehicles on all dirt roads such as those from an Argo dealer. An approval would be good news since off-road vehicles are “important locally” particularly as a leisure activity, Norton added.

In other states such as New Hampshire, the recreational past-time has become more popular among residents. This led local officials to ramp up safety awareness, especially for teenage drivers. Unlike California, off-road vehicle users in New Hampshire are allowed to drive on highways.

Conclusion

Off-road vehicle driving remains a popular recreational activity, but do you think they should be used on highways?

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