A compromise plan for off-highway-vehicle use on 8,700 acres near Arnold may have cost the Stanislaus National Forest hundreds of thousands of dollars in grant funds.
Less than a week after Forest Supervisor Tom Quinn announced the decision which reduced mileage available to off-roaders and established a half-mile buffer zone around homes the California Off-Highway Vehicle Commission denied almost all funding requested for the forest's summer OHV program.
Of more than a half-million dollars in summer grant funds asked, the commission approved less than $30,000.
Continued contention between off-roaders and residents of the Interface area neither of which were happy with Quinn's decision led to the commission decision.
"When you have an area where there's continued acrimony and conflict, it really directs us to prioritize other areas where our funding can be used to minimize conflict and support good management," said Paul Spitler, chairman of the OHV Commission.
Commission testimony from Judith Spencer, an Interface resident and longtime foe of OHV use in the area, may have influenced the decision.
"My impression is that he (Spitler) seems to put a lot of credence, give a lot of credibility to Judith Spencer's testimony," Quinn said.
On the plus side, the forest's winter program and road decommissioning program were awarded $70,000 and $500,000, respectively. The grants from a $17 million statewide pot are funded by gasoline taxes and OHV license fees. On the Stanislaus, they will be used to take roads out of service and to groom snowmobile trails.
But in the eye of the continuing OHV storm is the Interface, a popular place for area kids to learn to ride dirt bikes and four-wheelers. Over the past 10 years, the number of houses rimming the land and the number of people riding have gone up.
Some neighbors like the trails because kids too young for drivers' licenses can get there from their houses after school. With mostly beginner and intermediate trails, families can also ride together.