By GENEVIEVE BOOKWALTER
Stanislaus National Forest officials today released a plan to manage 8,700 acres of Arnold area land crisscrossed with off-highway-vehicle trails that neighbors and OHV users have feuded over for a decade.
The plan both reduces the miles of trail that bikers and four-wheelers can ride and leaves a half-mile buffer between homes and OHV paths.
Forest Supervisor Tom Quinn called the decision a compromise that he hopes both OHV users and nearby homeowners who say they don't want dirt-bike parks in their backyards will accept.
Representatives from each side, however, already say they might appeal the decision each labels as skewed in the other's favor.
At issue is a swath of forest commonly known as "the interface," a traditionally popular place for area kids to learn to ride OHVs. Over the past 10 years, the number of houses rimming the land and the number of people riding have both 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 also ride together there.
But other residents don't like four-wheelers whizzing by during Sunday barbecues.
Before today's decision, 76.9 miles of trail and road were available to OHVs, said the forest's Calaveras District ranger, Rob Griffith. With the announcement, 47.8 miles will be left. Part of this includes new trails the Forest Service plans to build to connect existing paths.
The trail closures will be phased in over the next few months, Quinn said, and new brochures and maps will be printed reflecting the changes. Trail construction and restoration will happen over the next three to five years.
"Clearly, we know the interface has had a lot of controversy. But a lot of people in the public really value this area for recreation," Griffith said. "We want to make sure the variety of recreation experiences are still available. There are a lot of people who are interested who really love this area."