Interface still draws opponents' attention

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By GENEVIEVE BOOKWALTER

Despite a final decision from the Stanislaus National Forest supervisor last month, controversy surrounding off-highway vehicles on 8,700 acres near Arnold continues.

Since December, 29 groups and individuals have filed appeals with the U.S. Forest Service on a plan to manage an area commonly known as "the Interface" on the Stanislaus National Forest.

The swath of land has long been a 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 on it have both gone up.

Some neighbors like the trails because kids too young for drivers' licenses can get there from their homes after school. With mostly beginner and intermediate trails, families can also ride together.

But other residents don't like four-wheelers whizzing past their backyards.

Stanislaus Forest Supervisor Tom Quinn's decision, which he labeled as a compromise, reduces the trail mileage for dirt bikes and four-wheelers and leaves a half-mile buffer around homes.

But riders and residents have each labeled it as skewed toward the other side.

Now, appellants from both parties are taking their case to Regional Forester Jack Blackwell, who is expected to review Quinn's decision and report back by March 5, said Calaveras District Ranger Rob Griffith, whose jurisdiction includes the Interface. Blackwell could uphold Quinn's choice or change it as he sees fit.

"Quite a range of decisions come out of the office on appeals," Griffith said. "This is not a rubber stamp either way, by any means."

While members of both sides commended Quinn's effort to find a workable solution, each said it wasn't enough, and cited many reasons.

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The Union Democrat
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