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Monday, Jun 09 2014 07:31 PM

Tehachapi tapped for OHV grant

Start your engines, because Tehachapi will see a new motocross track break ground at the event center some time in the next year if things go according to plan.

The city came in just under the radar, receiving an intent to award for $972,500 in state grant funding for an off-highway vehicle area, according to City Manager Greg Garrett.

Garrett broke the news at the June 2 council meeting, highlighting a plan that has been in the works for a year to develop both an entire event center and a 13-acre OHV track west of the Tehachapi Municipality Airport.

"We made the cut, so hopefully very soon we will be putting in the infrastructure for the water, the sewer and all the items that it takes to build a world class motocross facility," Garrett told the council and members of public in attendance.

The motocross project is part of a larger 77-acre event center the city intends to develop over the next several years.

He credited the city staff, including Community Outreach Coordinator Michelle Vance, for the accomplishment. Vance was responsible for applying for and securing the grant for the OHV park.

Depends on state budget

Garrett noted that the final amount depends on Gov. Jerry Brown's final budget for fiscal year 2014-2015.

The grant is part of a larger $14.92 million award allocation dolled out to several agencies and cities for OHV operations and maintenance projects, including planning, ground operations, development and acquisition.

Mayor Phil Smith noted that with the grant, the city could possibly put in amenities he had inquired about.

"I thought since we have all that property over there and this treated wastewater, we could put in some open green space," Smith said.

The total cost, according to the project's executive summary, the total cost for the OHV park will be $1,549,416. Tehachapi will have to provide $576,916 in matching funds.

'Huge opportunity'

Vance said on June 3 that this will be a huge opportunity for Tehachapi.

"It creates a two-fold opportunity," Vance said. "It will benefit the locals and it brings in visitors from both the desert area and the San Joaquin Valley."

Tehachapi has had little appeal to off-road enthusiasts. Most of the open land around the city, Stallion Springs, Bear Valley and Golden Hills is privately owned.

Vance noted in her executive summary that the nearest legal OHV area is in California City.

She added that it plays into the larger plans for the entire event center the city plans to create utilizing the old rodeo arena, which will include more than just the OHV park.

"It will be like a mini-fairgrounds," she said.

According to Vance's executive summary, the amenities constructed will solely support the OHV motocross park including restrooms, a manager's office, concession facility, bike wash station, picnic area, electrical, sewer, irrigation system, dust control, landscaping, fencing and parking.

A second phase would include bringing agricultural water to the site to reduce the use of potable water, a small bleacher area for spectators, and RV camp sites for visitors.

"Ours will have a nice facility," Vance said. "We take the time to do it the right way."

CEQA review

An environmental impact process needs to be conducted per the California Environmental Quality Act, something the city has already initiated.

Vance added the new OHV area will appeal to both desert dwellers and San Joaquin residents because of the balanced climate, and because it will be visible from the highway.

It also places Tehachapi on the map for off-highway vehicle and motocross events, according to a veteran OHV advocate.

Ed Waldheim, president of the Friends of Jawbone, expressed enthusiastic surprise over the phone on June 3. Jawbone Station, located on Highway 14 near California City, is home to a large OHV and open use area maintained by the Friends of Jawbone and overseen by the Bureau of Land Management.

City congratulated

According to Vance's executive summary, the Friends of Jawbone are a potential major partner to help work out the kinks.

"Holy Toledo, I can't believe it," Waldheim said. He noted it was close to the $988,000 Tehachapi had applied for.

Waldheim, a strong advocate for OHV and use of public lands, acknowledged that Tehachapi was not his favorite place when it came to OHV and public land activities.

"It's not Tehachapi's fault because they don't really have a lot of public land," Waldheim said.

However, this new OHV park would be a boon for the city, Waldheim said.

"This will provide an area for local residents to use for OHV," Waldheim said. It would also be advantageous for private property owners.

"There is nothing more annoying than for to have people riding on private property," Waldheim said. "I detest people who break the law and I liken them to the Taliban."

Waldheim congratulated Vance and the city on receiving the grant, and suggested one possible improvement.

"I hope they set up some sort of ad hoc community that includes community members to offer input," Waldheim said.

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