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June 14, 2021

Board opposed to funding swap for parks

The San Benito County supervisors approved a letter opposing state senate legislation that would take money from the Off-Highway Vehicle grant fund to keep state parks open.

The supervisors were notified of the potential legislation, created by state Senators Joe Simitian and Noreen Evans, at the June 5 meeting. San Benito currently receives grants from the fund that support sheriff’s activities to stop illegal off-roading and also for restoration, maintenance and management of areas with off-highway recreation.

The proposal calls for taking $21 million from the OHV trust fund and diverting the money to state parks for the 2012-13 fiscal year.

“Sweeping $21 million in dedicated OHV revenues into the General Fund to backfill State Parks will not solve the State’s budget problems, but will destroy the OHV recreation program, habitat preservation efforts, and public safety efforts,” the letter states.

Supervisor Margie Barrios thanked the staff for drafting the letter, which will go to Gov. Jerry Brown, Seantor Mark Leno, Assmeblymember Bob Bluemnfield, Assembly Member Luis A. Alejo and Senator Anthony Canella.

Supervisor Anthony Botelho said he had mixed feelings about the letter.

“Hollister Hills is important as well as the sheriff’s (grant funding,) but I’m concerned because I have two state parks in my district,” he said.

Listing Fremont Peak and the San Juan Bautista State Historic Park, he said he didn’t want to create “animosity.”

Janelle Cox, a management analyst, said those parks were not listed on a potential closure list for 2012-13.

Supervisor Jerry Muenzer said Hollister Hills is sometimes overlooked, but the staff at the state vehicular park has been working with the county to support the county’s park and recreation commission.

“We need to support them on this issue,” he said.

The letter notes that 79 percent of the unincorporated areas in the county include open space, in either of a public or private form.

One of the grants from OHV to the county is being used to create a restoration plan along the San Benito River, which “is flanked by undeveloped private/publicly owned lands, comprised of agricultural uses, grasslands, riparian woodlands, and aquatic habitats,” the letter said. “The rural nature of the community provides ample opportunity for illegal off-highway vehicle recreation, especially in and around the river, threatening the safety of the community members and damaging habitat,” the letter reads.

The supervisors approved the letter 5-0.

“For these reasons, our Board respectfully requests that you oppose the transfer of Off-Highway Vehicle local assistance funds to backfill the State Parks budget,” the letter concludes.

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