Congressman Sam Farr is stepping up big again for San Benito County during his final stretch run as the local representative. The latest reflection is Farr’s bill pushing to reopen Clear Creek Recreation Area to the public for the first time since its closure in 2008.
Farr, known for his environmental friendliness above all else, has taken a bold stance against the Bureau of Land Management’s decision to close the off-roading tourist attraction due to health concerns. Before closing Clear Creek more than eight years ago, the Bureau of Land Management cited a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency study showing elevated levels of asbestos on the public lands. Farr, though, has joined skeptics who have argued an all-out closure is unnecessary as long as riders stay away from certain areas and they take precautions.
He’s doing so because it’s not only the logical direction, considering the low risk and that people are free to make their own choices, but also because Clear Creek was a major tourist destination for economically starved San Benito County.
County supervisors earlier this month supported a letter of support for a House bill introduced by Farr, D-Carmel, in April 2015. The bill passed in a House vote July 5 and will be considered by the Senate next.
If passed, the bill would direct the BLM to reopen the 75,000-acre Clear Creek Management Area, as it was formerly called, in the two counties for recreational use, including for off-road vehicles. The bill would also protect an additional 21,000 acres of BLM property near Clear Creek as the Joaquin Rocks Wilderness.
Before it closed, the Clear Creek Management Area park drew about 35,000 visitors annually. That closure, along with shuttering of the county’s most popular fishing spot, San Justo Reservoir, left a serious dent for recreational offerings in a county where the outdoor recreation plays a key role in the local economy.
As Farr departs office in the coming months after 20 years serving the Central Coast region, he is debunking criticism that he too often neglects this county.
On his way out, he has successfully pushed to make Pinnacles a national park. He has funneled hundreds of thousands of federal dollars to the Hollister Municipal Airport. And now he is taking on a federal agency that shut down a popular outdoor destination while citing environmental reasons.
If anyone was going to support legitimate environmental concerns, it’s Farr. That he’s calling out the BLM for claiming the sky is falling says a lot about his convictions. He’s a champion for the environment, but he’s a champion for logic and free choice, too.