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June 23, 2021

Hollister Hills: Forty years and riding

Hollister Hills State Vehicular Recreation Area celebrated its 40th anniversary Saturday with free day-use access, history talks, guided tours, music and a parade. There were also free poker runs on the lower and upper ranch for the dirt bikes and ATVs, and for the 4×4 Off-Highway Vehicles. Winners received free annual passes.
During the day, there were activities and games for kids. There was an unveiling of the revamped discovery center with new exhibits. Several organizations that have partnered with the park over the years to promote it had booths and displays, including Fox Racing, Hammerhead Design, the Military Vehicle Collectors of California, Santa Clara Riders Unlimited and the Mountain Transit Authority.
While day use was free for the event, overnight camping—normally $10—was $5.
There was a commemoration ceremony at which 30th District Assemblyman Luis Alejo presented a California Legislation Resolution to Matthew Allen, sector supervisor of Hollister Hills State Vehicular Recreation Area.
“The purpose of this event is to celebrate the 40-year history with the community and the partners who have helped Hollister Hills to be so successful,” said Richard Munoz, state park interpreter, who described his job as a guide who happens to have a lot of specialized knowledge. “I talk about recreation resources, cultural resources, hopefully, in a way that the public understands, with the ultimate goal of transforming them into park stewards.”
Munoz has been with the California State Parks for five and a half years. He said when he was first assigned to the SVRA out of college, he didn’t know what sort of park it was. But he caught on fast and loves his job.
“All week we’re getting ready for the weekends,” he said. “That’s when we do our park programs. And we also do a lot of outreach events in the community where we talk about the history of the park and the history of the off-roadway vehicle program in California. We also do junior ranger programs and we talk about the Native Americans who were here.”
He said the original landowner, Howard Harris, who operated the Howard Harris Motorcycle Playground for many years, decided he wanted to sell the land.
“He had a number of offers from developers, but decided he wanted to sell it to the state in order to keep it as an off-road vehicle state park,” Munoz said. “He sold it Oct. 1, 1975, and it was opened to the public. That’s when we began running it as Hollister Hills State Vehicular Recreation Area.”
The original park covered just less than 8,000 acres. Since its initial purchase for $1.2 million, adjacent properties have been acquired. The upper ranch is available for 4×4-wheeling and ROVs, recreational off-road vehicles. There are two separate areas available, which are different experiences, Munoz said.
“One is much more open, rolling hills, a woodland environment. The other is dense chaparral,” he said. “On the other side of the park, the lower ranch is where the dirt bikes and ATV recreation is available.”
Munoz estimated nearly 200,000 people come to the park each year.
“People find it through our website and through social media and by word-of-mouth,” he said. “We’ve been actively promoting our presence in the nearby communities. We get a lot of people from the Bay Area, from Santa Cruz and Monterey, and inland, Modesto and Merced. We’ve been trying to educate our local people about the resources available to them.”
There are eight SVRAs throughout California. They are funded separately from other state parks.
“A lot of it comes from the Off Highway Vehicle Trust Fund, which is funded through gas tax and registration fees of off-highway vehicles, as well as entry and camping fees,” Munoz said. “Any money we make goes back into the trust fund to pay for the other SVRAs. We’re part of the Off-Highway Motor Vehicle Recreation Division of California State Parks. It is unique and separately funded. So when other parks might be feeling that their funds are tighter, ours may not be.”

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