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June 5, 2023

Off-road paradise

Before Hollister Hills became the first State Vehicular Recreation Area (SVRA) in California in 1975, it was operated privately as a motorcycle park.

“The history with Off Highway Vehicles (OHV) goes all the way back to the 1950s, before the state even purchased it,” says Peter Jones, who is the San Andreas District Services Manager and has been stationed at Hollister Hills SVRA for six years. “There is so much history with this place, and a lot of the OHV program started here.”

In the 1970s, OHVs were becoming popular, but riders weren’t always using them in the most appropriate places. Officials realized they needed to set aside places that would allow people to ride while protecting resources, so the idea of the SVRA was established. Hollister Hills is one of nine SVRAs in the state.

Even though Hollister Hills SVRA is a paradise for off-road enthusiasts, it’s just as popular for people who are not into motorcycles and 4-wheelers. Situated in the picturesque Gabilan Mountains—where park elevation ranges from 660 feet to 2,425 feet—Hollister Hills SVRA features myriad campgrounds and trails for hiking, equestrian and mountain biking.

“Even if you don’t have a motorcycle, ATV or 4-wheel drive vehicle, there is stuff for everyone to do here,” says Jones. “It’s a fantastic place for campers and non-motorized recreational enthusiasts. Almost every weekend we have people in the group campground area.”

Weddings—while not commonplace—also take place at Hollister Hills SVRA, which hosts over 100 events a year. Some of the most popular events include the annual New Year’s Day Motorcycle Poker Run, with proceeds helping to fund youth Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) classes.

This weekend, Hollister Hills SVRA hosts its 4-wheel parts customer appreciation day, when owners of 4x4s do a big trail ride. The event also features a raffle and prize giveaways, says Jones, who oversees a resources department that features environmental signage and a trail crew, interns, special events, filming and planning projects in the park.

Different companies test their new products and do film shoots at Hollister Hills. Jones says having a full-time special events coordinator in Christian Silverberg has made a noticeable and positive difference.

“Christian is on the front line helping out with permitting and making sure all of the needs are being met on our side,” Jones says. “Whether it’s a closure of areas or heavy equipment work that needs to be done ahead of time, Christian really does an awesome job of taking care of that.”

In addition to attracting locals, Hollister Hills SVRA draws people from the Bay Area and Central Valley. Interestingly enough, the busiest time of the year for the park runs from October through May.

“Certain bikes get a designation from the DMV with a red or green sticker,” Jones says. “The red sticker bikes can be ridden year-round, but the green sticker ones can only be ridden in our area here from October through May. … Also, in the wintertime, the conditions here are really excellent. The soil moisture is really good, which means good traction and not much dust. Plus, the cooler temperature is good for all the motorcycle riders who are wearing a lot of gear. In the summertime, the activity tapers off a little bit, which is pretty typical for all of the SVRAs.”

Jones says on a basic level the goal of the SVRAs is to promote responsible off highway vehicle recreation, to keep people on trails and build and maintain trail systems that “doesn’t blow out every winter or get runoff and sedimentation.” The SVRAs promote responsible recreation at well-managed facilities while balancing the need to protect the state’s resources.

A number of agencies come to Hollister Hills SVRA and utilize it for 4×4 training. Santa Cruz County Fire was at the park last month doing 4×4 training for its medium sized engine vehicles. Hollister Hills SVRA consists of an upper and lower ranch; the upper ranch has 24 miles of trails spread out over 800 acres, while the lower ranch area has 128 miles of trails set aside for motorcycle and ATV use only.

The lower ranch area also features a Motocross track and an ATV track for 3-and 4-wheeled vehicles.

Emanuel Lee
Emanuel Lee is the sports editor of the Los Gatan, Gilroy Dispatch, Hollister Free Lance and Morgan Hill Times. An American High and University of Kentucky alumnus, he primarily covers high school athletics, Gavilan College, various youth sports in south Santa Clara/San Benito counties and pro sports on occasion. Two decades of journalism experience and recipient of several writing awards from the California News Publishers Association. With the Weeklys/NewSVMedia group since 2013. Emanuel has run eight marathons with a PR of 3:13.40 (7:24 mile pace), counts himself as a devoted follower of Jesus Christ and loves spending time with his wife and their two lovely daughters, Evangeline and Eliza. Coaches, athletic directors and parents are encouraged to report scores to [email protected].

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