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Marine Base Threatens Hammer Trails - Johnson Valley

Posted in Events on September 1, 2008
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Contributors: David Ledrew
Photographers: Map Courtesy of URF Racing

The Johnson Valley Off-Highway Vehicle Area is home to the Hammer Trails, which are treasured by off-road enthusiasts from around the world. However, it is part of a potential expansion of the battlefield training grounds at Twentynine Palms Marine Base and faces possible closure. Recently, a popular Web site mounted a four-hour virtual online rally in a show of support to keep all of the Johnson Valley OHV Area open. There were 1,495 messages posted and over 33,000 page views during the four hours in support of the 140,000-acre OHV area, located southeast of Barstow, California. The rally allowed participants to voice their opinion about the potential attempt by the Marines to take over the important Hammer Trails and provided the opportunity to show admiration for troops and support for the U.S. military.

The Marine Corps "USMC Land Acquisition" presentation included a map with areas they were interested in expanding. Considering that the maps on the USMC document are practically unreadable, it is hard to tell exactly where the lines are. Once scaled to the same size and overlaid, it looks like the "Johnson Valley Expansion" area would take a precious part of the north area of Johnson Valley OHV. The "additional area of interest" would take away even more of the land that is so valuable to off-road enthusiasts from around the world.

Although we wholeheartedly support our troops and their families and believe the Marines must have the best training grounds available, we need to do everything we can to help find an alternative to the Twentynine Palms expansion and the closure of Johnson Valley OHV Area to recreationists. The military wouldn't be taking over an empty area of the desert, as the Hammer Trails are one of the best four-wheeling areas in the world, and the Johnson Valley OHV Area is priceless and could never be replaced. Organizations such as the California Off-Road Vehicle Association (CORVA) and the BlueRibbon Coalition are already taking the lead on this issue. At the rate we are losing public recreational land, it's imperative that all off-road enthusiasts get involved in the struggle to keep all of these lands open for everyone to enjoy.

Acoalition representing off-highway enthusiasts met with representatives of Twentynine Palms Marine Base to review the Military's possible plans for the '50s-era base. The proposed expansion would increase the Marine Base into adjoining Bureau of Land Management (BLM) desert land, which may include Johnson Valley. The goal of the coalition is to gather information as a united group and meet on a regular basis with the military in an effort to work toward a mutually agreeable solution.

The military has been evaluating options for base expansions in an effort to provide increased training areas for our nation's military, and has previously indicated their intent to be "good neighbors." The proposed expansion is in an evaluation stage only.

The California desert is a finite resource that has been allocated over the past seven decades to a multitude of public purposes and uses. One of those uses is national defense training, and the USMC is evaluating the feasibility of a major reallocation of that finite resource. Ultimately, the coalition is asking for continued access to our public lands.

Mark R. Howlett
Field Rep, California Off-Road Vehicle Association (CORVA)

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