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Carnegie gets reprieve from closure for now

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POSTED December 29, 2009 3:58 a.m.

TRACY – The gates to the Carnegie State Recreation Area – which were expected to close today – will stay open for the time being.
Just hours before the close of business on Monday, the First District Court of Appeals issued a temporary stay as requested by the Attorney General’s office on behalf of the California State Parks system. It was an important first step for those fighting the two environmental groups trying to shut down the park that is designed exclusively for off-road vehicle use.

Earlier this month, an Alameda County Superior Court Judge upheld the position of the two groups – The California Sportfishing Alliance and Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility – who sued the state alleging that the park had no permit from the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board for the runoff into Corral Hollow Creek.

Opponents of the closure don’t understand how water quality of a creek that’s dry the majority of the year can be affected.

According to the Appellate Court, the plaintiffs will have until Jan. 6 to respond to the petition filed by the Attorney General and “demonstrate why there would be irreparable harm from keeping the park open until the Water Board takes action on a report filed by the State Parks.”

The California State Parks System has until Jan. 11 to rebut the plaintiffs’ response.

But while the fight over one of Northern California’s few public off-road recreation areas continues, those caught in the crosshairs – like the employees of Moto Mart that serve the riders and the campers who make annual trips to the location in the foothills of the Coastal Range – face an uncertain future.

“If this place were to close, that would pretty much eliminate this business,” said staffer Vince Canale. “We’re out in the middle of nowhere, and all of our business comes from people who are riding and camping out here. Without that, we wouldn’t really have any reason to stay open.

“We have regulars that come up here every weekend – they practically live up here. They’ve come here for years, and we want them to continue to do so.”

And while the Water Board ponders whether to issue a permit, Corral Hollow Creek isn’t any stranger to exposure to potentially harmful elements.

According to a press release from the California Parks Department, the creek has historically had numerous industrial uses in and around the creek channel including coal mining, brick and pottery manufacturing, and tailing piles remaining from the construction of the Hetch Hetchy tunnel.

In order to mitigate the negative impacts that continue from chemical and sediment runoff from neighboring properties, the park developed a storm water management plan. In 2007 after working with the Regional Water Board, the park received an industrial permit under the California National Pollution Discharge Elimination System for the section of the park not for off-road use.

Even though he gets to go to work today, Canale says that the ultimate outcome is still up in the air and has a lot of people worried about what might happen.

“Until all of the appeals go through the court, everything is still up in the air,” he said. “It could take a couple of weeks, and it could take a couple of months. We just don’t know how long this will take. But this decision is definitely a good one.”


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