Ocotillo Wells Update

Ocotillo Wells SVRA

There has been a threat to open off roading at the Ocotillo Wells SVRA in California ongoing since spring of last year. This is a brief summary of what has happened and what is going on right now.

If you would like to donate to the legal fund to defend the right of off roaders in Ocotillo Wells SVRA click here and indicate “Ocotillo Wells Lawsuit” in the comments box.

On May 21, 2013 two environmental groups filed a Petition for Writ of Mandate with the Superior Court in Sacramento CA to put a stop to all open riding in the Ocotillo Wells State Vehicular Recreation Area in California. If successful this would limit off roading to existing trails only.

Shortly thereafter, the California State Parks Department filed papers opposing this petition. CORVA, the California Off Road Vehicle Association, filed a request to be an intervenor in the matter and, once their request was accepted, they too filed papers opposing the Petition and supporting the position of California State Parks. A hearing date was set for much later in the year.

Judge Timothy Frawley ruled in favor of State Parks and CORVA on December 12, 2013 and upheld the right of State Parks to continue operations at Ocotillo Wells SVRA in the same manner enthusiasts around the state have enjoyed for decades. It was a victory for the first round.

The environmental groups had 20 days to file an amended petition, which they did. Again both California State Parks and CORVA filed appropriate papers to oppose the amended petition.

The hearing was set for this Friday, May 9, 2014 at the Superior Court in Sacramento, California. Ed Stovin on the Fight for Ocotillo Wells SVRA Facebook page reports the results of that hearing as:

May 8, 2014 -the judge issued a preliminary ruling that the case will continue (not be thrown out).
May 9, 2014 – The judge decided to listen to the parties argue their cases. After this, the judge decided to put the case in submission (He’s thinking about it). Late that same day the judge decided that the case can go forward. PEER had asked to add new evidence, but the judge said no, you can only use what you submitted in the earlier case. The judge also said that PEER’s task to prove would be “formidable”.

 PEER is trying to prove that Ocotillo Wells has abused their discretion in managing the park. In the first suit, PEER tried to say that the park has not been protecting its resources (Plant and animals, soil erosion, the air and archaeological stuff) but the judge ruled that the park has a lot of discretion over how it manages its resources. This time Peer says that the park is abusing its discretion. This should be hard to prove and I think the judge is allowing the case to go forward to see what evidence they have of this abuse of discretion.
I don’t know of a date for the next step. I am not sure if this will go to a trial phase or if the parties will simply submit “briefs” to the judge, who will rule some months down the line.
Ed Stovin

On May 19, 2014 the attorney for the California State Parks filed an answer with the Court. You can read the document here


Keep in touch with other concerned off roaders at https://www.facebook.com/groups/FightForOcotilloWells/


If you would like access to many of the court documents you can find them at these links (the most recent documents filed as of 10 p.m. May 6, 2014):

Original Petition for Writ of Mandate, filed May 21, 2013


December 20, 2013: Refiling of the Petition by the environmental groups after they lost the first round


January 20, 2014: California State Park’s response to the amended petition


January 21, 2014: CORVA’s response to the amended petition


January 22, 2014: Further response from California State Parks


Apr 18, 2014: Environmental groups answering the response from State Parks and CORVA



May 2, 2014: More response from California State Parks



May 8, 2014: Judge’s Tentative Ruling


If you want access to the Superior Court site where you can preview all of the documents and information available on this case, visit the link below,  and use Civil Case No. 34-2013-80001495



Information compiled by Sherri Kukla of S&S Off Road Magazine – sherri@ss-offroadmagazine.com



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