After two years of trying to navigate the complicated process of creating an off-highway vehicle park in the O’Neals area, the Madera County Board of Supervisors voted 3-1 this week to kill the project.
Supervisor Tom Wheeler, District 5, was the only “no” vote when Supervisor Brett Frazier, District 1, made the motion to cancel the lease and end the project. “I’ve been frustrated with this (project) from the very beginning,” said Frazier.
In November 2015, the Board approved a contract to buy 956 acres of land sitting between Minarets High School and the east side of State Riyte 41 near Blackhawk Lodge to create the park, with most of the funding for the $2.3 million property anticipated to come from state and federal grants. The park was intended to be operated by a private entity.
In October 2016, the board voted to cancel the purchase agreement, and later entered into a lease with landowner Margaret Jamison, with an extension approved in December 2016 at $1 a month, allowing the county to continue studying the project.
The proposed park faced vocal opposition at past meetings from O’Neals area residents, concerned citizens, the Madera Oversight Coalition, and Native American Tribes with historic ties to Blackhawk Mountain. Others in favor of it have expressed a need for a safe, legal place for their families to enjoy off-road riding.
“It sounds like we’re acquiring property and then back-filling with a business plan,” said Supervisor Robert Poythress, District 3, at Tuesday’s Board meeting. “I hope the county won’t get stuck with something we have to fund year after year, and that we don’t have additional obligations on the books from an operating standpoint.”
“I’ve listened to all the arguments, and I’m not going to beat around the bush,” said Supervisor Max Rodriguez, District 4. “I fear the liability for the county in the future; I’m totally against this project and I think we ought to shut it down and not take any more staff time to evaluate it. I feel the tone of the board is that we’re getting into something we don’t know anything about, and the liability is too huge for the county.”
District 2 Supervisor David Rogers did not attend Tuesday’s meeting.
Eric Fleming, the county’s chief administrative officer, confirmed the project was ended in its current form with the board’s vote Tuesday and, for now, there are no other plans for an OHV park in Madera County.
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