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Del Norte County Encourages Illegal Off-Roading in State Park

Updated: Mar 23, 2023

An example of one of the signs the County of Del Norte has put up around Tolowa Dunes State Park.
An example of one of the signs the County of Del Norte has put up around Tolowa Dunes State Park and the Lake Earl Wildlife Area.

It looks like the County of Del Norte likes to disregard the law and play by its own rules. A series of signs designating county roads as combined use—allowing both cars and off highway vehicles (OHVs)—have been placed within the Pacific Shores subdivision providing easy access to adjacent Tolowa Dunes State Park and the Lake Earl Wildlife Area north of Crescent City, California. The only problem is, the County needs a permit from the California Coastal Commission before any development or road designations can be made. In other words, the combined use road signs are patently illegal. The County’s facilitation of ongoing illegal trespass, which is destroying wetlands and dunes, is doubly disturbing.


For years, illegal OHV use in Tolowa Dunes State Park and the Lake Earl Wildlife Area has caused extensive damage to sensitive habitats, hurting endangered and threatened wildlife species. The recently posted signs are yet another attempt to subvert the law and unlawfully operate OHVs in these areas. The signs stem from a May 2009 Del Norte County Supervisors meeting where a resolution was approved to designate the roads in question as combined use. The supervisors skipped the essential step of procuring a permit from the Coastal Commission to legally make the road designations and quietly slipped this item through without public hearing.


Cropcircle2
Damage similar to crop circles caused by OHVs at Egret Slough in Tolowa Dunes State Park.

James Baskin, coastal planner for the California Coastal Commission, has sent a letter to the County of Del Norte alerting the county of the illegal signs and road designations. Baskin warns the County that if it does not remove the signs and continues allowing the roads in question to be designated as combined use, the County will face fines.


Unfortunately California State Parks and the California Department of Fish and Game (DFG) have failed to effectively enforce laws prohibiting OHV use in state parks and wildlife areas. While the Coastal Commission has responded rapidly and warned the county of the illegality of the road designations, State Parks and DFG are not calling the county to task.



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