Volunteers redesign Prosser OHV area
One of the most unassuming recreation areas in the state received a face-lift last week when the U.S. Forest Service, the California State Off-Highway Motor Vehicle Recreation (OHMVR) division, and local volunteers from Truckee finished redesigning a beginner OHV loop at Prosser Pits.
The handful of volunteers also redesigned the existing riding area, making the two trails at Prosser Pits some of the safest, family-oriented OHV riding in the Tahoe region.
Located north of Interstate 80 on Prosser Dam Road, Prosser Pits is Forest Service land that accommodates and manages OHV recreation and four wheeling.
“The history of the OHV activity reaches back to the early ’70s,” said Rick Maddalena, Recreation Officer for the Truckee branch of the USFS. The pits were created when the land was used by Caltrans as a mining site for the construction of I-80. After the mining ended in the ’60s, the pits fell into disarray until USFS acquired the land through trade.
The area is particularly unusual because the Forest Service permits a type of recreation that is fairly uncommon on Forest Service land.
However, Prosser Pits affords a number of recreational opportunities. Neighboring residents of Panonia Ranchos use the area to walk dogs, ride horses, and exercise, which is why the Forest Service takes such an active role managing the area.
“When we provide [OHV] recreation and manage it,” said Suzanne Jensen, OHV specialist for Truckee’s USFS district, “we are also protecting the roadless areas.”
Mike Spano from Spano Construction and Buzz Ioppolo, track designer and former pro motocross racer redesigned the smaller of the two loops at Prosser Pits so that children with smaller bikes could ride and practice on a professionally designed trail separate from the larger bikes and vehicles.
“This time I built a full blown track for the kids,” said Buzz Ioppolo, motocross pro and owner of Buzz Ioppolo Excavation. “The old kids track was small, and inside the adult track. Now, parents can park and watch their kids ride.”
While all the trails needed work, safety was one of the primary reason for the renovation. Children using the smaller course quickly mastered the simple loop, and as their skills and desires progressed they wanted to ride the larger course.
The problem was that children riding the small, relatively slow 50cc bikes on the adult course were inexperienced, hard to see and anticipate. They were at risk when larger, faster machines sped through.
Parents that rode the course, like Buzz and Mike, realized the problem and elected to do something about it.
Sponsored by donations collected at Thin Air Motor Sports and $1,000 collected by the U.S. Forest Service in Truckee from Green Sticker funds, Buzz Ioppolo, Mike Spano, Dale Fischer, Tim Walker, Ralph Philips, Kelly Shane, and Joe Sears put their skills and products to work and redesigned the trails at Prosser Pits.
The effort would cost around $10,000 and take the better part of two weeks. But the team of volunteers, working closely with Suzanne Jensen and under the regulations of the Forest Service, worked from 6 a.m. to dusk for five days, donating man hours and equipment.
“It took two loaders, one bulldozer and two water trucks to build the course,” said Ioppolo. “Kelly Shane from Sha-Neva, Inc. donated one water truck, Ralph Philips brought the second… I was going to have to rent a dozer for $500 a day but Joe Sears from Cashman Equipment Company gave it to me for a week.”
With Mike working with Suzanne helping to organize support, along with Jay England at Thin Air Motor Sports, Buzz was able to move mounds of dirt into a system of slopes and valleys. Ralph followed behind, solidifying the jumps with water.
“I’ve been in every stadium across the country building these things,” said Buzz, who hopes to maintain the course all summer. “We got a great track out there.”
The volunteers are all registered with the Forest Service. Jensen, who as OHV specialist is largely responsible for directing the volunteers, and making sure they and the riders comply with Forest Service regulations, will oversee and direct the maintenance as well.
“Buzz and Mike are my go-to guys,” said Jensen. “Volunteer efforts have been sporadic in the past, fixing the ruts and features… but these are the only two guys I’d let redesign it.”
Prosser Pits is closely regulated. In years past the area saw its share of vandalism and degradation. But with the added community support both Jensen and the volunteers hope visitors will respect the rules and regulations.
All OHV vehicles must have a spark arrestor to prohibit the exhaust system from starting fires in the dry, high plains desert. Each vehicle must have a Green Sticker, and the exhaust can’t be louder than 98 decibels.
Jensen said she hopes that riders will exercise extreme caution on all of the trails.
“Prosser Pits is a family oriented kind of experience…We will never have races because there is too much of an impact on the environment,” she added. “We will let the preexisting use stand. That’s why it’s very important to abide by the regulations out there.”
For information about Prosser Pits or obtaining the necessary permits and equipment to use the trails safely and responsibly contact the Truckee’s U.S. Forest Service division at (530) 587-3558 or Thin Air Motor Sports at (530) 582-8081.
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