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East County News Service

June 3, 2016 (San Diego’s East County) -- The California Department of Parks and Recreation proposes prohibiting public access off designated trails.  The public has until June 6 to comment. California State Parks System Map  In San Diego County, that would include Rancho Cuyamaca and Anza Borrego Desert state parks.

The Anza Borrego Desert Foundation raises serious concerns about negative impacts to the public in their message below, which includes links to send your comments:

The California Department of Parks and Recreation  has proposed a rule to prohibit public access off designated trails in Natural Preserves, Cultural Preserves, State Cultural Reserves, and State Natural Reserves within the California State Park System. See below on how to submit official comments.  We also advise sending your concerns to your state legislators in the Assembly and State Senate.

The Anza-Borrego Foundation (ABF) posted the following comment regarding this matter on their website along with additional info:


In a nutshell, this proposal would make it illegal to leave roads and trails in natural and cultural reserves. That means, for instance, that people could no longer climb around on rocks or walk up a wash, canyon, or ridge in any of our 8 cultural reserves. Think of hiking in Cougar or Sheep Canyon, primitive camping in Blair Valley, or rock climbing in Culp Valley. We and our park visitors would not be allowed to experience this park the way we have been invited to do since the park's establishment. It is also a law that would be virtually impossible for park peace officer rangers to enforce in a park so open and large. 

Notice of Proposed Rulemaking

The California Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) proposes to adopt the proposed regulations described below after considering all comments, objectives, and recommendations regarding the action.

This rulemaking action clarifies and makes specific the authority for regulating off-trail use in Natural Preserves, Cultural Preserves, State Cultural Reserves, and State Natural Reserves within the California State Park System. Specifically the proposed regulations would prohibit all public use in these areas unless such use is on a trail, boardwalk or other designated route of travel. The proposed regulations are not required by federal law or regulations and there is no overlap with federal law or regulation.   These regulations will make it possible to better protect sensitive natural and cultural resources.

Any interested person, or his or her authorized representative, may submit written comments relevant to the proposed regulatory action to DPR.  Comments may also be submitted by facsimile (FAX) at (916) 324-0301 or by email to   

The written comment period closes at 5:00 p.m. on June 6, 2016.  DPR will consider ONLY comments received at DPR offices by that time.  

Submit comments to:

 Lisa Mangat, Director

California Department of Parks and Recreation

P.O. Box 942896

 Sacramento, CA 94296


Links to relevant documents:

Notice of Proposed Rulemaking

Initial Statement of Reasons

Proposed Text of Regulations


If you have questions, please contact the Statewide Roads and Trails Program by emailing

Rulemaking Archival Documents

Minimum tool use and trail use regulations

Final Text

Final Statement of Reasons

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Spoke with a State park

Spoke with a State park official today who assured me that this law's intended only to protect the most vulnerable park areas (roughly four parts of Cuyamaca and eleven in Anza Borrego).


Sorry Craig you need to read the proposed regulations. They prohibit off trail use unless approved by the department. Which means no off trail hiking in the preserves. The language or the rule is far too broad and the disingenuous comments from Alexandra Stehl road and trail manger for the state park do nothing to assure me that they will not be implemented if the rule change is allowed. A bad law is worse than no law.

Re: banning people off trails in state parks

in the areas proposed, I suggest sharing your concerns with your state legislators as well as with State Parks & Recreation.  For East County areas, depending where you live, that would be State Senators Ben Hueso and Joel Anderson, as well as Assemblymembers Brian Jones and Shirley Weber.

San Diegans can check the Registrar of Voters site for maps to find your districts and then contact your legislators too.

I personally find it ironic and horrifying that they would allow 500-foot-tall wind turbines to desecrate sacred Native American sites (even muzzling state park rangers from speaking out to halt Ocotillo Wind on the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park border despite obvious negative impacts on wildlife, people and preservation of Native American cultural resources) yet they want to ban hikers from vast areas of canyons and mountains in parks statewide. 



Amen, Tom and Jerry. I can

Amen, Tom and Jerry. I can think of few better ways to discourage interest in the backcountry.

This story is a major shock for me

The Department of Parks & Recreation has given the public precious little time to provide input (over a WEEKEND?) and practically no useful information on which people could form meaningful opinions. I and a small circle of friends have been camping, hiking, and cross-country backpacking in and near Culp Valley for almost 40 years. Culp Valley itself has numerous excellent sites on which people can pitch a tent or just lay out a tarp on the ground, that are accessible from the parking areas by informal but very well-established trails. People who are familiar with the desert know how to tread lightly and not cause damage to the local vegetation - In fact much of the vegetation is well-armed with thorns and manages to protect itself. Am I to understand that those special places are to become off-limits even to hikers? And what of the route that we have discovered from Culp Valley through upper Hellhole Canyon, up a ridge, and on to the landmark peak known as The Thimble? We have done that hike as an overnight trip close to a dozen times. It's fascinating and challenging. My friends and I have seen the effects of a wildfire that burned most of the vegetation in and around Culp Valley to the ground in the late 1970s. We have observed its recovery over decades. We have seen the impenetrable 12 foot high wall of brush near Peña Springs wiped away by a fire in 2003. That is now so fully recovered it's hard to find any sign of the damage. That kind of desert is so resilient, it's hard to believe that people walking or camping on a few spots off the road could do it any real harm. Anza Borrego is quite unlike truly sensitive places such as Torrey Pines State Reserve, where strict prohibitions against off-trail activity are clearly appropriate. I am very concerned that the state's authoritarian "ban everything" approach to a legitimate need to preserve truly sensitive areas will lead to some of my favorite places on Earth being made off-limits. Unfortunately I have no way of knowing the details of what the Department is considering, and I will be forced to be absent from work on June 22 in order to make my voice heard. I might fax or email something to Lisa Mangat as noted in the article, but due to the lack of information I will be at risk of making irrelevant comments.

Not Again

I have been an avid outdoorsman for my entire life, in fact, as far back as I can remember my family has been involved in camping, hiking, and exploring the great areas here in California. I am the sixth generation of native Californians, born and raised here and very familiar with not only the land but it's governing history as well. That is why I felt compelled to write in protest of the restrictions that have been proposed. Time after time I have personally witnessed the overlording of so called 'public lands', management so restrictive that eventually no-one is allowed to traverse them...please don't misunderstand, I am quite aware that there are ignorant people that harm the environment purposefully, however, I would remind you that those vagrants are indeed the minority of users. Please let these 'public lands' remain open for I fear that with more and more restrictions there will be less and less freedom to explore California's 'public lands'. You see, in my lifetime I have witnessed the closing of certain trails in the Sierras in the guise of, "temporarily closed for the benefit of the flora and fauna" only to NEVER be re-opened. I've witnessed millions of gallons of precious water resources left to run into the sea unhindered for the benefit of a Delta Smelt, water needlessly wasted in the middle of a drought leaving large areas of the central coast of California virtual dust bowls. Time and time again I have been witness to more and more closures secured with the belief that they would someday be re-opened for use only to find those areas never to be re-opened. I believe that historic responsibility has to make up for the want of legal responsibility. Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority, still more when you amend the tendency or the certainty of corruption through authority. There is no worse heresy than that of the office that sanctifies the holder of it. Woe to us citizens of the once great state of California, destined to be herded like cattle through regulations and punishments by those who believe we cannot reason for ourselves and must be coerced yet again by some wig wearing bureaucrat in some marbled hall.