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Lovingood wants Marines to 'rethink' expansion plan
San Bernardino County First District Supervisor Robert Lovingood on Friday released a statement asking the U.S. Marine Corps to "rethink" a plan that would close parts of a popular off-roading area.
“We’re 100 percent committed to the Marine Corps’ mission,” Lovingood said in a news release. “But we support expansion alternatives that will serve the Marines’ training goals while preserving off-roading areas.”
The Department of the Navy this week approved a plan to expand the Marines Corps Air Ground Combat Center at Twentynine Palms into the Johnson Valley Off-Highway Vehicle Area east of Lucerne Valley. The expansion would close most of the off-road area, leaving a small portion open for shared use between the Marines and recreationalists.
“These are public lands that the public has a right to enjoy,” Lovingood said. “Too much of this great desert has already been shut down by government action.”
The expansion into the OHV area, which lies in Supervisor James Ramos’ Third District, will require congressional approval. The release states that Lovingood plans to urge congressional representatives to come up with a compromise that “allows for military expansion without limiting access to highly used off-roading lands.”
The Marines believe their current plan is a compromise.
“The preferred alternative isn’t the best one for meeting our needs,” U.S. Marine Corps spokesman Capt. Nicholas C. Mannweiler told the Daily Press in a written statement, “but it allows the Marine Corps to meet our training requirements and still allows the public to utilize Johnson Valley when it’s not being used for our (training) exercises — two times a year for a month.”
Meanwhile, off-roading enthusiasts are uneasy about how the shared use arrangement might work, and organizers of the annual King of the Hammers race are uncertain if the event can continue past next year.
“All of your outlying high-speed racecourse (for King of the Hammers) would be closed because it would be in the perimeter of the Marine base,” said Harry Baker of the Partnership for Johnson Valley, a nonprofit group fighting the expansion. “The (Hammer trails) would be severely affected because the line between the permanent base and the shared use goes right through the Hammers area.”
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