Posted: November 10, 2021

California Update

I’ve often said GAT is a marathon, not a sprint. That was made clear again in September when the California State Park and Recreation Commission held a meeting where it accepted the Auburn State Recreation Area (ASRA) Preliminary General Plan and draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR). Following the public release of the EIR in July 2019, California State Parks staff made changes to the General Plan. The proposed changes, along with responses to comments received on the draft EIR, were published in June 2020 in a final EIR in compliance with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). Numerous GAT and NAC members submitted comments and suggestions throughout the planning process. In fact, we have been working on this plan since as early as June 2006, when we wrote, objecting to the plan to limit nude use in the American River Canyon at that time. The plan languished for the next ten years while little was done until a public hearing was called in 2015. By this time, they were asking for public input and called for a public workshop. Following a well-attended public workshop held on December 7, 2017, I reported that (unlike the 2015 public hearing) nobody objected to the nude beach area. The focus of concern seemed to be access to the area by pet dogs (currently banned) and a demand to build bicycle trails in the park. These, as well as the earlier plans, all wallowed in the hearing process for longer than four years. The plan that was presented in 2019 and revised in 2020 was built on a model of use that was by then outdated. During the September 2021 hearing, the board heard repeatedly that the plan was over 15 years old, and demands and concerns have changed during that time. The board heard from County Supervisors from two counties within the planning area and from numerous Fire District Administrators that the narrow winding roads of the canyon are unsuited to further expansion of recreational use in the fire-prone canyons. The concerns of the nudists, along with the Fire Departments and County Supervisors were ignored completely, other than in mentioning it had been brought up in the hearings and planning processes. At the hearing, counsel acknowledged the plan was outdated and subject to legal challenges. Despite this, the board voted five to zero to accept the plan and move forward with further development in the planning area. The expansion proposed 15 years ago was scaled back, but still vastly expanded the facilities rather than keeping or reducing the existing plans. The accepted General Plan revisions include a reduction in the total number of new campsites allowed in ASRA from 224 sites to 142 sites. On a bright spot, other changes describe the comprehensive planning process that would be required before the development of any new or expanded facilities. They also would require they identify best practices for the protection of tribal cultural resources, which would be implemented in coordination with California Native American Tribal groups. So while nudists, elected officials, and fire safety personnel were ignored, perhaps we can enlist the support of California’s Native American Tribal Groups to help as we face the next steps in access to the canyon. For now, our limited access area remains relatively free from interference with nude use, as the steep hike down and therefore grueling hike back up prevents most casual users from visiting the nude area.

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