Fewer things are less fun than politics. I'd sooner eat a bowl of 2-month-old oatmeal sprinkled with goathead thorns than voluntarily delve into the political arena. It's time to lay down the spoon, though, because what's happening with the Johnson Valley OHV area is too critical to ignore.
For those who don't know or may have forgotten, the Johnson Valley OHV area in Southern California shares a border with the 29 Palms Marine Corps base. The Marines (maybe the Pentagon brass?) have decided that the acreage they already use and train on aren't enough. They want a piece of the OHV area to be re-designated for USMC use.
A Standoff of Odd Proportions
As off-roaders, it's nothing short of strange to be squaring off with the Marines. Many, many off-roaders are military vets themselves, and many active military personnel are also off-roaders. When it comes to the average off-roader and the average Marine, we feel a kinship more than anything else.
There's more. The Marines put their lives on the line to protect the freedoms we enjoy, including the freedom to explore this great country we live in. We're grateful for that.
With all this in mind, we have to be clear: we have no issues with the guys whose boots are on the ground. We have issues with military leaders who seek to take away land that's vital to the off-road community.
Why Johnson Valley Matters
Johnson Valley's varied terrain draws a large cross-section of the off-road community. This means rock-crawlers, desert racers (both buggies and trucks), dirt bike and quad riders, UTV users, and Jeepers.
At 188,000 acres, the Johnson Valley OHV area is the largest open-travel OHV area in the United States. Although it's most visible use is for OHV play and competition, we're not the only ones out there. Johnson Valley is used by many other groups who need open land. The film industry is a major user in Johnson Valley, as are equestrians, rockhounds, flying clubs, land yacht sailors, radio-control enthusiasts, and scout troops.
Competitions are held in Johnson Valley many times during the year. King of the Hammers is far and away the biggest, giving rise to an RV city at Means Dry Lake with a population that numbers in the thousands. Both MDR and M.O.R.E. host desert races in Johnson Valley. The 2010 M.O.R.E. calendar shows seven races, two of which are in Johnson Valley. MDR Racing has a similar scenario, with seven races for 2010, three of those in Johnson Valley. The dirt bike and quad competition calendar is full of Johnson Valley events. We took a look at the 2010 AMA District 37 off-road racing schedule. Of the 35 events listed, 14 were in Johnson Valley. That's a combined 19 organized events every year.
Of course, there's a lot more to off-roading than competition. When the checkered flags aren't flying in Johnson Valley, off-roaders of all types come here to play. For many, it's a place for family time and family memories.
Johnson Valley matters to OFF-ROAD Magazine, too. Over the years, we've generated a ton of magazine content using Johnson Valley as a backdrop. Johnson Valley is reasonably close to our office, which saves us time and money.