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Governor Newsom and Legislature Strike Deal to Save Alameda County’s Environmental Treasure, Tesla Park

For immediate release:

The agreement between environmental advocates, the State Legislature- championed by Assemblymember Bauer-Kahan and Senator Glazer, the Governor and California Department of Parks and Recreation will protect Tesla Park and relocate OHV activity to a more suitable location

Sacramento, CA – Today, a long-awaited agreement was reached with the Legislature, the Governor and California Department of Parks and Recreation to protect the environmentally sensitive and habitat-rich Alameda-Tesla Expansion Area (Tesla Park) from off-highway vehicle use on the land. This deal arises from years of advocacy by Assemblymember Rebecca Bauer-Kahan (D-Orinda), Senator Steven Glazer (D-Orinda), the County of Alameda, and a coalition of environmental groups including the Sierra Club and Friends of Tesla Park.

“This rich biological and cultural area’s fate has been tied up for years in the courts, proving to be a drain on our State resources and needlessly putting this unique land in jeopardy,” said Assemblymember Rebecca Bauer-Kahan. “We are incredibly thankful that the Governor has recognized Tesla Park’s vital importance, including it now in the ongoing protection of critical natural resources in California. It has been my great honor to fight alongside Senator Glazer, the Sierra Club, Friends of Tesla Park and the countless organizations and individuals to ensure this land will be protected and enjoyed by all of California’s citizens.”

Tesla Park, a 3,100-acre parcel of land located in eastern Alameda County, contains habitats for vulnerable species, as well as sacred sites for Native people and historically significant mines. The park is at the intersection of biotic zones, resulting in rare and valuable diversity such as Blue Oak woodland and mountain savannah grassland. It is a richly biodiverse area that has drawn naturalists, ecologists, zoologists, and other life scientists to that land for more than 100 years. The many organizations who fought for this deal include the Sierra Club California, County of Alameda, City of Livermore, East Bay Regional Park District, Friends of Tesla Park, and the Society of American Indians.

In the late 1990s, State Parks’ Off-Highway Motor Vehicle Recreation Division (OHMVR) purchased Tesla Park without an appropriate acquisition environmental impact report (EIR) or public review being conducted. Since then, Sierra Club California and its partners have intensely opposed opening the area to damaging OHV recreational use. The use for motor vehicles was challenged in court, and earlier this year, the judge ruled that the EIR was inadequate and that State Parks needed to redo it. In the ruling, the judge opined that preservation would be the best option for this land.

Assemblymember Bauer-Kahan and Senator Glazer have led the legislative fight to save Tesla Park and have jointly authored five bills over the last number of years – which have resulted in a vast coalition of environmental leaders, legislators, local advocates and community members rallying together to protect this land.

The agreement removes Tesla Park from the existing Carnegie State Vehicular Recreation Area and makes it an independent park under the authority of the California Department of Parks and Recreation. The agreement also bans off-highway vehicles from ever accessing the land. By protecting this land, the agreement furthers the goals of the Governor’s October 2020 Executive Order to advance efforts to protect biodiversity and to conserve 30 percent of California’s land and coastal waters by 2030. The transfer of funds for the value of the land into the State Off-Highway Vehicle Fund allows for future development of an OHV recreation area elsewhere at a more appropriate location for such activities, cementing a “win-win” deal for environmentalists as well as off-road vehicle enthusiasts, and staving off future costly litigation for the State.

“We applaud the decision by the California Legislature and Administration to preserve the important ecological value and biodiversity of Tesla Park by banning off-highway vehicle recreational use,” said Brandon Dawson, Director of Sierra Club California. “Sierra Club California and our local allies have advocated for decades to protect Tesla Park. This proposal represents a major victory for environmentalists across the state.”

“Tesla Park, a jewel in the crown of mountains ringing the Tri-Valley, has been saved,” Friends of Tesla Park steering committee member and Livermore resident, Nancy Rodrigue, said.  “It’s an amazing feat that Tesla Park will now forever be protected with no motorized recreation. The future holds Tesla as a protected native landscape for hikers, history buffs, nature lovers, research and education. Saving Tesla Park has been a long, difficult, and now rewarding journey. We are grateful for the tremendous work of so many, including Assemblymember Bauer-Kahan and Senator Glazer, for saving Tesla Park as a legacy for future generations.”

“This is a win-win for all involved,” Senator Glazer said. “Our community and region gets to preserve this natural and cultural treasure while the off-road enthusiasts will keep their current park and receive funding to develop another park on land that’s more suitable to that kind of recreation.”

“What a wonderful way to celebrate Labor Day weekend knowing our beautiful Tesla property is preserved in perpetuity thanks to Assemblymember Rebecca Bauer-Kahan and Senator Steve Glazer working closely with our community to protect this important natural and cultural resource. Special thanks to the Friends of Tesla for their leadership,” stated East Bay Regional Park District Director, Ayn Wieskamp.

AB/SB 155, the Natural Resources budget trailer bill, went into print late Sunday night, September 5th and will be voted on by both houses of the Legislature in the coming days before the end of the 2021 legislative year on Friday, September 10.