The California 200-One Year Later – Part 4

The California 200-One Year Later

Part four of a multi-part series on

A Series of Unfortunate Events

As the sun sank into the dust of the Mojave Desert, a series of unfortunate events began to unfold that would forever change the landscape of an entire community. August 14th, 2010 will remain burned into the fabric of every person associated with off-road recreation.  As we remember the victims of the California 200 leading up to the 1st anniversary, will explore the changing landscape of off-road racing: where we are headed, our changes to safety, our community’s perception, and what we need to do to ensure the off-road lifestyle continues.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3:


If anything good was to come from the California 200, it was the lines of communication OHV leadership demonstrated in the months following the tragedy.  A phone and email chain yielded an unlikely alliance between promoters who once found themselves competing for business, 4-wheel drive and motorcycle touring events and even the BLM. Jerry Grabow, AMA D37, president found himself in the unique position of leading the conversation. “The OHV community made up of event organizers held a number of conference calls and face-to-face meetings after the California 200. These meetings provided a chance for all of the groups to share ideas, talk over problems that may be coming up, even finding solutions before events happen… ORBA called the first of these meetings and invited the BLM…. This was the chance for event organizers to ask the BLM questions about the future of our sport.” The phone calls and meetings continued and started to take on a structure of sharing best practices. Grabow continues,  “The next step was bi-weekly calls on Ecologic’s conference line. These calls grew to over 30 different groups. They covered many different types of events from “tours” to “high speed” events. The common goal was learning a “new” or different way of getting a permit and also understanding some of the reason for these changes. Most of the changes had been in place since 2007 so they really were not new, just not enforced.

In early 2011, Grabow, myself, and Fred Wiley from ORBA met with Terri Raml, BLM CDD manager, to discuss the overall outcome of the King of the Hammers event and share what we had learned in the months following the California 200. The meeting was a move in the right direction, but the conversation in the parking lot offered a bold move. Wiley suggested that ORBA and the AMA travel to Washington, D.C. to meet with National Director Bob Abbey. Their goal would be to make sure the top of the BLM hierarchy knew exactly what was going on in the CDD and, rather than offer complaints, they would carry the message of solutions. While Grabow and Wiley could cover the businesses and motorcycle interests, they needed a third party to cover the interests of the 4-wheel drive and car/truck racers. With the help of the California Association of 4-Wheel Drive Clubs, I found myself thrust onto the center stage of a debate on event safety in the office of the BLM’s National Director.  Our message was simple; let’s work together to create best practices. This was their opportunity to task people who have historically been putting on safe events to help the BLM sort out the SRP issues in the CDD.

By April of 2011, the Bureau of Land Management began the process to form a sub-group of its Desert Advisory Committee to focus on the Special Recreation Permit process. Members of the SRP sub-group would serve a 2-year term and would not receive a salary. Answering the call where Meg Grossglass, Holli Bechard, Jerry Grabow, Clayton Miller, Rob Niemla, Wayne Nosala, and myself, Jeff Knoll. The people chosen all had an investment in OHV use.

The SRP subgroup meets almost every other week in a workshop setting to create a comprehensive proposal that will be presented to the Desert Advisory Committee. Quarterly public meetings are held to engage the public and harvest additional ideas and issues from those most affected by the permit process. While not without its share of disagreements, the SRP subgroup is making headway on streamlining the permit process.

While the SRP sub-group has not yet tackled Cost Recovery issues, it has identified key problems with management of SRPs inside the CDD. Permit requirements for non-motorized recreation groups have been directly discussed with the CCD manager and the public meeting presented a pathway to include all parties in a discussion on the subject. The sub-group has also been able to suggest best practices for making sure SRP holders present all the requirements of the permit to completion. Grabow who was elected chairman of the SRP Sub-group hopes he can help make a positive impact on OHV events through his work on the sub-group. “There needs to be a clear understanding of what events need a permit and what events do not need a permit. Right now, in my opinion, there is too much left up to interpret; the field managers are left with no foundation to base what is safe or not safe. Most event organizers understand what works for each type of event or their events, but there is no “code-book” to fall back on to say ‘this is why and how we provide a safe event.’ Most of the event organizers already have rulebooks outlining what needs to take place for a safe event.” Grabow has proposed a detailed handbook be prepared that outlines minimum safety standards for racing events and believes that this will help a race promoter play by a uniform set of rules.

In our next chapter, Off-Road Press will explore some fundamental issues with spectators in our open areas and what the future might bring to off-road racing.

Please join Fast-Aid in the dedication of the California 200 memorial 2:00 PM-9:00pm at the Slash X Café in Barstow, California on August 13th, 2011.

28040 Barstow Road

Barstow, CA 92311-7002

(760) 252-1197

About the Author

Mike Lasher is a true Off Road enthusiast down to the core, Growing up in the back seat of a jeep exploring the deserts of Arizona and Nevada, as a kid, as so many of us did. Today Mike spends his free time on the trails with his family and friends in his Kawasaki Teryx or Jeep Wrangler. He also regularly competes in the Best in the Desert series and was second in points in 2009. For more information on mike you can visit

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