Los Padres National Forest officials are pining for public comment on a grant application to the State of California, which could help maintain and protect the forest’s off-highway vehicle (OHV) system.

A draft of the grant proposal is available for comment starting today at all Los Padres National Forest offices, and will be available online May 13. Assistant Recreation Officer Rick said interested local residents can suggest changes to the draft through June 6, as the application will be sent to the State of California Off-Highway Vehicle Commission on June 10. The OHV system allows all-terrain vehicles, motorcycles and four-wheel drive vehicles to travel along roads and trails through the forest.

Larson said about 300,000 people use the system annually, primarily in the Mount Pinos and Santa Lucia regions, and he expects anywhere from 10 to 50 people to submit comments. Larson said the grant application will ask for $732,000 from the OHV Commission, but he said it is unlikely that Los Padres will receive all of the money it requests.

“Last year we received $300,000,” Larson said. “This year we’re asking for $732,000, but I can almost guarantee you that we won’t receive the entire amount. Other state, county and local agencies compete for these grants.”

Larson said the money will primarily go to maintenance and policing of the OHV paths to keep visitors on the trails and away from nearby wildlife.

“The trails always need to be maintained for tread work, rolling dips and any rutting that may occur,” Larson said. “We also have an erosion prevention program, but not all the money will go to maintenance. Some of it goes to law enforcement. We enforce state and federal registration and resource damage to the vegetation and soil.”

Larson said the national forest is required by the California Public Resources Code to allow public comment on grant proposals. He said most of the people who give input want adjustments to existing trails, or the creation of new ones.

“They’re allowed to provide input on whether to keep trails open or closed,” he said. “A lot of people want us to open new trails, but we’re not requesting any money for new trails.”

Despite the detrimental effects vehicles can have on the forest, Larson said a properly maintained trail system would minimize dangers.

“If it goes unchecked, yes [off-highway vehicles can damage the forest],” he said. “But if it is regulated we can keep the park safe.”

The proposal will be posted online May 13 on the forest website at www.fs.fed.us/r5/lospadres. Comments on the draft application should be addressed to Los Padres National Forest, Attn: Rick Larson, 6755 Hollister Ave., Suite 150, Goleta, CA 93117.