For the past four years, the Outdoor Alliance California team has been meeting with Congressman Tom McClintock’s (CA-05) office to advocate for and advance policies on behalf of the human-powered outdoor recreation community’s interest in the district. California’s fifth congressional district is vast in world-renowned public lands and waters. The district’s outdoor recreation assets include whitewater on the Wild & Scenic Tuolumne River, miles of single track in the Sierra National Forest, thru hiking on the Pacific Crest Trail, and the iconic views of big wall climbing in Yosemite National Park.
Last week, Outdoor Alliance California, American Whitewater, Tuolumne River Trust and Tuolumne River Outfitters convened a group of whitewater paddlers, mountain bikers, climbers, business owners, nonprofits, community members, municipalities, congressional staff members, and federal land managers in the heart of Tuolumne County for a two-day advocacy meeting with Congressman Tom McClintock. Tuolumne County recreation and visitation has been severely impacted by severe winter storm damage that closed access to the Wild and Scenic Tuolumne River on Lumsden and Ward’s Ferry Roads. The main goals of our conversation were to highlight river access challenges from the winter storm damage, ensure resources for sustainable outdoor recreation, underscore the importance of cross jurisdiction collaboration, and demonstrate the economic value of outdoor recreation to bolster rural mountain communities in the district.
On the first day of our advocacy meeting, we organized a group of twenty outdoor recreation advocates to paddle the 18-mile main Tuolumne whitewater run through the foothills of the Sierra Nevada and enjoy the class 4-5 rapids. To access the river, the entire group had to hike two miles to the put-in on a USFS administrative road which is closed to public vehicular access and requires a special permit for commercial outfitters to drive just their equipment down. Short-term opening of this road allowed paddlers to walk to the put-in and prevented a total loss of the 2023 whitewater recreation season and associated revenue for the Tuolumne River Outfitters. The hike highlighted the need to direct federal resources to the county to repair Lumsden Road.
“Our goal was to build appreciation for the Wild & Scenic Tuolumne River among a broad group of stakeholders who either manage, recreate, or live in the community that cares deeply about this celebrated river,“ said Theresa L. Lorejo-Simsiman, California Stewardship Director for American Whitewater. “To have the opportunity to meet with Congressman McClintock and his dedicated staff to highlight the winter storm damage that has closed access routes for the river, like Lumsden Road, is a key step in the right direction for all stakeholders.”
On the second day of the event, over forty participants gathered in Mary Laveroni Community Park in downtown Groveland to discuss the importance of collaboration, partnership, and stewardship amongst community members for the Wild and Scenic Tuolumne River. The use and management of this resource requires collaboration between a broad group of community members, outfitters, land managers, and partners. For many of our agency partners budgets have been strained, which has resulted in staff shortages and limited resources. With outdoor recreation in high demand and public land visitation setting records every year, cross jurisdiction collaboration partnerships are imperative in order to support outdoor recreation in rural mountain communities, like Groveland.
The Outdoor Recreation Community Gathering provided the opportunity for local community leaders who support adventure-seeking visitors to discuss access challenges and opportunities to enhance river access, which is a sustainable economic driver for the region.
Congressman McClintock said, “I want to thank the Outdoor Alliance for putting together such a great event last week in Groveland. Bringing together the outdoor recreation community to discuss the issues that affect access to our public lands. The outdoor recreation economy is vital to my district, and I look forward to helping to improve access by implementing policies that will restore our public lands for the enjoyment of the American People.”
In recent years, more Americans than ever have turned to the outdoors, some for the first time and others for the first time in a while. Americans love connecting to public lands and waters through outdoor recreation, especially on the mighty Wild and Scenic Tuolumne River. Organizations like Tuolumne River Outfitters, Tuolumne River Trust, American Whitewater, the US Forest Service, outdoor businesses, and outdoor recreation community leaders are working together toward a shared vision of sustainable outdoor recreation in the region. With support from lawmakers like Congressman McClintock, we can ensure sustainable access to public lands and waters will help bolster the growing outdoor recreation economy throughout California.