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Spotlight on Activists

Californian Ed Stovin Discusses 25-Plus Years Protecting Trails

Ed Stovin got involved in off-road advocacy in the mid-1990s when he joined the San Diego Off Road Coalition after riding dirt bikes in the California desert from the time he bought his bike and gear at age 16.

As with many activists, it was a personal occurrence that nudged him to serve.
“The place we used to camp and ride near Painted Gorge was closed,” he said. “It became designated as Wilderness. I found out it was because of federal legislation called the California Desert Protection Act, or S. 21. I wanted to learn how to prevent other areas I love to ride from being closed.”

In the early 2000s, Stovin joined the SDORC board of directors, then moved into the role of vice president and, in 2005, became president of the organization.

“During this time, I also became a director of the California Off-Road Vehicle Association, a position I still have,” Stovin said. “After three years as president, I took a break from SDORC leadership. In 2015, the organization really needed a president. They were talking about folding up the group. So, I came back on and have been president since then.

“By the way, I am also president of Friends of Ocotillo Wells, an 80,000-acre, state-run off-road park in the desert. We mainly help the park with their interpretive program.”

Stovin was instrumental in two major victories for California off-roaders.

“First, in our local forest—Cleveland National Forest—when travel management came, a forest representative came to an SDORC meeting and asked if anyone wanted to help the forest get new trails,” he said. “As long as all the existing routes were being looked at by specialists, he said, we should have some brand new routes designated. I spent quite a number of days out there marking a brand new route and later cutting it in on my dirt bike. We also had some help from Tierra Del Sol Four Wheel Drive Club and San Diego Mountain Biking Association. I believe the Cleveland was the only forest in the country to have gained mileage because of travel management.

“Our biggest accomplishment was helping California get a good, permanent OHV program,” Stovin said. “Our OHV program has had either five- or 10-year sunsets since it began in 1971. In 2007, it was given 10 years until it either sunset or was reauthorized, and we knew it would be a battle.

“In 2016, we applied for a grant through Polaris Inc. for a state lobbyist. We received the grant and hired a really great lobbyist named Kathy Lynch. With her help, and working with State Parks, the bill author’s office and other off-road groups, we were able to get a great program with no sunset.

“The environmentalists pushed very hard to disrupt our program in many ways,” Stovin explained. “For example, they wanted all vehicles, including off-road motorcycles, to have license plates the same size as the plates on cars. We asked our lobbyist to work with all the off-road vehicle stakeholders, and she did a really good job of keeping all of us on track. We ended up with a great, permanent program.

“So, we put her on retainer, and she has been helping us lobby state legislation ever since.”

The biggest issue facing San Diego riders, Stovin said, is the lack of a riding area near their homes.

“There is a small area one hour out of town, and then the nearest desert is at least two hours out of town,” he said. “We are working with local elected officials to build a new off-road-vehicle park.

“With the coming election, we may have the best shot we have had in decades to get a new park. We have been helping an off-road friendly candidate by printing bumper stickers and distributing them as well as helping with his campaign.”

Portrait of Ed Stovin with his bikes

Photo by Karen Cox

About Ed Stovin


I work on an earthquake simulator in the Structural Engineering Dept. of the University of California, San Diego. I plan to retire in about three years and look forward to spending more time advocating.

Motorcycle Beginnings

I started riding dirt bikes when I was 16. I had to wait until I was old enough to buy my own bike and gear. I grew up in the suburbs of San Diego, and many people in my neighborhood rode dirt bikes or drove [dune] buggies. Before I got my own bike, I would ride around on my Stingray, wishing I could go with them. My friends, Bill Tifft and Don Mills, taught me how to ride and took me to the desert for the first time.

Current Rides

I own 11 motorcycles. My three favorites are my V-Strom 650, DR650 and FE 501. I really love that Husky 501. It is a perfect, do-anything dirt bike that is street legal. I ride vintage motocross and have a few old bikes set up for that, as well as some bikes I just enjoy owning—a CR250, Maico 440, Husky 400 CR, CT175, an HL500, a Z50, VTR1000 and Triumph 500.

Favorite Place to Ride

My favorite area to ride is the north side of Ocotillo Wells. The terrain is really varied without a lot of rocks. The area is famous for the Jeep trails, hill climbs and sand washes. You can have fun there all day without using your upper gears.

Best Advice

If you love motorcycles, learn to ride safely and ride often. Learn how to work on your bike(s), and get involved with making motorcycling better for all us riders. When I was a young man, I only wanted to ride and race. As I’ve gotten older, advocating has become more and more satisfying. I encourage all of you to look for ways to improve motorcycling for all of us.

Photo by Karen Cox