Edward Waldheim, Founder of Friends of El Mirage (FOEM)

Ed was well known for his work in the West Mojave desert, and not surprisingly he took a most interesting trail in getting there. Born in San Francisco in 1938, Ed and his family moved to Argentina when he was ten years old. He grew up farming and it was then he first rode motorcycles, an activity that would become his life-long passion.

In his early twenties, Ed returned to the United States and served in the Army before making Southern California his home. Soon he bought a well-used scrambles motorcycle and took up racing in the desert. He formed the Clean Sweep Racing Team in 1976, and was the 1977 Desert Open Senior Champion. He won over thirty trophies racing with D.R.A., C.R.C. and AMA District 37. He raced the Check Chase, the California City Grand Prix, and at Adelanto among other events.

Although Ed also made his mark living and working in Glendale for many years, in 2004 he took up permanent residence in California City in Eastern Kern County to be close to the Jawbone Canyon OHV riding area. He’d been volunteering with the Bureau of Land Management’s Ridgecrest Field Office for several years prior to that and wanted to live where he could have direct access to the desert he loved.

Ed passed away at his home in the desert on December 9, 2019, after a long but remarkable and courageous battle with cancer, a warrior to the end.

Certainly Ed successfully raced off-road motorcycles since the early 70s, but he will mostly be remembered as a tireless advocate for OHV recreation and a champion of environmental protection. Ed attended over two hundred meetings every year and developed close working relationships with the land management leadership and staff of the BLM, National Forests, and State and National Parks in California. Nearly all of his advocacy efforts were self-funded out of his own pocket. He often toured off-road areas with land managers, elected officials, state commissioners, journalists and scientists in his Chenowth buggy. Often that would be their first experience off-roading.

Ed’s first term as a California Off-Highway Motor Vehicle Recreation commissioner was from 1984 to 1988, appointed by Governor George Deukmejian. During this time he served as its Chairman and proved an effective leader during the formative years of this important board. In 2003, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger reappointed Ed to the OHV commission for another full term, and he received its Golden Helmet Award for his years of service ensuring the coexistence of off-highway vehicle recreation and environmental protection on public lands in California. The commission also named its pavilion at the Hungry Valley State Vehicular Recreation Area after Ed in his honor.

Many outdoor organizations benefited from Ed’s leadership. Beginning in 1992, he served as president of the California Off-Road Vehicle Association (CORVA) for more than twenty years. During that time CORVA membership tripled and the association maintained its leading position in advocating for off-road recreation, and later Ed would be recognized as their Off-Roader of the Year.

As a member of the board of trustees for AMA District 37, Ed received the prestigious AMA Motorcycling Advocate award in recognition of his lifetime of work for motorcyclists. The award is one of the organization’s highest honors and was created by the AMA to recognize individuals fighting for the rights of motorcyclists. Ed is also a member of the AMA Hall of Fame, inducted in 2007.

Nationally, the Bureau of Land Management in 2000 awarded him the agency’s “Making a Difference” National Volunteer of the Year award, and in 2014 he was recognized by the National Off-Highway Vehicle Conservation Council with their Perseverance Award for promoting a positive future for OHV recreation. In 2005 Ed was inducted into the Off-Road Motorsports Hall of Fame for his years of service in protecting trails and fostering relationships between the motorized and non-motorized communities, and he received the ORMHOF Perseverance Award in 2019.

More locally, during the late 1990s, Ed created three non-profit organizations to promote recreational trail use in California: Friend of Jawbone, Friends of El Mirage, and the California Trail Users Coalition. Through these groups Ed brought millions of dollars in federal and state grants to desert communities to maintain OHV trails and riding areas on adjacent public lands, to create maps showing OHV trails throughout the state, and to build and operate visitor centers to educate the public and assist in keeping them safe. In response, Ed was presented the Jimmy Radoumis award by the Kern County Tourism Board in 2013 for his work promoting Kern County’s varied recreational and historical resources to outdoor lovers around the world.

Ed’s legacy is not only about the many amazing things he achieved during his lifetime. It is also about the many and uncountable others that have been inspired into activism by Ed, and all that they achieve. His legacy will continue to be built upon by them.