By Stephen Barnett
By Stephen Barnett
Off-road enthusiasts throughout Riverside County face troubled times, while a recent ordinance attempts to restrict their sport.
A Riverside offroad ordinance is scheduled to go before a City Council committee on July 6. It will decide the fate of the offroad community practicing their sport within the 7,200 square-mile Riverside County.
Under the proposed ordinance many of the trails winding through the hills of Riverside would be made off limits. Those who choose to offroad on their private property would be restricted to using 2.5 acre areas or more. Also, they would only be able to ride on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, mostly during the daylight hours.
The ordinance would further regulate the use of more than four offroad vehicles to each property; the use of more vehicles would require an additional permit. While the use of amplified music and loud speakers will also be prohibited.
“I got one neighbor who constantly complained of the dust and noise so I’ve made sure to turn off my bike put it in neutral and walk it down the hill next to his house,” said Justin Widney, an RCC student. “I always make sure to show respect, to let everyone know I’m there for fun and not trouble.”
Some who drive offroad use the experience to explore their environments, which was the case for Edward Abbey. He was a famous writer and environmentalist who spent 15 years of his life as a ranger, driving offroad through the hills of Utah and exploring the wilderness, which was the inspiration behind the writing of his book “Desert Solitaire.”
“The rancher strings barbed wire across the range, drills wells and bulldozes stock ponds everywhere, drives off the elk and antelope and bighorn sheep, poisons coyotes and prairie dogs, shoots eagle and bear and cougar on sight, supplants the native bluestem and grama grass with tumbleweed, cow (dung), cheat grass, snakeweed, anthills, poverty weed, mud and dust and flies-and then leans back and smiles broadly at the TV cameras and tells us how much he loves the West,” Abbey wrote in “One Life at a Time, Please.”
For the 4,800 registered off-road vehicle users in Riverside County who have a desire to offroad, a $100 permit fee will be required every five years. Those attempting to steer clear of paying for this permit will be subject to a $1,000 fine. The current fine for trespassing in Riverside County is only $100 for the first offense.
“A lot of us that off-road in the hills don’t even realize these new laws might be passed,” said Chris Olsen, a student at RCC.” It’s not fair if we get fined for riding in places we’ve been going to for years.”
The cost of enforcing the new ordinance is being considered by the City Council.
“The money earned from the proposed Off-Highway Vehicle permits will be part of the Planning Department’s budget,” Deputy Planning Director Mark Balys said. “The fee will be kept low and will cover the costs for processing the permit. Under enforcement money collected as fines will go to the general fund.”
The private property riding restrictions were decided after an April 20 demonstration was held at the Glen Helen Speedway. The purpose was to examine the distance the sound traveled from various types of bikes with a 65-decibel level. This is the same decibel level as an alarm clock, according to the League for the Hard of Hearing.
According to the current California Health and Safety Code, “All Californians are entitled to a peaceful and quiet environment without the intrusion of noise which may be hazardous to their health or welfare.” California passed the Noise Pollution Act in 1973, which gives local governments the power to create laws to control the noise pollution in their county.
“Even if someone interprets that these vehicles are covered under the state act, what good is that if the state act does not set limits, does not provide enforcement, does not give anyone the tools to deal with the community concerns,” County Spokesman Raymond Smith said.
The Riverside County Sheriff’s Department Off-Highway Vehicle Enforcement team will be riding through these back trails looking for people violating the new ordinance.
“When operating your offroad vehicle, drive or ride it safely. Follow the recommendations provided by the manufacturer, including, wearing a helmet and protective clothing. Always stay alert for other vehicles, take time to survey the course or road you’ll be operating on, and be courteous to other riders. Finally, have fun and thanks for visiting us here in Riverside County,” said Riverside County Sheriff Bob Doyle on the Sheriff Department webpage http://www.riversidesheriff.org/rove/.
Some students at RCC feel those that offroad are destructive to the environment.”Most of these people who go romping in the hills of Riverside are either on somebody’s private property, or on state or county property,” said Scott Brady, an RCC student. “No one gives these people the right to go tear up land that doesn’t belong to them.”
The State of California is developing a 1,200-acre state offroad park, in Laborde Canyon east of Moreno Valley. It will not be completed for a couple of years.
There are those in Riverside County who will always look for that perfect trail, as Ed Abbey did decades ago.
Abbey wrote in “Desert Solitaire.” “May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your mountains rise into and above the clouds…where something strange and more beautiful and more full of wonder than your deepest dreams waits for you – beyond that next turning of the canyon walls.”