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Motocross Racers Get a Final Dose of Indian Dunes Dirt

March 31, 1985|DOUG SMITH | Times Staff Writer

It was a sad day for the people who thrive on blood, toil, sweat and mud. But there were no tears.

Indian Dunes Park near Valencia, a haven since 1970 for the people who like to ride in the dirt on motorcycles, threewheelers, autos and go-carts, closed.

The demise of the 600-acre park, which was closed by its owner, Newhall Land and Farming Co., leaves its patrons no place in Los Angeles County to do their riding legally.

For the people who love noise, dust, the smell of exhaust and the feel of flying through the air on steel machinery, it was bad news.

But they shed no tears because this is a crowd that wears full battle helmets, plastic breastplates, reinforced trousers and calf-length boots and then goes out and gets covered with mud and oil. They live with the pain.

Several hundred of them showed up recently with their girlfriends, boyfriends, husbands, wives, mothers and fathers to ride their last race at the Dunes. They rode as if there were no tomorrow.

Now they said they do not know where they will go.

"I know where they're going to go," motocross rider Kenny Zahrt said. "They're going to go riding in the hills."

Indeed, that seemed predictable.

In an attempt to cut down on illegal motorcyle riding in the hills, the Los Angeles Police Department has established a special detail to patrol the northern slopes above the San Fernando Valley. On recent weekends, the team has cited as many as 60 motorcyclists a day.

The closing of Indian Dunes leaves no legal off-road motorcycle area in Los Angeles County, according to motorcyclists. The nearest alternative is in Corona, 60 miles to the south, they said.

Newhall Land and Farming Co. gave no explanation for its decision to suspend operations after 15 years.

Tom Dierkman, an operations official for the company, said Sunday that the decision was a difficult one, made for operational and economic reasons.

Dierkman pointed out that several similar motorcycle parks have closed recently in Southern California.

"I think this one just reached its time," Dierkman said.

Walt James, who has managed Indian Dunes for Newhall Land and Farming Co. since it opened in 1970, said he believes the park was doomed by spreading development and rising property values.

Dierkman said the company has no immediate plans for the property and would not mind seeing the park reopen, "but under different auspices." He declined to elaborate.

In their free moments between races, many patrons expressed their belief that insurance problems were behind the closure. Many said they thought the company has been sued too often.

"Too many people get hurt, and Mom and Pop decide they want to sue because Sonny Boy got hurt," said Jim MacDonald, a retired professional motocross rider.

MacDonald, a plumber, works for movie studios that use the park during the week for filming.

"The studios don't present as much of a threat to Newhall Land and Farming as these people do," MacDonald said.

After being idle for seven years, MacDonald raced in the veteran junior class recently and won it.

"For me, it's a kick," he said.

For Canadians Brent Shury of Saskatchewan and Mark Medock of Manitoba, it wasn't such a kick.

The two professionals riders drove south in their vans this winter to sharpen up for the spring opening of the Canadian motocross circuit and are staying with friends in Valencia.

"I didn't know it would be closed," Medock said. He said he would have to find somewhere else to train.

That solution isn't as attractive to aficionados such as Bobbie Welty, for whom the park has become the center of family life.

"I've been involved for 27 years," said Welty, standing beside her red pickup truck. "My husband raced 19 years. My kids were late bloomers. One day, they said, 'Mom, I want to race.' I said, 'OK.' "

Welty said there was a plan afoot to save the motorcycle park. But she didn't want to say what it was.

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