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Off-Road Vehicles Reined In Further

San Bernardino County joins Riverside County in controlling riders who sometimes clash with homeowners on desert land.

April 12, 2006|Ashley Powers | Times Staff Writer

Following a vote by Riverside County to clamp down on off-road vehicle riding, San Bernardino County supervisors unanimously approved their own restrictions Tuesday to restrict riders who tear through private property and outrage desert homeowners.

"This whole problem could have easily been solved by good manners, and some people don't have them," said Supervisor Dennis Hansberger, whose district includes off-road hotspots such as Yucca Valley and Joshua Tree.

The new ordinance establishes fines for off-roaders who ride onto private property without permission or whose all-terrain vehicles, dune buggies or motorcycles are too loud, kick up dust or spew smoke and fumes.

A rider with four or more violations in three years could face a fine of up to $1,000 and as much as 90 days in jail.

The rules also tackle "staging," when a large group rides on private land. The new rules -- which take effect July 1 -- would require groups of 10 or more to apply for a special-event permit, which could cost up to $150 and require neighbors to be notified.

The supervisors' decision comes two weeks after neighboring Riverside County limited riding times to between noon and 5 p.m. and clamped down on the number of vehicles residents can ride on their property to one per 10 acres, with some exceptions.

Riverside and San Bernardino counties have struggled with how to resolve conflicts between their booming populations -- about 650,000 new residents in the last five years -- and off-road riders accustomed to traveling through endless desert.

About a fifth of the state's 960,000 riders live in Southern California's Inland region, and another quarter in neighboring Los Angeles and San Diego counties, according to the state parks department.

"There's a small group of outlaw riders," said Randy Rogers, a San Bernardino County code enforcement division chief. "That small group of people makes quite a big fuss."

The board will determine during its summer budget process how much funding will go to hire code enforcement officers, who can enforce the new rules and take some of the burden off sheriff's deputies and California Highway Patrol officers.

The code enforcement department has asked for more than $400,000 annually and about $100,000 for start-up costs.

In the months before the vote, officials tried to cool conflicts between riders and property owners by inviting both to meetings at which the ordinance was drafted.

Board Chairman Bill Postmus has said the process helped the off-road rules reach a middle ground: not too lenient, not too strict.

Meg Grossglass, a spokeswoman for the Bakersfield-based Off-Road Business Assn., said off-road enthusiasts were "very pleased" with the county's rules, which she called more reasonable than Riverside County's because there are no riding time restrictions, and riders had been part of the deliberative process.

In turn, Yucca Valley resident James Sammons, a member of a property owners group that has sometimes sparred with local riders, told the board: "We usually feel like the illegitimate son at the family reunion, and we don't feel that way anymore."

Thomas McEntire, the sole dissenting speaker in a sea of property owners wearing aqua T-shirts that read "Don't Tread on Me," said the new rules could make it cumbersome for him to have buddies ride on his five acres in Wonder Valley.

"Yeah, we're being picked on," he said, "but at the same time there's some bad apples riding."

Times staff writer Susannah Rosenblatt contributed to this report.

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