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San Bernardino County upholds its off-road regulations

August 22, 2007|Sara Lin | Times Staff Writer

Spurred by desert homeowners tired of noise and dust, the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to uphold an ordinance that clamps down on off-road riders gathering in groups or trespassing on private land.

But supervisors promised to review some aspects of the ordinance criticized by riders.

In particular, supervisors promised to look at the restriction on "staging" -- when a large group of riders gathers on private land. Under the ordinance, groups of 10 or more must apply for a $155 special-event permit, which off-road proponents said was too severe and interfered with family gatherings on holiday weekends.

"This issue is really resolved best by good manners on both sides. By good manners from people riding off-road vehicles and by neighbors and others who have to accept that not everyone enjoys the same form of recreation," said Supervisor Dennis Hansberger, whose district includes off-roading desert hotspots Yucca Valley and Joshua Tree. "There are some details I'd like to revisit. But I don't want to heartlessly try to resolve them today."

Supervisor Brad Mitzelfelt agreed: "I think three weeks to get a permit for staging for [off-road] activity is too long. I think that for all the good this ordinance has done, that may be beyond what the board's intent was."

The ordinance, passed unanimously in April 2006, also established fines for off-roaders who ride on private property without written permission.

Frazier Haney, 25, said he was happy that the restrictions remained untouched, adding that kids on ATVs often speed down the street near his home in Joshua Tree.

"I think what everyone has to realize is that there are more people in California and, as places urbanize, they're just not going to be able to do things like they used to," he said.

Ray Pessa of Yucca Valley, who often rides with his family on land he owns in Johnson Valley, said he was satisified with the supervisors' assurance that they would revisit the staging restriction.

"We're not against an ordinance, we're in favor of one," he said. "But we're not in favor of a staging permit that punishes legal and responsible riding families."

About 250 people gathered at Tuesday's board meeting, an even number testifying for and against the ordinance during a marathon public hearing.

Desert residents told supervisors that the law was necessary to protect them against unruly off-roaders who tear through residential areas, kicking up dust.

Off-road proponents described their sport as a family-friendly tradition that was being marred by a few reckless riders.

"My family has been off-roading for four generations. I'm a little upset it came to this," said Cathy Hawkins, 56, of Yucca Valley.


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