Officers hear fewer off-road complaints this holiday

From the Hi-Desert Star

By Mark Wheeler / Hi-Desert Star
Tuesday, February 20, 2007 10:53 PM PST

MORONGO BASIN – The Presidents’ Day weekend was, by law-enforcement accounts, reasonably uneventful on the off-road vehicle front this year. Historically, the occasion has ranked second only to Thanksgiving weekend for citizen complaints about ORV activity in the Basin, but a pre-planned increase in enforcement presence this year seems to have had results.

County code enforcement officer Mike Romage reported his office coordinated with the county sheriff and the Bureau of Land Management to put more officers in the field this year.

“We definitely saw a change in the Basin,” he said.

Although by his report the office took a lot of calls, he noted they weren’t exceptionally numerous, nor did his office hear from many of the residents who are historically driven to complain on the longer weekends. The code enforcement team of six made 337 enforcement contacts over the three-day period and wrote four citations, according to Romage.

He also reported that five new cases of illegal staging were opened in which people had assembled in large numbers without a permit.
In addition, his officers made 68 contacts for education purposes and handed out more than 140 educational fliers.

Romage believes the county’s ORV ordinance, adopted by county supervisors in April 2006, is having a positive affect, although he also remarked on the importance of enforcement in the field.

This weekend’s attention was planned in advance and, in fact, was subject of a Community ORV Watch meeting last week.

At that meeting, all three enforcement agencies told the audience they would be out in force, and were planning to target historic hot spots. Besides the six county officers, the sheriff’s office dedicated four officers to ORV duty over the weekend, and the local BLM officer patrolled overtime all three days. Sheriff’s Sgt. Rick Collins reported his team made 30 enforcement contacts over the weekend, eight of them resulting in citations and one in recovering a stolen vehicle.

His group also made education contacts and handed out fliers.

One new tool the department used this year was an electronic signboard on Old Woman Springs Road, just past the Circle K store. This sign gave directions to the open ORV area in Johnson Valley, and Collins suggested it may have been helpful in limiting the amount of illegal riding activity in Landers. Visitors, he said, sometimes mistakenly think open lands in the Landers area are part of the Johnson Valley ORV preserve. The sign, he thought, helped prevent this error.