ORV Ordinance Frequently Asked Questions

ORV Ordinance (3973) FAQ

What is County Ordinance 3973 – the “ORV Ordinance”?
An ordinance to regulate off-road vehicle use in unincorporated residential areas of the San Bernardino County desert. The ordinance:

  • Protects residents from ORV trespass, harassment, noise, dust, and nuisance
  • Reduces conflict between riders and residents
  • Stops irresponsible riders in their tracks
  • Informs the responsible rider where and how they may ride

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Why do we need an ORV ordinance?
Prior to ORV Ordinance 3973, irresponsible off-road vehicle use was making life miserable for everyone and creating a huge burden on law enforcement. Conflict between riders and residents was getting out of control. Existing laws were unclear, not adequate to prevent trespass, and essentially unenforceable. Residents were suffering uncontrolled trespass on their property, harassment and intimidation, and unrestricted noise, dust, and fumes. And ALL riders, responsible or not, were getting blamed!

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How does the ordinance affect me?


  • Protects your right to the peaceful enjoyment of your home
  • Keeps your private property off-limits to trespassing ORVs
  • Supports your property values
  • Provides a legal tool to fight chronic abusers
  • Allows you a voice in the permitting of large staging events in your neighborhood
  • Protects you from the destructive and unhealthy effects of excessive noise, dust, and fumes from off-road vehicles

  • Clarifies where and how it’s legal to ride
  • Provides educational outreach to riders through the Code Enforcement team
  • Reduces conflict with residents
  • Separates legal riders from criminals and preserves their ability to ride

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Who is the ordinance aimed at?
Irresponsible riders. Whether you’re local or from out of the area, if you ride irresponsibly, this ordinance is aimed at you.

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What does the ordinance do? What are the major provisions?

  • Trespassing: Persons riding on property that is not their own must have written permission on their person from the owner of that property.
  • Staging: A permit is required if 10 or more persons are gathered FOR THE PURPOSE OF RIDING. (Gatherings for other purposes are NOT AFFECTED by this ordinance.)
  • Nuisance: Riders disturbing the peace and quiet with noise, dust, smoke, and fumes may be cited.
  • Noise: Noise standards for off-road vehicles now match those of the California Vehicle Code.

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How does the ordinance work?
The ordinance is enforced by the County of San Bernardino, through the Code Enforcement ORV team and the Sheriff’s Department.

    If you suspect a violation:

  • Contact the Code Enforcement ORV team at 760- 228-5410. Be prepared to tell them the location and nature of the problem and if possible where the ORVs are staging from. The ORV team will investigate, make contact, and issue a warning or a citation if necessary. The ORV team may continue to patrol trouble spots.
  • When there is a crime in addition to ORV violation, or after hours, the Sheriff’s Department should be contacted at 760-366-3781.
  • It is important to report violations each and every time they happen. Enforcement funding depends on it!
    If you are a rider:

  • Educational outreach to riders is a primary role for the Code Enforcement ORV team. Contact Code Enforcement if you have questions on the ordinance at 760-228-5410.
  • ORV staging (more than 9 persons gathered for the purpose of riding) requires application in advance for a Temporary Special Event Permit. Neighbors will be noticed of the application and have opportunity for input. Contact Code Enforcement for more information (760-228-5410).

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I’ve called Code Enforcement about a suspected violation. What happens next?

  • Code Enforcement ORV team response time varies, depending on scheduling, time of day, or workload. Code Enforcement officers are normally available during working hours and weekends.
  • If the problem is ongoing or after hours, you may want to contact the Morongo Basin Sheriff’s Office Dispatch and request assistance (760-366-3781). For chronic or recurring violations, contact the Morongo Basin Sheriff’s Office during regular business hours and ask for a member of the Sheriff’s OHV Enforcement team. They can provide additional patrol in problem locations.
  • Information is golden. Deputies and Code Enforcement officers are more likely to be able to help if you can provide descriptions, numbers, and where the violator is staging from.
  • Code Enforcement will contact the violator, and warn or cite the violator at their discretion. Code Enforcement officers cannot cite for violations they don’t observe, so you must be willing to cite the offender into court in cases where the problem is not evident to the responding officer. A Code Enforcement officer can explain details and advise you of your options.

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What are the penalties?
The ORV enforcement team focuses on outreach and education rather than penalties. They know that most riders aren’t intentionally breaking the law. For those who do repeatedly break the law, penalties begin with a warning and escalate with repeated violations up to a $1000 fine and/or imprisonment for up to 90 days. A rider must really intend to offend to earn a penalty. This ordinance is complaint-driven; no harm, no foul.

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So where CAN riders ride?

  • Johnson Valley OHV Area, the largest OHV area in the nation, which allows for cross-country travel. There is no open riding in the Morongo Basin outside of the Johnson Valley OHV Area!
  • BLM designated routes, including New Dixie Mine Road, Rattlesnake Canyon, Sunfair Dry Lake, Gold Park, and Gold Crown Road. These are limited access roads and trails; riders must stay on designated, existing trails and roads.
  • The “Off-Highway Vehicle Information Brochure” provides a map and more information. View a PDF of the brochure here, or to obtain a copy or for more detailed maps call the Sheriff’s Department at 760-252-6000.

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Is it true that the ordinance keeps me from having more than 9 people on my property?
Not at all. The Ordinance affects only people gathered FOR THE PURPOSE OF RIDING. If you are gathering for any other purpose – a barbecue, a birthday party, a family camp-out, whatever – this ordinance DOES NOT AFFECT YOU.

The Staging provision of Ordinance 3973 reads as follows, in full:

No person shall organize, conduct, or participate in staging, as defined herein, involving ten
(10) or more persons, without first obtaining and maintaining on the property where such staging is occurring, a Temporary Special Event Permit for a Minor Event pursuant to section 84.0745 of the County Code, even though, pursuant to sub-section 84.0745(a)(2), such a Minor Event, involving less than two hundred (200) persons, would not normally be subject to the Temporary Special Event Permit process.

“Staging” is defined in the Ordinance as follows, in full:
“Staging” shall mean a formal or informal assembly or gathering of off-highway vehicles,
or other vehicles and equipment accessory thereto, including any related camping or
establishment of temporary accommodations, on private or public property for purposes
of coordinating the use and operation of such off-highway vehicles on such property or
the surrounding areas.

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How was the staging permit 10-person number arrived at?

Ordinance 3973 was created with the assistance of a group of stakeholders convened by the County. The stakeholders included rider groups and resident groups. The stakeholders, with advice from both Code Enforcement and the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department, negotiated the “10-person” provision in detail. Together, they decided that they wanted to give law enforcement latitude in dealing with ORV stagings. Stagings of less than 10 vehicles with a number of people trading off and riding day and night causes a significant impact on the neighborhood. Community ORV Watch had originally advocated for a threshold of 5 vehicles but compromised on 10 persons to give officials the discretion they requested to determine if the staging was having a negative impact on the community. There has never been a case where Code Enforcement has required an Ordinance 3973 permit when 10 people have gathered for any purpose other than riding.

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Can I ride on CSA roads? Does the ordinance apply there?
Ordinance 3973 does apply to CSA (County Service Area) roads. Here are some of the issues with ORVs and CSA roads:

  • Ordinance 3973 pertains to “publicly-maintained” roads, not “County-maintained” roads. CSA road district roads are maintained by property taxes levied within the district and are therefore publicly maintained and governed by this Ordinance, even though not maintained by the County.
  • County Service Area roads in unincorporated areas of the desert are not free of legal oversight but are governed by California Vehicle Code enforcement authority, in conformity with state law. Greensticker vehicle laws apply to off-road vehicles on CSA roads.
  • Because CSA road districts are maintained by local taxpayers, increased use of these roads for purposes other than reasonable and necessary access increases the cost of maintenance and constitutes an unnecessary fiscal hardship and an unfunded mandate.
  • Off-road vehicle use of CSA roads degrades road features, thereby placing reliable access by emergency services at risk.

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Who designed the ordinance?
Under the direction of the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors, Code Enforcement worked out the provisions with stakeholders, including riders groups, citizens groups, and property owners. The stakeholders came to consensus, and the Board of Supervisors approved the ordinance unanimously in 2006 after full public hearing.

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Is the ordinance working?
Yes! Code Enforcement and the Sheriff’s Department report that Ordinance 3973 has given them the tools to deal with irresponsible riders and neighborhood nuisances effectively, reducing rider-resident conflict and unnecessary drains on officers’ time. Beleaguered residents have begun to find relief, and responsible riders can separate themselves from the outlaws. Educational outreach has been emphasized and is ongoing, and both riders and residents are gaining a better understanding of what is required to be good neighbors in the desert.

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How can I support the ordinance?
Ordinance 3973 is under review by the County Board of Supervisors in the summer of 2007. It’s important that the Supervisors RENEW this ordinance with NO CHANGES that would weaken it! How you can help:

  • Contact your Supervisor. Tell them that the ordinance is working and needs to be supported with no changes that would weaken it. Download a letter here, send an e-mail message or even better, write your own! And don’t forget to call your Supervisor, too! Phone numbers and addresses can be found directly below. It is critical that the Supervisors hear from you!
  • Show up at the public hearing. Opponents to the ordinance are expected to be there in force. YOUR PRESENCE IS CRITICAL! Tuesday, July 24, 2007 Tuesday August 21, 2007, at the County Building in San Bernardino. Monitor this Website for updates and rides.
  • Write the newspapers. Letters to the Editor are an important way to get your views across. Explain why the ordinance is important to you. Write today! Also, call in on radio shows.
  • Talk to your neighbor. Get the word out!
  • Volunteer with Community ORV Watch. Folks are needed to do outreach at the swap meet, farmers market, on the phones, etc. Carpools will be needed for the public hearing in San Bernardino. Contact our volunteer coordinator here.
  • Report abuse. Code Enforcement and the Sheriff’s Department need you to report ORV abuse; enforcement funding depends on it!

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How do I contact my County Supervisor?
If you’re unsure which District you’re in, go to the County Website. You may also send an email directly to your Supervisor here.

    First District (approximately Twentynine Palms and east):
    Supervisor Brad Mitzelfelt, (909) 387-4830
    Third District (approximately west of Twentynine Palms):
    Dennis Hansberger, (909) 387-4855
    Mailing address for both:
    San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors
    385 North Arrowhead Avenue
    San Bernardino, California 92415-0110

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