Off-road trespass, vandalism getting worse

Published in the Hi-Desert Star:

By Phil Klasky / Wonder Valley
Friday, February 9, 2007 11:08 PM PST

Hi-Desert residents didn’t have much of a chance to celebrate the new county ordinance that helps curb off-road-vehicle trespass and destruction of our communities before a push back by riders that has made things worse. Just ask your local sheriff and homeowner.

In the last six months, we have seen a dramatic increase in ORV riders invading our communities from the south and west, along with “weekenders” who come out to our neighborhoods to ride all day and night on other people’s property and cause wholesale destruction of our public lands. Residents in the Landers, Pipes Canyon, Yucca Mesa, Flamingo Heights and Wonder Valley are suffering from large illegal stagings, vandalism of no trespassing signs and the restoration of damaged areas, excessive noise and dust and an emboldened attitude resulting in harassment and intimidation.

This President’s Day weekend we expect an invasion of hundreds of ORVs riding illegally throughout the Basin. We have little or no enforcement from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM – at our last public meeting the head ranger from the Barstow field office stated that they would not even try to protect public lands in our neighborhoods!). Our local sheriff’s department and code enforcement are overwhelmed.

In the Morongo Basin, ORV abuse is escalating at an alarming rate. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard riders say, “This is a free country and I will ride wherever I want.” Freedom comes with responsibility and all of our rights are threatened when people purposely disobey the law. Dozens of Morongo Basin residents have documented incidents of intimidation and harassment by ORV riders who retaliate against people trying to defend their land. We are collecting evidence to present to the district attorney and county board of supervisors. We need leadership from our elected representatives and from responsible riders and local vendors to promote a “zero tolerance” policy for road rage by ORVs.

Despite efforts to bring thousands of grant dollars into the Morongo Basin for ORV law enforcement, we are going backwards.

ORV rider Web sites encourage illegal trespass as if the destruction of public and private property is a some kind of adolescent game. Some residents, disgusted from the attacks and frustrated by the lack of law enforcement, have retaliated against riders on their own. People must not fall into the trap of meeting ORV violence with more violence.

Don’t mourn, don’t hide, don’t give up, don’t retaliate. Learn the law, document illegal activity and the identity of the perpetrators, and insist that the BLM, sheriff’s department and code enforcement respond to your calls and cooperate with the community and step up enforcement to meet the crisis. Get smart, get organized and fight for your rights.