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Offroad vehicle issues

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June 02, 2003 12:22PM
Off-roaders: Program no deterrence

ENFORCEMENT: Some riders scoff at a plan to take them off thecounty's open trails.


Many dirt bike enthusiasts said a new Sheriff's Department program
designed to combat illegal off-roading won't deter them from hitting the open country.

The reason they prefer the natural terrain, they said, is simple: bigger
bumps and higher jumps.

"Pro riders go into the hills and cut their own tracks," said Shane Bess, 18,
a professional motocross racer who spends most days of the week
training on undeveloped lands in the Lake Elsinore area. "It's better

Under a blazing sun Friday, Bess, a member of Suzuki-sponsored Team
ECC (Escondido Cycle Center), kicked up the dirt during a training session
in the hills near Interstate 15 and Highway 74.

The winding dirt trail offers an ideal mix of hard and soft terrain, sharp
turns, steep slopes and straightaways, Bess said.

Standing at the top of the canyon with a stopwatch in his hand, Sparky Sparks, Bess' mechanic, said many locals have the wrong impression of dirt racers.

"We don't go find places to terrorize. We find places to train," he said.

Officials at the Sheriff's Department said they're all for off-roading, just
not when it takes place in unauthorized areas.

In 2002, the Lake Elsinore sheriff's station received more than 400 calls from residents who were upset about the noise or who were concerned about damage to the landscape or disruption to wildlife habitat, officials said.

At a news conference Wednesday, officials unveiled a new enforcement
and education program designed to steer off-roaders to managed private
and public off-road recreation sites.

Small teams of deputies will rove the back country looking not only for
illegal riding, but illegal dumping, stolen vehicles and drug activity.

The program will target the Lake Elsinore area this year, but officials hope
to expand the program across the county within three years.

Fiona Hooks, a Tuscany Hills resident, said she welcomed the news. Her
back yard faces undeveloped land that is covered with snaking dirt trails
that are frequented by off-roaders on weekends and evenings.

"There's wildlife back there," she said, including coyotes, rabbits and birds.
"I wouldn't want that disrupted. We've already taken up enough (land),"
she said.

Nearby resident Ruby Cerince took a more practical view.

Yes, the off-roaders do tear up the land, she said. But the developers will
eventually do the same.

Matt Beerer, who runs a youth motocross camp at Lake Elsinore
Motocross, a private facility with several tracks, said riders often don't
think about their own safety when they go into the back country.

If they get into an accident, it may be very difficult for help to get to them,
he said.

Danny Carlson, 23, Kevin Townsend, 22, and Jason Ciarletta, 19, all
professional racers who frequent the Lake Elsinore facility, said they do
most of their training at private tracks and sympathize with residents'

They said, however, that they can't resist the occasional romp in the hills.

"You can jump off rocks, you can find cliff jumps. It's play-riding," Carlson

"And it's free," added Ciarletta.

Some off-roaders who are new to the sport sometimes find it intimidating
to share the tracks with more experienced riders, Townsend said.

Tom Evans, the owner of Elsinore Motor Sports, said the authorities face
an uphill climb trying to dissuade people from riding open trails.

"A lot of people move here because there is so much open riding," he said.

Bess said he's already been fined once for illegal riding. But he's also been
let off the hook a couple of times.

He said the Sheriff's Department might be better off spending its money
targeting more serious crimes.

"What damage are we really doing that makes them want to get us?"

Reach Douglas Quan at (909) 587-3129 or dquan@pe.com

Offroad vehicle issues

katrina island 1105June 02, 2003 12:22PM

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