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On behalf of the County of Riverside, Sheriff Stanley L. Sniff is applying for a total of $157,585 in California State Parks Off-Highway Motor Vehicle (OHV) Recreation Division Grants & Cooperative Agreements Program funding for Law Enforcement Projects.
Riverside is the fourth largest county in the state and shares borders with Imperial, Orange, San Diego, and San Bernardino Counties. It spans 7,200 square miles spreading over 200 miles from east to west and 50 miles from north to south. The county is within 14 miles of the Pacific Ocean and extends to the Colorado River, bordering Arizona. Approximately 6,300 of the 7,200 square miles is unincorporated territory. Riverside County’s population grew by 41.7 percent between the years of 2000 and 2010, an increase of more than 644,000 people. Pursuant to the most recent census data, Riverside County has a population of more than 2.2 million people.
The vast land and its short distance from a large portion of the population results in an abundance of opportunities for Off-Highway Vehicle (OHV) use. Riverside County contains numerous legal OHV riding areas within its borders. These include the Wildomar Recreation area and the Starwest Motocross Park in the western portion of the county. This also includes legal OHV trails on land governed by the Bureau of Land Management in the eastern portion of Riverside County. Although these sanctioned venues exist, large portions of OHV riders choose to operate their vehicles illegally on public or privately owned lands. This has resulted in numerous accidents requiring an emergency response and complaints from citizens living on or near these areas.
From June 2007 through January 2014, there were approximately 18,711 calls for service from the public regarding illegal OHV use. That’s an average of more than 2,800 calls for service a year since 2007. There were approximately 3,565 citations issued throughout the county during that same period for the unlawful use of OHVs.
Illegal OHV use has resulted in conflicts with hikers, equestrians, private landowners, and other individuals seeking open space for recreational use. With the increasing population in Riverside County, the demand for OHV opportunities is increasing. Along with this demand comes a desire by law enforcement agencies to restrict OHVs from trespassing on private lands and into wilderness areas not open to OHV use.
Land management agencies are closing more public lands to OHV recreation because of conflicts with endangered species and other resource concerns. In both the eastern and mid-western portions of the county, these concerns include the fringe-toed lizard and the desert tortoise. According to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, the fringe-toed lizard is a State Endangered and Federally Threatened species, while the desert tortoise is a State and Federally Threatened species.
To address these issues, the Special Enforcement Bureau (SEB) conducts off-highway enforcement throughout the unincorporated territories of Riverside County. Selected personnel are trained in the operation, enforcement, and education of OHVs.
Members of SEB contact OHV operators riding illegally and issue citations and warnings as necessary. They contact property owners and educate them on posting proper signage and intrusion prevention. They also educate the public through departmental press releases, news articles, web sites, and public safety expositions. SEB personnel also meet with community members and leaders to discuss OHV issues. During every contact with an OHV enthusiast, deputies educate and often provide literature on legal riding venues and equipment necessary to operate OHVs safely.
Many of the legal OHV recreational opportunities located within the eastern portion of Riverside County exist on designated routes of travel. These routes of travel have been established by specific resource management plans generated by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the US Forest Service. These areas include about 60 miles of the Bradshaw Trail, Red Cloud Road, Coors Canyon, and other lands governed by the BLM. Several of these existing designated routes are near sensitive resources such as the endangered desert tortoise, designated wilderness, areas of critical environmental concern, and cultural sites. These legal venues are easily accessed by legal means and are aesthetically pleasing.
In the western portion of the county, there are several legal OHV areas open to the public. These include the Lake Elsinore Motocross Park, Wildomar Recreation area, Perris Raceway, Starwest Motocross Park, Cahuilla Creek Motocross Park, Milestone Ranch Motocross Track, and the San Bernardino National Forest. Some legal OHV sites vary in their operational schedules and have a variety of facilities available to users.
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