Letter to the editor: too much off-road motorcycling

motorcycleDear Sierra Wave:
There are a lot of citizens in Inyo County concerned about the increase of off-road motorcycle activity here.
We’re not talking about those folks enjoying the vast array of dirt roads in the desert. I have friends who ride and they are respectful, courteous and responsible drivers.
I am speaking of the younger ones who have taken to putting in their own single tracks across the desert, creating ruts, flattening bushes, and, now, in spring, running over precious wildflower seedlings.
And, then, there are the ones who have taken to riding the desert hiking trails, where they absolutely don’t belong.
Here in Wilkerson, they’re thrashing the trail that leads out of Rawson Creek into Coyote. These trails are not for motorized vehicles.
When the off-road ATV craze began in Inyo County in earnest a number of years ago, I had some close calls with my dog, who almost got hit while we were out hiking the trails. I’d never seen motorcycles on these trails before and it was scary for me and my dog.
Since any one area can be a combination of BLM, Forest Service and DWP, it’s hard to regulate all this disruptive activity.
And, when BLM and Forest Service do put signs up, they’re sometimes pulled up as quickly as they’re put in. It’s very discouraging.
Yes, this land is here for all to use. That is true. However, when I hike through the wild spaces, I don’t uproot or run over plants, create trenches or disrupt the solitude with loud engine noises and exhaust fumes.
We have such an abundance of dirt roads here that it’s so unnecessary for these kids to be thrashing through the wild places.
I know it’s more fun and exciting than sticking to the dirt roads for these young kids, but we don’t live in a vacuum! They need to learn that.
We are all on this spinning globe together; humans, animals, plants, rocks, oceans, etc., and we need to be responsible to the needs of all, not just ourselves.
It starts with the parents, teaching responsibility to and love for the earth and then it moves out from there.
All you parents with motorcycle kids, please, please, please teach them to repsect others and the earth and stick to the roads!
We all have to live here in the beautiful Eastern Sierra together!
Thank you.
Marianne Vaughn
P.S. And if any of you riders out there are adults thrashing the desert, shame on you. You should know better.

43 Responses to Letter to the editor: too much off-road motorcycling

  1. Ken Warner March 16, 2014 at 12:01 pm #

    “…and we need to be responsible to the needs of all, not just ourselves.”

    Ha! And remember — we want more tourists.

    • Nan Brettell March 16, 2014 at 4:52 pm #

      Unfortunately Ken, If there gets to be too many off road vehicles in the Eastern Sierra creating air and noise pollution, it will not make for a not-so-great outdoor experience for both tourists and locals.

      • Ken Warner March 16, 2014 at 8:50 pm #

        I’m well aware of that and if you look at my previous posts, you will see my view of tourism and the destruction tourist leave behind all up and down the East Side and how the people of both countries need to find alternatives to the current economy.

        I was trying to make a joke. It’s not a very good joke.

  2. Wayne Deja March 16, 2014 at 1:49 pm #

    Marianne Vaughn….I agree with just about everything you say….I used to live in the Antelope Valley back in the 70’s and 80’s when the dirt-bike craze was first starting…very little regulation on what they could do and where they could be going back then…and what that did was all but totally destroy the whole Eastside area from about 90th St East to 180th St. East and between Ave.I and Ave.L….and affected that area to this day.Once you could walk less than a 1/2 mile and you’d spot at least one desert tortoise….after the dirt-bikers arrived,and to this day,you could,and can walk miles and not see any….except for the dead ones that had been run over by the motorcycles and off-roaders.I ,too,have been bothered by dirt-bikers on a hiking trail,of all places,Virginia Lakes,and it spilled into a problem later on when them, and their unleashed dogs were in the same campground as I was that led to Law Enforcement being called after their late-night drinking and bottle-breaking nearby….and their bad attitude about it all.Like you say,this land is here for all to use….responsibially….problem is, with many of them,that’s not how they see it…..and when you give them five miles,they want….and take twenty.Sad thing about your post and concerns is….you think it’s bad now,wait untill that proposed “trail system” takes place,where they will be able to take to the city and resadential streets getting to the quick stops,fast food restaurants and taverns…as well as carve their own trails into the land that still will be closed to motorized traffic.

    • SB March 17, 2014 at 7:07 am #

      Wayne you are wrong to blame the demise of the Desert Tortoise on off roaders.

      Please read the invasion of the Tortoise Snatchers

      Much of your rant about OHV users is true, but you are wrong when it comes to the Desert Tortoise.

      I see the number one problem with OHV’s is that many do not stick to existing trails. 2nd biggest problem witch is related to the first and that is trails that go straight up or straight down the side of a hill causing erosion. This is extremely evident if you just drive up Jawbone Canyon a few miles.


      • Wayne Deja March 17, 2014 at 3:55 pm #

        SB….Your link there proves my point….If your saying it’s the ravens that were killing off these full grown and mature desert tortoises’,not true…..it says the ravens get the little babies before their shells are hardened……AND the article you mention lists off-roaders as a primary reason for the tortoises’ decline.On one occasion,back in the middle-late 80’s,out in that eastside desert of Lancaster,within a mile I saw one tortoise run over and dead just OFF of a MX trail…and another upside-down next to a trail with four .22 bullet holes in his shell….no ravens nearby riding motorcycles or carrying a .22 rifle slung over his wing.

    • Desert Tortoise March 17, 2014 at 7:20 am #

      Send them south to Ridgecrest. They welcome that business openly. With the sharp decline in military travel they are keeping the motels in business.

      A trail system can work but it requires the cooperation of local of a local off road organization like Friends of Jawbone, and consistent enforcement from BLM officers and local sheriffs. It can work, but it requires cooperation and coordination. Don’t dismiss it out of hand.

    • Wayne Deja March 24, 2014 at 6:54 pm #

      Here’s a nice little story concerning this topic and comments left….on Sunday morning,I was awakened by loud dirt bikes speeding up and down my street….probably about 2 or 3 of them….about 20 minutes later while I was feeding the neighborhood cat,an ICSO squad car drove by,probably alerted to the early morning noise and the riders lack of caring if it might wake anyone up on a Sunday morning between 6:30 and 7 A.M…..fast forward to early Monday morning and to a yard I had scheduled to mow and weed wack just down the street from my house,and next door to where these dirt-rider “guy-guys” were reving their engines and doing some “hill-jumps” on a PRIVATE vacant lot…to make a long story short,before I mowed that yard, I had to go back home to pick up a push-broom so I could sweep up a couple broken bottles in the driveway of that house I was planning to mow,and where a 101 year old lady lives…..real nice….

  3. Trouble March 16, 2014 at 2:31 pm #

    Mother knows best.

  4. sugarmagnolia March 16, 2014 at 8:29 pm #

    Amen Sista!

  5. Ickity March 16, 2014 at 10:58 pm #

    I supposed it is a matter of perspective. I have been bullied by people on horseback and there is not one single person to complain to about that. Not once, but twice, and the last time their animal nearly bit be. I ended up on the ground about 6” down the hill to escape. Then again, I am rather tired of strollers on the hiking trail; walk a mile only to find a dirty diaper pitched off trail. Retched behavior. Pretty much just be nice, if you are the larger, let the others pass. Pretty simple. I have never been bothered by motorcycle riders and find them rather entertaining, most are respectful of the land, but alas, there are always a few bad ones, be it on horseback, with a stroller, or one a dirt bike, that will tarnish it for all the others.

    • Desert Tortoise March 17, 2014 at 12:17 pm #

      “Bullied” or did you do or say (shout) something to scare the horse? Just asking ……

    • Ken Warner March 17, 2014 at 3:19 pm #

      Six inches off the trail — good grief. If you see a horse and rider coming down the trail, step aside and let them pass. Say howdy to the rider then continue on your way. It’s really simple if you don’t try to make an issue of it.

    • sugar magnolia March 18, 2014 at 8:09 am #

      my ‘dislike’ of the dirt bikers has nothing to do with their behavior….I don’t think they’re bad people or ‘bullies’. It’s the nature of their activity that creates the problem.

      They rut the trails, my main complaint, making them unuseable for others. THe other issue is noise.

      A person with a stroller is a momentary nuisance….now consider the difference if as the stroller went by, it damaged the trail so that you could no longer use it….

      GET IT? That’s the difference between irritating/temporarily competing activities and one that is truly a problem that needs to be limited.

  6. salblaster March 17, 2014 at 12:28 am #

    Dirt bike riders are part of the public too and have a right to use public land for recreation just like everyone else. The idea that public land should be restricted from anybody seems very selfish and elitist. And wayne quit making up horror stories about lawless bikergangs roaming
    the owens valley, thats just not a reality around here. I mean when have you ever read a headline around here saying a gang of dirtbikers terrorizes campers, three taken to hospital, details at 11:00. get real and share the outdoors with everyone.

    • Desert Tortoise March 17, 2014 at 9:56 am #

      I too ride a bit off road, but your position is not one I can support. It does not seem to recognize that your indiscriminate use of public lands by motorized vehicles can deprive others of the enjoyment of that same land, and that unregulated use of the land by motorized vehicles can and indeed does destroy it and make it uninhabitable for the native vegetation and critters.

      It is not yours alone to use as you please. Because the land belongs to all Americans, you share it and that implies a degree of compromise and care you strike me as unwilling to engage in. It is one of the things that brings shame and discredit to off road recreation.

    • Wayne Deja March 17, 2014 at 12:32 pm #

      salblaster…..Not saying I was,or anyone else was or has been terrorized by a “biker gang” while camping in a campsite.The group I was talking of,they weren’t a “biker gang”……They were a bunch of drunken,unruly off- roaders thinking when their “guy group” arrived they could more or less do as they please with little to no respect for other campers or the land they were riding in,through,around and over….onto hiking trails,into the creek,using an old avalanche site as their “hill” to climb…I felt annoyed by it,and so did other campers by their reckless behavior,but never felt “threatened”….when I go camping,especially to sites off the beaten path,I have more than enough resources with me to take care of myself if I felt “threatened”,especially if it were by a group of drunken loud-mouths.

      • SB March 17, 2014 at 2:19 pm #

        Wayne – there is a big difference between feeling threatened and being threatened. Of course it’s better to be judged by twelve then carried by six, but before you take action with your resources sideline your emotions/feelings.

        • Wayne Deja March 20, 2014 at 7:01 pm #

          SB……The difference between feeling threatened and being threatened is one witness..or no witnesses’ from being the same.

          • SB March 21, 2014 at 9:02 am #

            Or a video

  7. Michael Prather March 17, 2014 at 6:24 am #

    Thank you for the well-written letter Marianne. It speaks for many of us in our valley. The ATV evolution has created more damage in our Lone Pine area – Alabama Hills, along the Lower Owens River, out on Owens Lake. This behavior is a blight on all of the many responsible riders. Education is our best hope for change. “Don’t Crush the Brush” 🙂

    Access, not excess
    Ride responsibly

    • Wayne Deja March 17, 2014 at 12:35 pm #

      Mike….very true…..When entering the Alabama Hills area on Movie Road,along with the slogan “Don’t crush the brush”,they should add the words “and next time you visit,please bring a couple large black trash bags and help to clean up the messes others have left “….

    • Mammoth Motorcycle Club March 20, 2014 at 10:54 am #

      Yeah sure…
      “Dont Crush the Brush” huh? So does that include your “friends” of the Inyo crowd, ripping out sagebrush and cutting down trees to close trails? Or does the ends justify the means in that situation? It’s a two way street, Michael, and it might be wise to practice what you preach. Just saying.

      And yes, education IS the best hope for change. But remember, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander.

      • Wayne Deja March 20, 2014 at 2:45 pm #

        Mammoth Motorcycle Club…..Living up there in Mammoth,you know NOTHING about the Alabama Hills and the destruction that takes place there,thanks,in main part, to the “off-roaders”….if you do ,may I suggest the next time you visit the area,be sure to bring those big black trash bags I mentioned earlier,and help us locals clean up the messes that are left there.

        • Mammoth Motorcycle Club March 21, 2014 at 10:31 am #

          Yes Wane you’re probably right, and living in your Lone Pine bubble you would know very little about the devastation that Mr. Prather and his FOI associates have imposed upon our roads and trails in the Mammoth Lakes area.

          If you did, you’d know that they’ve accomplished much more than “outlaw off-roaders” could have ever dreamed of – chopping down trees, ripping out plants, creating boobie traps, and pounding plastic closed signs every 20 feet.

          It’s a true mess out there, and the “environmentalists” over at FOI (Michael Prather) will carry this burden, not the outlaw motorcycle riders that you’ve dreamed up.

          • Wayne Deja March 21, 2014 at 2:42 pm #

            MMC…..Here is my suggestion to you and your group of “guy-riders”…..if you don’t like the FOI and their efforts to curb the total destruction of our wilderness areas up here NOT MEANT for motorized traffic,and certainly not meant for the more than the 50 % of those types that have no respect what-so-ever for the land,what you all should do is maybe relocate,along with your little color-coded outfits,maybe to Ridgecrest…..or California City where you would be more than welcome with your destructive behavior and habits….or maybe all the way down to Lancaster’s eastside,where the land there is so screwed up from the MX riders back in the 80’s it will never recover.As far as my dreamed up “outlaw MC rider group ” I mentioned earlier,like I said before,not an “outlaw group” at all…just a group of “guy” drunken off roaders…the only type of “dream-up” I can recollect from that day and evening turned out to be the nightmare THEY got when Law Enforcement arrived and told them to scatter off.

  8. MJA March 17, 2014 at 8:04 am #

    Burning gas sucks! =

  9. roger March 17, 2014 at 10:05 am #

    we all own the library, but that doesn’t give one person the right to burn it down!
    the use of the land is like that, you have the right to use it, but not destroy all the things in it that others enjoy.

    • Roger Rilling March 17, 2014 at 2:45 pm #

      Roger- I totally agree with and love your Library analogy. I would like to take it

      further. Off roaders are like the library users who “dog ear”, or spill food on, the

      books they check out. If questioned, they would probably respond with, “it’s still the

      same book”.

      • sugar magnolia March 18, 2014 at 8:03 am #

        I would change that to rip out a page or two…instead of just dog ear a page. I’m not against dirt bikers…but they impact other’s ability to use the same area for recreation. therefore, there must be limits as to where they can recreate.

        That’s just common sense. They should be identifying what places they want to be ‘theirs’….I would love it if they could use the motocross area all summer long, as long as they agree not to ride on the single track mountain bike trails around mammoth (making them unrideable for mountain bikes!)

      • Mammoth Motorcycle Club March 21, 2014 at 12:16 pm #

        Yes, I like your analogy too, and I will add too it!
        Your local environmentalist group (“Friends of the Inyo,” Sierra Club, etc) has somehow taken possession of the keys to the public library. They’ve made illegal copies of the key and are passing it out to all of their friends! They now have access the cash register and the front door – they decide who can come in, and for how long.

        Your once public library is now a money making business for them, and they run it however they see fit!

        Unfortunately, the new owners of the library decided to ban ALL motorized users in the name of preservation of the books! The motorized users still pay their required entry fee (green sticker) to the library, but are no longer treated equally.

        One day the motorized users wake up, and turn the ownership of the library back to the people!

        • Wayne Deja March 21, 2014 at 2:20 pm #

          MMC….If I were to go into the local library,and instead of choosing to check-out and enjoy the books they have there,what I did was knock over the counters,and when the books were scattered on the groundstart kicking and destroying them….then when the damage is done just walk out the door,I’d expect the next time I showed my stupid,arrogant face,a good bet I would be met with some opposition…..not only from the library,but the public too.

        • SB March 21, 2014 at 3:25 pm #

          Mammoth Motorcycle Club – You nailed it.

  10. Joe March 17, 2014 at 11:50 am #

    Continuing with example by “roger”, since we all own the library, does an individual have the right to come and be disruptive to other users by talking loudly inside the library? Technically not breaking the law. The definition of destroy and to what extent leaves a huge grey area. Unfortunately for the offroad crowd, the more use by offroaders will lead to more regulations, closures, etc. because the proverbial bad apples will ruin it for the responsible ones. While out deer hunting I’ve had riders zip past me at incredible speeds without a care of the dust and noise and I’ve had others who stop and ask me where I’m headed so that they can try to go a different direction to not disturb my hunt… Just saying some courtesy goes a long, long way and education sure helps.

  11. Trouble March 17, 2014 at 12:12 pm #

    I see more signs than trash or crushed wild flower seeds. Give me a break! How about a sign that says ” land of the free”.

  12. able body March 17, 2014 at 1:23 pm #

    There are bad apples in all groups, rock climbers and hikers included. As a seriously dedicated OHV operator based out of Bishop, I have always stayed on existing roads, stopped my quad or rhino as I approach people on horseback or walking dogs, and been as polite to others as possible. But lets be realistic. There is a war going on between the “greenies” who want to only allow public land for those who share their narrow vision and personal agenda.

    I for one am sick of every time I turn around there is another road barricaded or shut off for no apparent reason. At times I have almost crashed because of these sudden closures. Some of those closures are completely unsafe and I can see why they get ripped out as fast as they are put in. Before any existing road is closed, there should be a public input process and not some random indiscriminate agenda.

    I think I speak for the majority of the OHV crowd, I do not want to see mc or quads on single track hiking trails either. But lets not call a 1950s mining road a hiking trail.

    3rd generation Bishop Local.

  13. Happy Gilmore March 17, 2014 at 7:52 pm #

    @ able body: There is a public input process before routes are closed. The BLM and FS are REQUIRED to do environmental analysis, and engage/inform the public before ANY decision is made. There is no “random indiscriminate agenda.” Everything is thoroughly disclosed in a public process. You just need to engage in the process.

    • able body March 18, 2014 at 12:48 am #

      @ happy gilmore, BTW I am involved in the process and have attended several meetings. But I still find roads that are being closed that have never been discussed. Some groups are taking it among themselves to close off roads with wooden barracades, moving boulders to block roads and then try to camo the clearly defined roads with dead sage, rocks, and fallen trees. Not all of this closures are marked by the FS or BLM, in fact alot have no signs just a closure. Maybe you should get out and see what is happing in the back country instead of drinking the “green koolaid”.

  14. wagonrd March 17, 2014 at 8:06 pm #

    These arguments have been going on for 60 years, and the off-roaders have lost every one. The conservationists will be satisfied only when it becomes a felony to drive a vehicle off the pavement. That’s California! Many of we mountainbikers and ATV rider take out vacations in Utah where the citizens love off roading and have many beautiful and well regulated trails. AndI agree, it’s OK to hate that 13 year old kid with a new 125 Honda who is tearing up your neighborhood, just don’t blame we responsible senior citizens

  15. Trouble March 17, 2014 at 9:02 pm #

    Thank you Able Body. there are fewer roads open now then ever. Don’t make it out like people are still running around out of control anymore.

  16. Marianne Brettell-Vaughn March 21, 2014 at 1:22 am #

    Howdy folks!!!! I’m the gal who started this whole thing! Thanks for all your comments! They were good,some were a bit uninformed. In my letter,you might have missed the fact that I have friends who are riders too. Good,respectful riders who stay on the dirtroads; good people! I have an issue with those riders-mostly young boys,but not always-that have taken to thrashing their way through the open desert,creating their own single tracks and/or riding on trails where they don’t belong. Not good. One comment mentioned running over seeds. I said running over spring seedlings,not seeds These are tender annuals that come up in the spring. In a drought year,they are esp. vital to feed wildlife with their stems,flowers and seeds. And,they are getting run over a lot this spring. Dead plants can’t feed any animal.Not good. The signs I mentioned that are getting pulled up are official BLM or Forrest Service signs,and they are definetly placed in areas where they are needed. Hey,to get some perspective on how much open space we have here to play in,just go to any populated area and see all the no trespassing signs,etc. Off road vehicle users here in the Eastern Sierras have no room to complain;there are miles and miles of dirt roads to choose from!! It’s quite amazing,actually! I just want them to stay on the roads and off the trails and no blazing through the desert. Concerning Desert Tortoises,I have seen their mangled runover bodies more times then I care to talk about and I’ve cried everytime. It is just so very sad. There are probably other factors in their decline,but,believe me,ORV use has certainly been a terrible thing for these slow moving creatures.I know you folks that have an issue with all this will call me a tree hugger,which I am.I love hugging trees! And,I’m a ” granola head”too-I love it!!-But, I love people too!! The way I see it,is, we’re all in this soup together,including the plants and animals,and we need to treat everything and everyone with respect. Remember the Golden Rule they made us memorize in school? The one that talks about treating others as you want to be treated? A little bit of respect can go a long way! Stay on the dirt roads and teach other riders to do the same. Be grateful for all this land you get to play in I!.I’m grateful for it everyday. Thanks for listening!!!! Marianne

    • Mammoth Motorcycle Club March 21, 2014 at 11:54 am #

      Wow. Just…. Wow.
      There’s so much distortion and lop-sided philosophy in your follow-up I wouldn’t (can’t) know where to begin… Just a sad sign of the times I guess.

      Anyways, I hear Friends of the Inyo is hiring for Executive Director, you’d be a perfect match! Best of luck Marianne.

  17. Trouble March 21, 2014 at 12:28 pm #

    Marianne- it’s my opinion that news articles and lectures, just like this one, are the reasons our BLM and Forestry folks use to shut us out of our public lands.


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