November 25, 2008

Dust ordinance stirs off-road resentment

by Peter Corbett
The Arizona Republic

It was intended to clear the air, but it appears Scottsdale's dust ordinance has stirred up resentment among off-road vehicle enthusiasts.

They were kicked off popular trails in the Granite Mountain Multiuse Area this summer while other users - jeep tours, equestrians and mountain bikers - continue to kick up dust on the state land in north Scottsdale.

"It's just another ridiculous bureaucratic mess that the public gets caught in," said Jeff Gursh of the Arizona Off-Highway Vehicle Coalition.

The coalition had worked with city and state officials to manage the 16,000-acre Granite Mountain area northeast of Pima and Dynamite roads and to keep motorized riders and others on signed trails.

Now that responsible riders are gone, Gursh said there is no one to keep a close eye on the state trust land that the city one day hopes to add to its McDowell Sonoran Preserve.

That has led to a series of problems, he said, including:

Rogue riders cutting fences and riding wherever they choose.

Contractors dumping construction waste.

Illegal shooting and vandalism of gates, signs and information kiosks.

Meanwhile, mountain bikers and hikers continue to park on the unpaved access points into the Granite Mountain trails, which, according to Gursh, should not be allowed under the dust-control ordinance the city adopted in March.

And there is confusion about allowed uses since most access points do not have signs that say off-road vehicles are prohibited.

Scottsdale police Sgt. Mark Clark said officers have been issuing warnings to off-road riders to make them aware that the Granite Mountain area is closed to motorized recreation.

Scottsdale spokesman Pat Dodds said the city is doing its best on enforcement, with limited resources, on a huge expanse of land.

Scottsdale prohibited off-road vehicles in the Granite Mountain area because it wants to acquire the state trust land for its preserve.

"We want to keep the folks out who would do damage to it," Dodds said.

Scottsdale is also writing a policy that would allow Jeep tours in the area but phase them out, he said.

Scottsdale and other municipalities adopted dust-control measures this year aimed at cutting air pollution. State law requires the stringent measures to meet federal regulations.