On any given day in the undeveloped space of Paso Robles or along the dusty banks of the Salinas River, a quick flash of color from off-road vehicles can be glimpsed through the trees.
Some say the outdoor activity is a staple in North County life, one that’s been passed down through generations.
But others — most recently a group of residents in the Montebello Oaks neighborhood near Highway 46 East and Union Road — say off-road riding is noisy, dusty and a disturbance that needs to go.
The Paso Robles City Council will hear the issue tonight as it considers a new law to make riding off-road vehicles illegal on public property within city limits, including the city’s stretch of the Salinas River.
The ordinance, outlined in a staff report by Paso Robles Police Department acting chief Robert Burton, says such activity would become an infraction punishable by a fine up to $500 to “promote peace and quiet within the city.”
The issue is not new, and Burton said Monday that the latest round of complaints simply created a good transition to proposing change.
When the state in 2010 designated Paso Robles as a steward of its stretch of the Salinas River’s watershed, city officials looked at ways to crack down on off-roading, dumping and homeless camping.
“This particular (ordinance) was born out of the complaints for noise and dust, but (riding is) certainly disturbing for the watershed, for the habitat for animals and such,” Burton said.
The complaints occurred about six months ago, he added, when at least five Montebello Oaks households expressed concern with the noise and dust from off-road riders using a plot of open space in their neighborhood. Burton said he no longer has copies of the complaints.
Limiting where off-road vehicles can go concerns Kurtis Baker, co-owner of K&M Motorsports in Atascadero.
“I feel it’s pretty unfortunate because it’s getting harder and harder for everybody to go find a place to ride,” he said.
San Luis Obispo County has no official riding track, and riders have historically used the riverbed, open space and private lots to practice.
Others drive to the Zaca Station MX track off Highway 154 in Santa Barbara County, Baker said, but the cost of gasoline makes it expensive to travel that far.
It’s also disappointing that residents have complained, Baker said. Aside from what he admits are a few riders who go out of the norm, Baker said off-roading is a family-oriented sport.
“It’s good for you it’s good exercise and brings people together,” he said.
Pozo resident and amateur motocross racer Mike Harris agreed, noting that most people don’t realize that riding is a family sport. He’s annoyed that homeowners are targeting the local tradition.
If approved, the law would take effect 30 days after it’s approved and finalized.