Paso clarifies, finalizes ban on off-roading

The Salinas River in Paso Robles, south of Niblick Road.
The Salinas River in Paso Robles, south of Niblick Road. jmellom@thetribunenews.com

Riding ATVs on public land in Paso Robles will soon be banned, but people riding electric scooters and motorized wheelchairs can still hum along anywhere within city limits. 

The distinction came Tuesday night, about a month after the Paso Robles City Council opted to ban off-roading on city property at police request in order to quell complaints from those disturbed by the activity. 

At its Sept. 18 meeting, the council sided with police and neighbors who complained in recent months that off-roading on open space and in the Salinas River bed is noisy, dusty and poses risks of fire.

At the meeting, several residents complained that they should be allowed to continue the outdoor activity that some consider a staple in North County tradition.

Police said the law would give them an extra tool to navigate complaints about off-roading because the department did not have a way to manage off-road activities.

Since the September meeting, the topic has continued to marinate with city officials because of the many modes of transportation that can be ridden off the street.

Tuesday’s decision was part of a larger discussion on whether motorized scooters and chairs for the disabled and street-legal vehicles such as Jeeps ridden off the road should be treated the same as dirt bikes and ATVs.

Councilman Fred Strong, for example, previously said he wants to make sure that motorized wheelchairs aren’t part of the ban because doing so could make the city ineligible for some grants.

The ban defines off-road vehicles as “any motorcycle, motor-driven cycle, mini-bike, trail-bike, or motor vehicle commonly referred to as a sand buggy, dune buggy, all-terrain vehicle or jeep.”

Emergency vehicles and vehicles used by city employees for city business are also exempt.

The new ordinance makes off-roading on the city’s public property an infraction punishable by a fine of up to $100 and up to $500 for each repeated offense within the same year.

The ban is slated to go into effect in 30 days.