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Some rural residents of Yuma call for ATV safety restrictions
The rural atmosphere of Mesa Dunes and other areas southeast of Yuma attracts a number of homeowners for the peace and quiet. But the dunes are popular with riders of all-terrain vehicles, prompting appeals by some residents to law enforcement officers for greater safety.
Cheryl Lauris, who has lived in the area for more than four years, said she could point out where the ATVs have torn up shrubs and gravel roads.
"I spoke to the (Yuma County Sheriff's Office) several times and they do their best but they're short of men," Lauris said. "They'll (ATVs) kick up dust and if we get any kind of wind, it's like living in a dust bomb. They're ear piercing - even with the TV on, I can hear them inside."
Lauris also said she has photographs to document track marks left behind and that it is just a matter of time before there is an accident among a group of ATV riders or between an ATV and a pedestrian.
She is among a number of property owners living east of Avenue 6E and south of County 13th Street who have had to contend with ATVers.
Caroline Strickroth, a retiree, has had a home with five acres in the area for 10 years. She said she had to erect a "shoulder-high" $15,000 fence to keep the ATVs from trespassing.
"They have absolutely no respect for private property," Strickroth said. "They spin doughnuts (circles), tear up hard-packed dirt roads and the gravel in front of Cheryl's house."
Strickroth also said many of the riders come from other parts of the county with ATVs or dirt bikes loaded on trucks. Some told her they prefer to ride in the Mesa Dunes and nearby areas because they do not want to travel to the Imperial Sand Dunes.
She said she has shadowed several riders to their home to complain to their parents. Some were belligerent and threatened her, she said, but one mother of two teenage boys promised to more closely monitor her sons' riding in the future.
Strickroth added that days go by with no ATVs in the area but then there are two and sometimes up to 10 ATVs that arrive every day for a week.
Leona Beveridge lives around the corner from Lauris and Strickroth. Beveridge, who often rides her horse in the area, once was hit by gravel kicked up by the ATVs, she said.
"It's like being pelted with a BB gun," Beveridge said. "We're not anti-ATV but this is a serious safety issue. I'm frightened there's going to be an accident and a child could get killed. They're out there at night with no streetlights."
She said that many of the riders appear to be 12 to 15, and one once told her was only 10. She also said adult supervision and safety training regulations would probably alleviate some of the problems.
Yet she stressed that none of the riders seemed mean-spirited. She said she is not begrudging them the right to use the area, but that they have to learn to share the space.
Sheriff's Capt. Eben Bratcher said ATV complaints go back a few years.
"There's been a whole lot of dust and noise complaints - 30 to 40 in the last couple of years. There are certain portions of state public land with posted signs that do not allow ATVs. And we do enforce."
Bratcher said that as manpower allows, YCSO responds to any resident's telephone calls. He added that in the past two years, there have been about 10 citations issued to ATV riders who violated the law.
A citation requires a court appearance and a fine. And the fine increases with each repeated offense, Bratcher said. He added that youth riders need to be of a reasonable age and monitored by their parents.
No license is needed to ride an ATV, according Lee Larson, a service manager with Liberty Motorsports. Minimum age requirements by the state motor vehicle department vary, depending on the ATV's size.
"I don't know what the solution is but the kids don't think about what could kill them," Beveridge said. "But there has to be some kind of light shed on this and we all need to get along."
William Roller can be reached at
firstname.lastname@example.org or 539-6858.