"I loved the peace and quiet. I loved the tremendous sky. I loved the heat in the summer," (Eric Hamburg) enthused about his remote getaway outside Twentynine Palms. "It was like a safety valve for me."
But he quickly became aware of another way of life, one far less conducive to quiet meditation. "You see them buzzing around all the time and they just come closer and closer," he said of the men, women and children who blast joyously through the desert on rattling dirt bikes and quad runners.Things came to a head on Thanksgiving weekend when critics said marauding riders deliberately overran a historic site that they'd worked hard to restore.
"We are crestfallen because of all the efforts and energy we put into this and in a matter of two days off-roaders destroyed it," said Phil Klasky, president of Community ORV Watch, a group dedicated to curbing illegal off-roading. "It's a culture clash."
Ray Pessa, president of Friends of Giant Rock, which fights for off-roader rights, said law-abiding riders shouldn't be penalized because others flout the rules.
…"As long as people stay on existing trails, then it's OK," said Mickey Quillman, BLM chief of resources. "It's just the fact that they drove off road into the dunes where there are fringe-toed lizards and animal burrows. It's a limited-use area. You can drive cars and motorcycles on the roads, but you can't take vehicles into the desert -- and people ignore it pretty regularly."