AZ: Off-roaders stir controversy on state trust land

Off-roaders stir controversy on state trust land

Thomas Ropp

The Arizona Republic

Jul. 22, 2003 12:00 AM

SCOTTSDALE - More than 16,000 acres of state trust land in north Scottsdale could soon be closed to off-road vehicle operators.

Stagecoach Pass borders the property, generally known as the "Pima Dynamite area" to recreationists, to the north, Dynamite Road to the south, Pima Road to the west and 136th Street to the east. City preservationists have been pleading with the Arizona State Land Department to close off the property, which is slated to become part of the Scottsdale's McDowell Sonoran Preserve. They claim drivers of ATVs, dirt bikes and jeeps are destroying native vegetation and scarring fragile desert soil.

"In some places the damage is so bad it's just heartbreaking," said Carla (her full legal name), executive director of the McDowell Sonoran Land Trust.

Carla said stewards regularly patrol the area to keep off-road vehicles from particularly sensitive ecological areas, but often this isn't possible.

Brad Geeck, an investigator and natural resource manager for the State Land Department, said his department doesn't have the resources to adequately prevent off-road vehicle damage on state trust land.

"By virtue of a motorcycle being out there, if they don't obey the laws there's going to be environmental damage," Geeck said.

Operators of off-road vehicles are allowed on state trust land if they stay on established paths and have a valid recreational permit. Geeck said only about one in 10 has a permit.

Stanford Cohen, an ATV enthusiast and spokesman for off-road recreationists, said it's important that the Pima Dynamite area remain opened to off-roaders because they use it to access the Tonto National Forest. He believes that more operators would have the $20 permits if the State Land Department did a better job of getting the word out about them.

But residents more than preservationists may have the biggest impact on the future of off-road adventures on this parcel. Homeowners living along Pima and Stagecoach Pass regularly complain about noise and dust kicked up by off-road use.

Geeck said off-road operators who are a nuisance to residents will eventually "run themselves out of the area totally."

Geeck said the State Land Department recently closed 30,000 acres of state trust land in Apache Junction because of "dust issues" caused by off-road vehicles.

Reach the reporter at or (602) 444-6880.

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