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Staff photo by Karen Jonas
Empty shade structures and tables at the Sawtooth campground on Monday morning. The campground received some improvements last fall, but officials from the Bureau of Land Management say that people who ride off-highway vehicles have been using it for a staging area to ride their vehicles. BLM officials are now enforcing a ban on riding the vehicles in the area.

Sawtooth camping area off-limits to OHVs

STODDARD VALLEY • Off-highway vehicle enthusiasts who use the recently improved Sawtooth camping area will now face fines or jail time if they ride their vehicles at the campground or on roads near the campground, according to Bureau of Land Management officials.

The Sawtooth Limited Use area is in Stoddard Valley near Highway 247 about 15 miles from Barstow. The area was turned into a campground last September with a restroom, 15 campsites — with shade structures, picnic tables, firepits, and barbecues — a picnic area, and a host site. The campground has been averaging about 100 visitors each weekend, said Larry Blaine, recreation director at the BLM’s Barstow field office.

Since campground host Janet Bruley came to the campground last September, she noticed that  people were bringing their OHVs to Sawtooth and either riding them around camp or riding them to the nearby Stoddard Wells OHV area or the Johnson Valley OHV area. Bruley said there has been up to 20 OHVs riding around the area at one time and they cause problems with dust and noise for other campers who are hiking or rock-climbing.

On Friday, the BLM issued a two-year emergency closure prohibiting OHVs on the access road to Sawtooth Canyon and off-loading or using OHVs within or near the campground. The BLM had to close access to the OHVs because of a biological opinion from the Stoddard Valley OHV management plan, said Blaine. The biological opinion stated that OHV access to the site had to be stopped once the campground was established.

Riders will still be able to camp at Sawtooth, but will not be able to unload their vehicles there, said Mickey Quillman, associate field manager for the Barstow field office. If people want to visit Stoddard Wells or Johnson Valley, they need to keep their OHVs on a street legal vehicle or trailer.

Signs have been put up at the campground that warn people about the penalties for violating the order — which can be a fine of up to $1,000 or up to a year in prison. Although the order took effect last Saturday, Bruley said there weren’t any issues with people riding OHVs last weekend and nobody was cited.

Blaine said that rangers aren’t looking to ticket people.

“We’d much rather educate than cite,” said Blaine. “Education is key.”

One local OHV user was upset that the BLM will be closing Sawtooth to OHVs.

“There’s no reason to exclude OHVs,” said Mike McCain, an off-road enthusiast and member of the American Motorcycle Association. “It’s not an area to go racing around. They’re excluding the OHV community and that’s wrong.”

Contact the writer:
(760) 256-4122 or kjonas@desertdispatch.com

 

Directions to Sawtooth campground from Barstow
• Head south on Highway 247 for about 15 miles.
• Turn right on dirt road just before Goat Mountain Pass — the mountainous area before Lucerne Valley.
• Turn left at BLM kiosk
• For more information and a map of the closure to OHVs, visit http://www.blm.gov/ca/st/en/fo/barstow.html


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