U.S. Marines crack down on trespassers; confiscate 45 mountain bikes

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Marines detain mountain bikers and confiscate their bikes on West Sycamore Canyon trail. Photo: Courtesy of Damian Hiley

The U.S. Marines this past weekend set up roadblocks on a popular San Diego County trail to deliver a message to mountain bikers that trespassing will not be tolerated on military property.

On Saturday and Sunday, Marines issued 50 tickets and confiscated 45 mountain bikes within the eastern boundary of Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, in the Scripps Ranch area.

The encounters were somewhat intimidating, as the Marines wore flight suits and toted weapons.

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Some warning signs in Sycamore Canyon are prominent. Photo: San Diego Mountain Biking Association

“At first I thought they were looking for someone or that it was a police raid,” mountain biker Damian Hiley told the San Diego Union Tribune. “I was blown away when they told us we had stepped into the eastern boundary of the base.”

Hiley and five friends had begun their ride on the West Sycamore Canyon trail in Scripps Ranch. The ride ended abruptly, though, after they rounded a bend and were stopped by a Marine.

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Mountain bikers are ticketed and their bikes are confiscated. Photo: Gilberto Ra

The bikes — many of which are priced at $5,000 or more — were placed with others that had been confiscated.

Lt. Matthew Gregory told the Union-Tribune that trespassing has become a serious issue and that efforts have been stepped up to warn bikers and hikers about off-limits zones.

Because of frequent weapons training, trespassers face “potentially life-threatening danger,” Gregory said.

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Marines confiscating mountain bikes. Photo: Gilberto Ra

Gregory told the San Diego Reader: “I feel like we’ve done our due diligence. We’ve let people know, we put signs out there, and we’ve had patrols warning people to stay off our base. It’s a security issue for us, and a safety issue for them.”

The Marines claim that warning signs are placed prominently and strategically, but Hiley said his group did not see any signs.

“What’s really upsetting for us is that there are really no signs,” the Chula Vista resident said. “As first-time riders on that trail, we had no idea we were on [base].”

<iframe width=”620″ height=”340″ src=”https://www.youtube.com/embed/Csb80nmUT88″ frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen></iframe> However, the San Diego Mountain Biking Association this week has posted a statement to Facebook informing bikers that “there are NO LEGAL TRAILS in Sycamore canyon,” which some bikers are accessing via Mission Trails Regional Park.

“Sycamore Canyon is not part of Mission Trails,” the SDMBA added. (SDMBA President Kevin Loomis speaks about the weekend incident in the video posted above.)

The SDMBA has for years tried to persuade the Marines to open Sycamore Canyon for riding and other recreation, to no avail.

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Mountain biker rides in the Sycamore Canon area. Photo: Jose Galaz

Now they’re working with local government representatives in the hope of opening an alternative trail system through the area’s wilderness, beyond base property.

Meanwhile, those who have been ticketed and had their bikes confiscated have been told they will get their bikes back after they settle their tickets. That process could take up to 45 days.

Hiley said he and his group were forced to hike two miles back to their vehicles, wearing cycling shoes. He described to GrindTV that the trek was like a “the walk of shame.”

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