Tip List: McSwain rattled by dirt bikes

May 7, 2009 

It comes in the evenings, around dinner time. High-pitched whines screech across the land. Dust clouds fill the air.

And some residents in the McSwain area can't take it anymore.

The racket, they know, comes from local dirt bike and ATV riders. And last month at a community meeting with county Supervisor Mike Nelson, many voiced their concerns.

Ezio Sansoni, a resident and almond farmer, says that the noise is disturbing. It's like watching a drag race. The unmuffled machines send a racket across the neighborhood from up to a mile away, he said.

The noise usually erupts in the evening and on weekends. The vehicles not only roam the fields and orchards, kicking up dust and spreading their noise, but they also roar along county roads.

The noise ruins the peace and quiet of the country, he says. "I can appreciate people in the country saying 'Hey, I'm out here doing my thing,' but once they take those bikes off their beaten track and on the road and they are unlicensed and un-muffled, now they are intruding on my piece of tranquility," he said.

And the county is going to do something about it. At Supervisor Nelson's behest, the matter was taken up by the supervisors, who directed county staff to draft an ordinance amendment to address the issue. There's no current code regulating off-road vehicles in unincorporated areas.

Along with Santoni, two other McSwain residents complained to the board on Tuesday about the issue: Inge Adair and Carol Silva. Neither wanted to be quoted for this article.

But the county's footage of the meeting showed Silva telling the board that she has had to call the sheriff because of the noise.

Adair, also at the meeting, said simply that, "It is not tolerable."

Mike Troxell with the California Highway Patrol said there are off-roading complaints across the county, but the McSwain area seems to be the epicenter of the problem.

Still, he said, it's questionable how to enforce any new code. If the riders just drive away as soon as someone reports them, it will be hard to catch or prosecute any of the off-roaders as they tear through McSwain.

What is wrong: Dirt bike riders are disturbing the peace and quiet of people in the McSwain area.

Who is at fault: Local bike riders having way too much fun.

If you see something broken or in need of repair in your neighborhood, call the Sun-Star Tip List reporter, Jonah Owen Lamb, with your tips at (209) 385-2484 or e-mail jlamb@mercedsun-star.com.