San Diego

Permits Now Available to Mountain Bike on MCAS Miramar Property

Things reached a boiling point more than a year ago when military police handed out citations to mountain bikers and seized their bikes.

For the first time in the history of Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, the public can now access a trail running through the base.

The trail has been a point of contention for decades.

Things reached a boiling point more than a year ago when military police handed out citations to mountain bikers and seized their bikes.

Now after months of negotiations mountain bikers can use the trail again, with some important conditions.

Kevin Loomis, head of the San Diego Mountain Biking Association, was among the first riders to get his military-approved permit card.

"After 20 years all the parties came together and actually agreed on something so many people said would never happen," Loomis said.

His organization, along with elected leaders went to bat for riders who've used this trail for decades.

Twenty years ago, when the Marines took over Miramar from the U.S. Navy, they put in a firing range near the trail and started cracking down on riders, mostly with warnings.

At least 45 mountain bikers had their bikes confiscated on Jan. 15, 2016 near Sycamore Canyon. At the time, a spokesperson for MCAS Miramar said the bikers were repeatedly warned and signs were posted, saying they were not allowed to be on federal property. Many of the bikers disputed the signage.

People can fill out an online form and bring it to the east gate of Miramar to apply.

The online form is very extensive - asking details about your race and for proof of citizenship.

Marines at MCAS Miramar say it's the standard DOD form used across the country for access to military bases.

“There are legitimate concerns out there, could be unexploded ordnance, firing ranges, explosive facilities, that are out there and ultimately this is an active military base, those are training areas that Marines use,” said Capt. Chris Robinson, a law enforcement operations officer on MCAS Miramar.

Base officials have received 72 permit applications, but many more mountain bikers use this trail.

Anyone who uses the trail without a permit can be fined up to $500 and will have to go to federal court. Also, they could have their mountain bike seized by the Department of Defense.

Furthermore - they say it's important that the riders who fill out the application and pass the background check stay on the marked trail.

It's a 4.1 mile section and they've put up new signs to make sure people don't venture into areas where they aren't allowed.

"You've got to go from the beginning of the canyon to the end of the canyon," Loomis said. "If you start climbing up into the mountains, it's not gonna happen."

The wheels of justice can move slowly – all too slow for a group of local mountain bikers, whose bikes were confiscated in January after the military says they trespassed on federal property. Those bikes still have not been returned to them. NBC 7’s Artie Ojeda reports.
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