Riders Meet With MCAS Miramar Leader Over Confiscated Bikes

Mountain bikers whose bikes were confiscated by the military met with the commanding officer of Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Miramar Wednesday night to get an explanation.

Marines patrolling the 23,000-acre base took more than 45 bicycles and three motorcycles from people trespassing onto the federal land over the holiday weekend.

However, many of the riders said the trails are not clearly marked, and they did not know they had crossed into military space.

“Everybody that got caught, and I was one of them all, had the same question: what? We didn’t see any signs. We've been riding out here for years,” said Darren Lachel.

Col. Jason Woodworth, the commanding officer of MCAS Miramar, met with the concerned bike riders at the Mission Trails Visitors Center to explain the change in strategy. He told NBC 7 that in recent months, they have seen a rise in cyclists riding on their land.

So as security on base increases, officials decided to start cracking down on trespassers.

“Every time we stop firing out there costs me, as the base CO, about approximately $10,000,” said Woodworth. “So you ride through there, we see you, we’ve got to stop firing, now we have to clear that range for two to three hours.”

He said he feels there are enough signs warning about trespassing and putting a fence to demark the area would be too expensive.

As for why they jumped to confiscating bikes, Woodworth said they have simply ticketed people in the past, but many of the offenders would then refuse to pay their fine and return to the base.

They started taking the bikes away to send a stronger message.

It was received loud and clear by Steve Gillespie, who did not plead ignorance like the others.

"I've known that it's private property for a long time, and I've heard tale of Marines ticketing people, but I honestly in 17 years of riding there, I never saw a soldier,” said Gillespie.

He was not bothered at all that his bike was taken by the Marines. He summed up the lesson like this: “A law is a law, even if you don’t like it.”

A master plan is now in the works to better distinguish which trails can be used. The mountain bikers who had their bikes confiscated will now have to see a magistrate and face a possible fine.

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