Manassas Journal Messenger | Going off-road

It’s been nearly five years since county supervisors got serious with ATV and dirt bike riders by putting teeth in county no trespassing laws. At the time, residents were complaining about the bike races conducted south of Dumfries in a lot between the north and south bound lanes of U.S. 1.

Discussions among county supervisors revealed a laundry list of grievances including excessive noise and dust levels. There were also complaints from landowners elsewhere in the county whose property was being traversed by these off-road vehicles regardless of no trespassing signs.

Eager to head off conflicts with landowners and the county government, off-road riders organized to work with county leaders in search of a place to call their own. With the county spending millions on athletic fields, gymnasiums, swimming pools and golf courses, off-road enthusiasts were searching for recognition of their sport within the county.

This long quest might be close to paying off as the Prince William County Planning Commission last week gave preliminary approval to the establishment of an off-road track in southwestern Prince William off Nokesville Road near the border with Fauquier County.

The predicament of local ATV riders is typical of a growing suburban county. Prince William is home to a young energetic population with many families looking for recreational opportunities. With the growth of housing developments rapidly gobbling up the area’s dwindling rural acres, places to ride ATV’s and dirt bikes are shrinking.

Off-road enthusiasts signed on with the county public works department in 1999 while searching for a site for a new facility, but a year-long study produced no permanent location. It did, however, come up with some interesting findings on how popular the sport was with local families and the fact that, when supervised, it is less of a liability risk than soccer, skate boarding or swimming.

Organizers from the Family Off-road Riders of Prince William County also believe that the establishment of such a track would cut down on the number of trespassing cases. Riders are less likely to buzz across your back yard if they have a good place to ride.

The planning commission’s vote is but the first step in ending the search for an off-road home in Prince William County. There are still hurdles to clear, including possible turn lanes needed for Nokesville Road and approval of those living near the facility.

Considering how far local off-road enthusiasts have traveled to get to this point, their patience and willingness to work within the system is commendable.

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