Residents want something done about 4-wheel traffic in basins

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Some Silver Oak residents say Carson City retention basins to the west of their property have become a playground for off-road vehicles, bringing too much dust and noise to the neighborhood and damaging an important portion of the city's flood control system.

More than two years ago, 48 Silver Oak-area residents signed a petition asking city leaders to fence in the retention basins, which handle water flow from Vicee Canyon.

Known as the sand pits prior to the 1997 flood, the area has long been an attraction for all-terrain vehicles, dirt bikes and other four-wheel drives.

A few hundred feet west of his back fence, Gary Schulz points to tire tracks and erosion in the basins which sit on property owned by Western Nevada Community College.

In 1999, those who signed the petition asked for the fence in place of a planned reseeding of the basins to keep off-road vehicles out of the the basins. City officials put a gate and signs on Murphy Drive off Winnie Lane to prevent easy access to the sites, but Schulz pointed to makeshift roads cominge from both the community college to the north and city water tanks to the west.

"This time of year, it's a monster truck rally in the mud bog -- and this is the quiet time of year," he said.

Schulz said he and his neighbors are tired of the noise and dust associated with the traffic in the basins. Sheriff's deputies are good about responding to complaints and citing those they can catch, but Schulz said city officials need to do more to protect the effectiveness of the basins.

Erosion on the site, which Schulz said is aggravated by the traffic, has caused silt to sift into rock spill ways. Among other damages, signs posted to warn off all-terrain vehicles have been destroyed.

"It's not only causing a problem for homeowners with dust and noise, it's ruining the integrity of the retention basins," Schulz said.

Since mid-1999, changes in city management have pushed the issue of problems with the basins out of focus, said Carson City Engineer Larry Werner.

"We weren't aware there was any kind of an issue with the property owners, mainly because of the change of personnel," Werner said. "We will do some research and get up to speed."

Werner said $60,000 set aside to reseed the area after its 1999 construction hasn't been spent as the city is in the middle of negotiations with the college to take over ownership of the basins.

While the city does have some control of site maintenance, the basins technically belong to the college. Helaine Jesse, college vice president for institutional advancement, said part of the negotiations with the city have included discussions of turning the area into a park or amphitheater.

She said college officials are aware of the traffic problem and see the transfer of 22 acres to Carson City as part of the long-term solution to off-road vehicles at the sites

"We can't watch it 24-hours a day. There is no way we could physically patrol that area, nor could the city," Jesse said. "When outdoor recreational uses meet development, we're going to have these issues."

She said new signs will be posted and college and city officials may look at a short-term solution to the problem.

Silver Oak resident Dennis Holt said he would just like the city to commit to fix and maintain the site.

"The whole idea is that if the flood type situation shows up again, (the basins) will work since they're right behind our houses," Holt said.

Holt said the "side problem that is causing more friction with the situation" is that off-road vehicles are causing damage such as erosion and the basins "are not doing what the city built them to do."

"Fix and maintain: that's what we have to do with anything we own," he said.


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