In the off-road mecca short-course and off-roading have been dry since 2017. That was the last time the Lake Elsinore Motorsports Park in Lake Elsinore, California held a short-course off-road race for the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series before the park ultimately closed its doors in 2019.
Have a closure like this in an area as heavy into off-road as anywhere in the world, it was a hard pill to swallow. Many of the top drivers still have shops or live in Southern California and called that track home.
All may not be lost and it may be coming from an unlikely source. In a report from the Press-Enterprise Riverside County officials are looking at the idea of buying the Lake Elsinore Motorsports Park and reopening it for special events and off-road recreation. Jeff Greene, chief of staff for Riverside County Supervisor Kevin Jeffries, stated that the “county is hoping to find state dollars this year to purchase the almost-300-acre site.”
The closet Off-Highway Vehicle (OHV) area to Lake Elsinore used to be the Wildomar OHV area, but that was closed after an 866-acre wildfire burned the hills above Lake Elsinore and nearby Wildomar. Off-roaders now have to travel to Ocotillo Wells or towards Johnson Valley to have fun legally off-roading.
The park, that does not have a new proposed name would reopen under county oversight while boosting prospects for opening a second county off-road park in the rural “backcountry,” Greene said. Greene also said that county officials have been trying to develop a similar park either in the Badlands area near Gilman Springs Road east of Moreno Valley or near the Salton Sea in the eastern Riverside County desert. Funding will depend on finding surplus money in the 2020-21 state budget as well as how the county ends up prioritizing the project Theresa K. Austin, the office of Sen. Richard D. Roth, D-Riverside said in an email to PE.com.
“If we provide legal alternatives for people to ride their OHVs, it certainly reduces the temptation to ride illegally,” Greene said.
“The availability of a place to ride could reduce wildfires in the area, given that many blazes have been sparked by off-highway vehicles.”
Bob Magee, a Lake Elsinore councilman and member of Jeffries’ staff, and a dirt bike rider himself, said “The idea is to try to have the best of both worlds,” Bob Magee, a Lake Elsinore councilman and member of Jeffries’ staff, and a dirt bike rider himself, said. “The county wants to bring back the competitions, he said, while also providing a public park for off-road enthusiasts to play. People are looking for a legal place to ride.”
Opening a public off-road park not only benefits off-roaders, but would put funding and create a flow of revenue for years to come for Riverside County. With the amount of off-road related companies, the possibilities are endless to the type of park that could open. Under current state rules, counties such as Riverside that don’t manage off-road parks don’t get a proportional share of the millions of dollars in fees generated annually by off-highway-vehicle registration, which issues green stickers for off-road vehicles.
“It’s almost an extra insult for those people who pay for those green stickers in Riverside County,” Greene explained. “We have been paying for off-road parks in other parts of the state.”
For those not familiar the California DMV issues green stickers that “all California OHVs year model 2002 and older, including those that were previously issued a red sticker, and to 2003 and newer complying vehicles. Green stickers are issued to OHVs for year-round use at all California OHV riding areas.” These are a big part of Riverside County as residents generate almost nine percent of registration fees statewide with 116,000 registered off-highway vehicles in the 2015-16 fiscal year, but a fraction of that fee money returns to the region, the report stated.
“There is a lot of history out there,” Magee said. “We don’t want this to go away because you’ll never get it back. The site already has required permits and still has racing facilities.”
This is great to see from a county, one that recognizes what its residents need and looks for a solution. We will have to wait and see if we will be able to hear 900-plus horsepower trucks whizzing by, but things look like they may just happen.