By David Arkin: CNJ Correspondent
Clovis city officials are considering closing Ned Houk Park to recreational vehicle riders because of safety concerns and rising costs.
Clovis City Manager Ray Mondragon said the issue will go before an upcoming Ned Houk Board meeting. The seven-member group, which has not yet scheduled a meeting time, will face two options concerning recreational vehicle use in the park north of Clovis:
• Close all areas of the park from riders;
• Level all hills in the motocross area and open a new 400-acre spot for riders in a pasture area in the park.
The park board’s recommendation will be forwarded to the Clovis City Commission which is expected to vote on the matter some time in the next two months.
Currently, the 3,400-acre, city-owned park is open to riders.
Mondragon said there have been a number of accidents at the park involving riders this year. In addition, the city’s parks and recreation director Rob Carter said during the last two years the city has spent 735 hours repairing fences at the park that have been cut.
The fence cutting is a problem because cattle are grazing near the park.
“When the bikers cut the fences so they can get to the areas they want to get to, the cattle get out,” Mondragon said. “This boils down to a lack of respect for the land and property. We’re finding fences cut and poles damaged.”
But Robert Vilandry, who rides at Ned Houk Park, said recreational vehicle riders aren’t the only ones cutting down fences.
“I think it’s crazy what they (city officials) are saying,” he said. “I just don’t believe that fences are being cut down that much. They don’t inform people so riders cut down the fences because they want to ride on the other side. It’s not just riders who are doing it, the equestrians are doing it as well.”
Carter said recreational vehicle riders are the only ones cutting fences.
“When an area of a fence is cut there are tracks that you can see,” he said. “A path is formed and it’s not equestrians.”
Mondragon said the cost involved in fixing the fencing and safety concerns has caught city officials’ attention.
Vilandry said one problem at the park is that people aren’t informed about rules and safety precautions.
“A few people have been hurt out there and that’s because they aren’t being informed and that’s because rules aren’t posted there,” he said. “If people were informed people would follow the rules.”
City officials said they do post signs.
“Some of the signs get shot at or knocked down,” Carter said. “We have discussed having more permanent fixtures for our signs, but we figure that people will figure out a way to knock those down as well.”
Even if the park is closed from riders it won’t stop people from riding at Ned Houk, Vilandry said.
“They’ll keep riding out there even if it is closed,” he said.
“People like me and my kids and their friends know when the gates are locked.”