Dust clouds force Goodyear to ban ATVs in Gila River bed
Christine L. Romero
The Arizona Republic
Feb. 20, 2006 12:00 AM
GOODYEAR - Dust fueled anger when the Goodyear City Council essentially banned all motorized vehicles in the Gila River bed. Rogue riders could face steep fines and possible jail time.
Worried about air quality, Maricopa County officials threatened the city with daily fines of up to $10,000 if the dust kicked up by ATVs along the bottom of the river continued. County rules forbid "fugitive dust" from vacant lots and open areas.
The Goodyear ordinance, unanimously approved last week, forbids motorized vehicles on undeveloped property that is closed to public use without written permission from the property owner.
Goodyear Police Chief Mark Brown said his department has the staffing and is prepared to enforce the rule.
Starting Saturday, police began warning riders. The officers will try to educate the riders, but the department will track those who have been issued warnings, Brown said. Future violations could cost up to $2,500 in fines and six months in jail.
Goodyear police won't chase the riders and create more dust. Instead, the department plans to record license numbers and send warning letters.
The ATVs kicked up so much dust at times that it was difficult for drivers on Estrella Parkway to see. The dust also is a health hazard for people with allergies, asthma and other medical issues, officials said. Some also worry about the environmental damage to the Gila.
Goodyear resident Linda Illies said the dust along Estrella nearly forced her to drive off the road. She argued that it's not fair for the fun of some people to hurt others.
The Estrella Mountain Ranch resident said she sees a lot of damage along the bed of the Gila.
"It's just disgusting what has happened," Illies said.
But Lew Coleman, also of Goodyear, disagreed. He said he rides ATVs with his family. As a father, he tries to teach team building and good ethics about being in the open space. He said he promotes keeping open space clean and insisted the ATVs shouldn't be banned.
"I believe the ordinance you have before you is a permanent solution to a temporary problem," Coleman told the council.
Councilman Fred Scott, a doctor, said the dust is dangerous and has health effects similar to secondhand smoke.
Councilman Rob Antoniak said the council has a fiscal responsibility to the city and cannot afford possible fines up to $10,000 daily for air-quality violations.