Dangerous ‘Sand Pit’ challenging to bikers
A triple jump turned into a triple threat at a revamped four-wheel-drive playground, as at least three riders landed in the back of an ambulance this week.
The Sand Pit, located just southwest of the “Y,” was reopened Monday to off-highway vehicles after undergoing a five-day, $6,000 face lift.
Forest Service officials said two of the riders only sustained minor injuries, while the third possibly suffered a head or neck injury. The third rider was flown to Washoe Medical Center in Reno from Barton Memorial Hospital.
Tony Gosler, a U.S. Forest Service off-highway vehicle patrolman, was at Monday’s reopening along with nearly 40 four-wheelers and motorcyclists.
Gosler said the new course took some practice but not everybody paced themselves, especially over the triple jump where all three of the riders were injured.
South Shore resident Rob Guistina was asked to fix the problem area by combining the second and third humps of the triple jump.
The Forest Service hired Guistina to reconstruct the 40-year-old, four-wheel-drive site to make it safer, cleaner and friendlier to the environment.
Gosler said the alteration will keep novice riders from getting too much air, which is how he said many lost control.
“Accidents are going to happen on a new track,” he said. “But we just can’t have Lake Tahoe Ambulance coming in three or four times a day to pick up people. My concern out there is the safety of individuals on the course.”
Gosler said the track isn’t ultimately to blame though. He said accidents have always been frequent at the Sand Pit, which was the main impetus for transforming the track.
He said too many people showing off on the course increases the danger.
“Once some people get on a motorcycle they believe they can accomplish things they really can’t,” he said. “People try to extend beyond their abilities.”
The Sand Pit has always held perilous possibilities.
Gary Weigel, Forest Service off highway vehicle program manager, said the Sand Pit was host to national motorcycle competitions in the 1960s. But due to deaths on the course, the events stopped.
“The Sand Pit has been attractive for decades,” Weigel said. “It’s a principle point to talk with people about environmental ethics and where to ride legally.”
Weigel said many people are uneducated on the rules of the dirt.
The Forest Service closed Twin Peaks trails, which adjoin the Sand Pit, for four days last week because people were riding off the course.
Weigel said the riders were damaging vegetation and eroding the hillside.
“People can create a lot of damage in a short period of time,” he said. “When they go outside the bounds of propriety that screws up the fun for everybody.”
With help from the Lake Tahoe Hi Lo club, Weigel said damage on the illegal trail was fixed and the path was barricaded.
Any four-wheel-drive vehicle can traverse the Twin Peaks course, which accounts for nearly two miles of the 20 miles of quality off-road trails in the basin. The closeness of the Twin Peaks and Sand Pit to South Shore residents make them popular recreation areas, according to Weigel.
He said people who want to ride either course must have proper registration, wear helmets if they are riding a quad, and have a spark arrester.
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