The confusion over who's allowed in the area where the northwest part of Mission Trails meets the east end of U.S Marine Corps Air Station Miramar will now be cleared up by armed Marines taking bicyclists, hikers and other trespassers into custody, the Marine Corps confirmed Friday.
"We will take their bikes and hold them as evidence," said Lt. Gabriel Adibe, a Miramar Public Affairs officer.
The base met with San Diego Mountain Biking Association President Kevin Loomis this week and went over the Marines' concerns with open space users who knowingly or unknowingly trespass on the base land north of Highway 52 in the area known as East Elliot.
"The problem is there's people who are going on the base land, cyclists, runners, high school kids who are trespassing," Loomis said. "There's a rifle range and people are using the trail across the top of the hill, which means the Marines have to stop what they're doing at the range."
The rifle range in question certifies about 9,800 Marine Corps shooters each year, according to military documents. When cyclists pop up at the business end of the range, all shooting stops.
"When trespassers show up there it impedes training," Adibe said. "There are definitely signs out there that say don't go any farther — on patrol, I've seen folks stop, read them and then keep on going where they want anyway."
Loomis said he was invited for a tour because the Marines want to get the word out to the community that, from now on, there will be consequences.
"If you're caught up there, they're going to arrest you, handcuff you, take whatever equipment you have as evidence, write you a federal citation, and drop you at the gates. So, you'll need a ride back to your car," he said. The Marines told him that last week they arrested some high school kids at the missile silo on the northeastern part of the base.
People hiking and biking in the East Elliot area has been a sore issue with the Marine Corps, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the parks for a long time. The land is home to sensitive habitat, and the Marine Corps often uses its land in the area for environmental mitigation for projects done elsewhere on the base. Although there are no official trails, open space users carved out a network of trails, only to have them all closed under threat of prosecution in January 2014.
Park users are now working with the land agencies (excluding the Marines) to hammer out an updated trail master plan.
After the tour, Loomis posted the information about the Marines getting ready to enforce on their land through the group's social media and email lists.
Loomis blamed the alleged trespassing onto base property on the lack of legal trails in the adjoining land. The trails nearby are not well thought-out, he said.
"For example, the Castle Rock development has a trail that goes right up to the Marine base and ends," he said. "People end up creating 'social' trails if there are no trails."
The mountain bike association and Mission Trails user groups have been working on an updated master plan for the open space's trails, he said.
"We have two alternate trails that will alleviate the need to go on the base," he said, noting it is taking a long time. The process began 1-1/2 years ago. "The sooner we can get this, the quicker the problems on the Marine base go away."
The maximum penalties for trespassing on a military base is six months in jail or a $5,000 fine.