Nowhere Safe to Ride

Cory Surber grabbed some air during the official motocross races in 2000 at the Hoopa rodeo Grounds. /Photo courtesy of Judy Surber

By KRISTAN KORNS, Two Rivers Tribune

A road accident sent two six-year-old children to the hospital with minor injuries and destroyed their motorcycle when they pulled out into the road a little after 5 pm on Monday, March 17.

Lorita Schaeffer, 6, was riding on the back of the motorcycle driven by her uncle Rocky Reed, who is the same age. “We couldn’t see past the bush on the corner, and then Rocky pulled out and we saw the car and it hit us.”

Dona Bailey, great-grandmother and grandmother to the two children, said, “They were crossing the road on a motorcycle when they got hit. The kids are supposed to watch, but you know kids.”

There aren’t any supervised riding tracks in the area, so dozens of children can be seen every day riding motorcycles, or ATVs, or “quads” on Hoopa Valley’s roads or alongside of Highway 96.

Judy Surber helped organize officially-sanctioned motocross circuit races in the Hoopa Valley in 2000.

“I wish we still had a track here. We’d have everybody on the track with safety gear, instead of in the streets,” Surber said. “Now I see kids on the road on quads all the time and that never used to happen.”

Surber and other motocross enthusiasts set up a track at the Hoopa Rodeo Grounds after getting Tribal Council permission to hold five races. There were 19 people from Hoopa in the first race, and dozens of other riders came from all over Northern California.

Surber said, “We only got to hold two races. We were approved for five, but got shut down because of politics surrounding the rodeo grounds.”

The motocross riders then tried to get permission to build a new track near Highway 96 at the north end of Marshall Lane near Mill Creek, but opponents said the noise from the motorcycles was loud enough to be a nuisance and the races shouldn’t be allowed in the Valley at all.

Joe Orozco said, “I went to community people and said ‘they’re going to build a motocross track near Mill Creek,’ and several people gave testimony at the next Council meeting saying they objected.”

“I don’t mind it someplace else, but not on the valley floor,” Orozco said.

But the shutdown of the official race track at the Rodeo Grounds and the push against building another track near Mill Creek didn’t push young motorcycle riders off of the valley floor though.

The sound of revving engines echoes off of the hillsides in the late afternoons and early evenings near several informal, half-overgrown and unsupervised dirt tracks, and Highway 96.

Surber said she’d like to see an official track in the Valley again, where young people can ride safely with supervision. “It’s really safe when you’re racing. You never see kids without helmets, boots, gloves and chest protectors when they’re racing.”

An official track that was part of the Motocross circuit could also provide a good economic boost for the area, with visitors coming in from out of town to compete in or watch the races.

“The beauty of it is that we’re not bound by state laws, so we could easily have a track here,” Surber said. “It would be a really good investment.”

The old dump a few miles up Supply Creek Road has been suggested as a possible location for a new track, but no one is actively working on the idea.

Dona Bailey, at her home in lower Campbell Field near Moon Lane said, “There should be a speed bump or speed limit sign here, because this whole place is packed with kids.”

Rocky Reed and his niece Lorita Schaeffer are resting and healing after their accident.

Reed will have to put ointment on the scratches on his face a couple of times per day for the next week or so. “I still have an itch in my eye.”

Schaeffer said, “Me and my uncle Rocky are afraid to go on the road now.”

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