Motocross star's property again under scrutiny

Officials say Pastranas illegally creating trails

Anne Arundel

May 01, 2002|By Jackie Powder | Jackie Powder,SUN STAFF

Teen-age motocross star Travis Pastrana's practice course has again drawn the scrutiny of county authorities, who have charged his father with illegally clearing trees to blaze dirt bike trails through a wooded Davidsonville property.

Inspectors have ordered Robert L. Pastrana to stop grading at the site, which is owned by his 18-year-old daredevil son, records show. That order comes less than a year after they took the same action upon discovering that the family had had failed to obtain permits before building a network of trails in the woods about five miles southwest of Annapolis.

In May of last year, state and county officials found that construction of the trails - used as a practice course by Travis Pastrana, a champion in ESPN's X-Games - violated laws controlling sediment pollution, erosion and disturbance of flood plains and nontidal wetlands. In the past year, the Pastranas have taken steps to repair the damage, under the supervision of state and county officials.

When inspectors visited the property in the 700 block of Governor Bridge Road on April 24, they found that new clearing for trails and an oval track had taken place without a grading permit, said Pam Jordan, a spokeswoman with the county's land use office.

Because this is a second violation, Jordan said, county grading enforcement officials are consulting the county Office of Law about the possibility of pursuing civil or criminal action against the Pastranas.

"We're figuring out what the best course of action is to get the message across for good," she said.

Violations of county grading laws carry criminal and civil penalties, including a $1,000 fine or up to six months in jail, and additional fines of between $100 and $1,000 each day a property is out of compliance.

The county did not take legal action or assess fines last year because the Pastranas cooperated and agreed to repair the damage.

"Our goal is not to make money on these things," Jordan said, "but to get the problems corrected."

Attempts to reach the Pastranas for comment were unsuccessful.

Robert Pastrana came to the county land use office Friday to ask about putting in a pit for jump landings, Jordan said. She said the proposed 12-foot-by- 12-foot pit would be filled with foam rubber and have an 8-foot fence.

Travis Pastrana, who competes on the national outdoor motocross circuit and on the Supercross indoor circuit, is known for his gravity-defying jumps. He gained national fame in September 1999 when he rode his motorbike off a pier and into San Francisco Bay after winning the freestyle gold medal at ESPN's Summer X-Games.

And he's been immortalized in an action toy. This year, toy maker Mattel Inc. introduced the $65 remote-controlled Xtreme Moto-X Cycle, which features a miniature rider performing some of Travis' signature jumps.

Including prize money and endorsement fees, his earnings reportedly topped $2 million last year.

Robert Pastrana said last year that the family bought the Governor Bridge property in 1999, using some of his son's first motocross earnings, and built a home there. He said that Travis used a small bulldozer to clear bike trails on the land, where he had sharpened his riding skills since he was 12.

The county's land use division and the state Department of the Environment discovered the initial violations at the site during a joint inspection last year. They found widespread razing of trees, tons of earth that had been moved and wetlands that had been disturbed. Some of the trails had mounds of dirt piled up to 30 feet high.

Although the county had issued a grading permit to Robert Pastrana for construction of a house, it did not cover clearing of trees and earth to create trails.

Robert Pastrana hired McCarthy and Associates, an Upper Marlboro environmental and natural resources consulting firm, to develop a restoration plan for the damaged wetlands. Company President Milton McCarthy said the work was completed in October, and included removing fill material from the flood plain and wetlands and planting stabilizing vegetation.

"As far as the wetlands are concerned, he's in compliance with our regulations," said John S. Verrico, a spokesman for the Maryland Department of the Environment. The Army Corps of Engineers reviewed and approved the restoration plan, Jordan said.

Robert Pastrana corrected grading violations uncovered last year by installing earth berms stabilized with mulch, and a stone filtration system that captures dirt before it reaches the affected stream, she said.

Since the county ordered the Pastranas to stop grading last week, she said, sediment control devices have been installed to mitigate the damage.

Jordan said that Pastrana is seeking to bring the most recent trail work into compliance by revising his original grading permit issued for the house construction.

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