Valley News -

By Tony Ault
Staff Writer 

Expensive citations issued to Hemet's 'closed' Simpson Park violators

 

Last updated 9/2/2018 at 1:54pm

Tony Ault

The extreme fire hazard in the surrounding Hemet foothills prompts the city to close Simpson Park as the sign on the closed park gate at the end of Vista del Valle says.

The tinder dry brush, the Cranston Fire and the Holy Fire in recent weeks are a strong reminder that throughout the surrounding San Jacinto Mountain and Cleveland National Forest fire danger is extreme.

Many trails in the mountains and foothills are restricted or closed to normal hiking and mountain biking. One popular trail in the Hemet foothills, reaching from Simpson Park at the end of Vista del Valle, has been closed for weeks, but some have ignored the locked gates and signs stating, "Park closed due to fire hazard" and "Park closed, No entry." They have learned a hard lesson from the California Highway Patrol and Riverside County Sheriff receiving citations that could bring up to $1,000 fines.

While Simpson Park is in the Hemet Police Department's jurisdiction, the trails surrounding it are patrolled by state and county law enforcement. Patrols in the fire hazard areas, even remote ones like Simpson Park, have been increased.

Tony Ault

This Simpson Park area visitor runs the risk of receiving an expensive citation for parking in front of the closed Simpson Park hiking trail entrance. Trash cans remain at the trailhead even though the trail and the park are closed due to the high fire danger.

Riverside County Sheriff Capt. Leonard Purvis, commander of the Hemet substation, said his officers and the CHP have issued citations to motorists parked at the trailhead just outside the park entrance where there are signs saying that not only is the park closed but that there is "No Stopping" and "Park Closed to Entry." The popular hiking and biking trail closed earlier this summer because of the acute fire hazard. Fire officials feared that if a fire is started unintentionally by a hiker or a biker on the closed trail it could destroy hundreds of homes and property adjacent to the park, not to mention lives and wildlife.

One resident complained that a friend and her four children were all cited for the violation for allegedly parking in the no-parking area at the trailhead and entering the closed park. Tickets that could reach $900 each before a non-sympathetic traffic judge. Other citations also have been issued, law enforcement officials said.

Park and trail closures due to the extreme high fire hazard in the local mountains must be strictly obeyed. This season California fire authorities have reported the highest wildfire losses in its history due the excessive heat brought on by what scientists see as major worldwide climate change.

Simpson Park will reopen once the fire hazard declaration is lifted by Cal Fire, Riverside County Fire Department, U.S. Forest Service and Hemet Fire Department.

Tony Ault can be reached by email at [email protected]

 

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