The area’s motorhead tradition will get a boost July 5-6 at an off-road endurance challenge in McElmo Canyon.
The “We Rock Dirt Riot” event will be held on Sheldon Zwicker’s property at 5740 and 8783 Road G, located 17 miles down the canyon. An interior road on challenging terrain within the property will be the race course for an estimated 30 race participants. The desert style 4X4 race has various classes and races lasting between one and three hours.
The Montezuma County commission gave preliminary approval for a long-term special use permit for the race, pending review from the planning commission. A public hearing will also be held because the event requires a high impact permit for going over threshold standards for excess traffic and noise.
The popular “Rock Races” have been ongoing since 2005 on Zwicker property and also on private land south of Cortez.
Race organizers Randy and Cottin Rodd are asking permission for a perpetual permit to allow up to four events per year at the McElmo Canyon location, with no more than two days per event. Annual reviews will be conducted to determine compliance with any standards and conditions of the permit.
“Last year we had over 800 people, and in September we plan to bring the National Championships,” said Randy Rodd.
“It is a great event on a excellent course, and there haven’t been any problems,” Rodd said.
Zwicker, the landowner, hopes to add a rock-crawler event on a rugged portion of his property, which the commissioners thought might require a separate permit because it is a different parcel.
“These events bring in a lot of participants. Most racers bring motorhomes,” Zwicker said.
Under the land use code, neighbors will be notified and given an opportunity to voice their concerns, if any, at a public hearing and in writing. There are no residential structures very near the event site, according to the applicant.
“We feel like it can be recommended to the planning and zoning commission. It appears that all of the issues in the high impact permit have been addressed,” said James Dietrich, community services director.
Extra care needs to be taken, he said, to avoid crossing the property boundary into adjacent BLM land. A larger setback of 50 feet was agreed on to keep activities, cars and structures away from the BLM border. Race participants and the audience will be instructed to not cross onto public lands.
A private security team will monitor the daytime event, and there will be no alcohol sales. A temporary spectator section will be installed, and there will be vendors and portable toilets.
A Dolores Fire brush truck and a water truck from Canyon Construction will be stationed at the race site to mitigate dust and fire. The Cortez Fire Protection District will provide emergency services.
The event’s exit and entrance points were approved by the road department.
“We would like to make the area an off-road park,” remarked Rodd.
The parcel is zoned agricultural, and changing its use to a more permanent off-road race use would require a more detailed process, said planning official LeeAnn Milligan.