Damage from dirt bikes, vandals may delay Moreno Valley Ranch
golf course’s reopening
(Pictured left) Mark Stevens, a golf course operator, stands by plywood placed to cover glass doors to the pro shop after too many shots by vandals, at the Moreno Valley Ranch golf course Wednesday, Aug. 22. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)
By DAVID DOWNEY | email@example.com
PUBLISHED: August 23, 2018 at 5:10 pm
UPDATED: August 23, 2018 at 5:10 pm
Mark Stevens thought he’d seen everything.
Then the partially eaten body of a dead dog was unearthed from a putting green at the Moreno Valley Ranch golf course.
“That was a new one for me,” said Stevens, who is overseeing the renovation — and resurrection — of the once-popular recreation area. “In 35 years (of managing golf courses), I’ve never had a golf course where somebody dug up a green to bury an animal.”
That’s the tip of the iceberg. Dirt bike riders tore up several greens over the summer. Amateur snipers shot out rows of clubhouse windows. As a result, the once-popular golf course that closed three years ago may not reopen, as promised, by the end of the year.
With trespassing and vandalism seemingly out of control, the developer working to bring back the course — along with more than 400 apartments — put out a plea.
“We need the public’s help to catch these guys,” Eric Heffner, director of real estate development for Bridge Investment Group, said by phone.
Heffner said a perimeter fence is coming, though not for about 60 days. Private security officers patrol around the clock, he said. But they can’t be everywhere at once. So he urged neighbors to call police if they see an off-road vehicle on the greens and fairways.
“These dirt bike riders are purposefully trying to destroy these greens, and if they continue with their destruction, the course will most likely not be open by the end of this year,” he said, in a notice to the surrounding neighborhood.
That would be a shame, said Stevens, owner and chief executive officer of CSC Golf Management.
(Pictured above) Mark Stevens, golf course operator, stands Wednesday, Aug. 22, behind a hole shot into windows of the Moreno Valley Ranch golf course lounge and pro shop. (Photo by Terry Pierson, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)
(Pictured left) Dirt bike riders left deep ruts in this putting green recently at the Moreno Valley Ranch golf course, triggering the need to reseed the green. Course officials worry that continuing damage from illegal off-roading could delay the planned reopening of the popular golf course set for late this year. (Photo courtesy of Saul Rodriguez)
Moreno Valley Ranch golf course developers are asking neighbors to report sightings of off-road vehicles on the course.
Call the Moreno Valley Police Department at 951-247-8700 or 951-776-1099.
“Right now we’re hoping that our Christmas present to the community, and to ourselves, will be that we’re open,” Stevens said.
The revival of the Moreno Valley Ranch golf course has been in the works since Bridge Investment Group bought the property a couple years ago. On June 19, the Moreno Valley City Council voted 5-0 to green light its plan to restore 18 of 27 holes and remodel the clubhouse. Also planned is a 417-unit apartment complex where the driving range used to be, plus a high-end restaurant, Boys & Girls Club facility, event center for weddings and park.
Originally laid out by legendary golf course designer Pete Dye, the 112-acre Moreno Valley Ranch course was popular with golfers across Southern California. It had three distinct nine-hole sections with descriptive names. There was the “Lake Nine,” “Mountain Nine” and “Valley Nine.” Golfers could choose which two sections to play to get in 18 holes of golf.
Through the renovation, the Lake section will become a center for disc golf and foot golf, the latter a sport that combines golf and soccer, Stevens said. And he said there are plans to host 5-K races on the cart path around the section. It happens to be 5 kilometers long.
The other sections will comprise the new course. The Mountain section will become the “front nine” or first nine holes, he said, and the Valley section will become the “back nine,” or holes 10 through 18.
The course used to be known as Moreno Valley Ranch Golf Club, but Stevens said a new name is being developed. And the course will be run by a new entity formed from CSC Golf Management and Diamond Golf International.
For now, Stevens said, the late-year reopening is on schedule. Damage to the greens has been repaired, he said.
But his team gave up on replacing clubhouse windows. So many have been shot out that Stevens decided to board them up for the time being.
As for the dirt bikes, Rose Baldwin, whose home backs up to the course, said she’s seen them tooling around several occasions on weekends. The riders are mostly kids — and a few adults — from somewhere in the neighborhood, she said.
“I just think it’s awful,” Baldwin said.
Perhaps it was understandable that riders used the dormant course as their personal playground after the closure. But things have changed.
“You would think people would respect the fact that the property is being developed now,” Baldwin said. “But they aren’t.”
There is more than illegal off-road riding and shooting going on.
“Over the Fourth of July, we heard that they had nude swimming in one of the ponds,” Stevens said. “It’s like the Wild West out here.”
Then there was the incident at hole No. 3. That’s where workers found the unearthed body of a dead pit bull wrapped in a black bag, in a giant hole in the putting green. The dog was partially eaten — probably by the mountain lion that’s been roaming the area, said Stevens, who has been managing golf courses since 1983.
“I can’t blame the mountain lion for digging the dog up,” he said. “But I can sure blame the human being who buried the dog.”