Your Marine Corps

Errant cyclists cause headaches aboard Camp Lejeune

North Carolina cycling enthusiasts in and around Marine Corps Air Station New River and Camp Lejeune beware: You are persona non grata on the popular trails near two Bravo Charlie and Bravo Delta training areas.

Officials with Camp Lejeune's conservation law enforcement agency reiterated the restrictions in a February news release after learning local cycling websites highlighted the trails, said Maj. Brian Strack, director of the base's range control division. A recent uptick in violators using the trails at Marine Corps Air Station New River and Camp Lejeune that run near the Bravo Charlie and Bravo Delta training areas also played a role, according to the release.

Though the statement cited safety concerns ― authorities worried unsanctioned visitors might fall prey to a stray bullet ― officials have since clarified their objections last week. Neither of the Bravo Charlie nor Bravo Delta training areas boast live-fire ranges, Strack arck said.

But since the trails are accessible without passing through a gate, their use could lead to unauthorized visitors wandering around the facility, potentially into secure or hazardous areas, he warned.

"Any time there are people in the training area and we don't know where they are, there is an inherent risk they might end up somewhere where they shouldn't be," Strack said.

Local cyclists say the move places restrictions on trails they've have had access to for decades, and has created some friction between the Corps and biking groups. Permission to use the trails has come and gone, said retired Master Gunnery Sgt. Jeff LeBlanc, president of Down East Cyclists, but the area has been popular with bikers for more than 30 years.

"Probably even before I joined the Marine Corps back in the 1972, this trail has been here. I know full grown adults who learned how to bike on that trail," LeBlanc said. "Permission [to use it] has come and gone."

Marine officials are encouraging cyclists to use a roughly 7-mile trail closer to the heart of Camp Lejeune, largely paid for and built by LeBlanc's group, in place of those closer to the training ranges.

While a major proponent of that route, LeBlanc argues its location is inconvenient for Marines at New River looking for midday exercise on a mountain bike. The now-restricted trails at Camp Lejeune are more convenient because they adjoin the nearby air station, he said. even though they technically fall under Lejeune's control.

LeBlanc, a The former master gunnery sergeant and member of the Corps' mountain bike race team, hopes to convince base officials to reopen those trails. And if that fails, LeBlanc said he will push to have unused land on or around New River set aside for a trail network similar to what his group built near Henderson Pond.

"Right now it's a little bit of tension," he said. "I will work with the base any way possible to get authority for a trail at New River Station. We are passionate about our sport."

And cCyclists aren't the only group alone in breaking the Corps' rules. Joggers also likewise get caught on the trails, reachable by a dirt road near U.S. Route 17.

"This isn't just bikes," Strack said. "The issue with the bikes was, because of the website, people thought it was authorized. This is an education campaign. I don't think th9ese people are intentionally flouting the rules."

Offenders have been both military personnel and civilians, said Paul Boniface, Camp Lejeune's chief conservation officer, in an emailed statement. He declined an interview request from directly with a reporter from Marine Corps Times.

Along with potentially wandering into a secure or dangerous area, interlopers also might get rundown by a military vehicle, disrupt training or force a unit to pause operations, he said.

Boniface described the infractions as "simple cases of trespassing and failure to comply with published regulations." The restrictions have been in place since 2011, he said.

Unauthorized civilians face federal trespassing charges and being banned from base while Defense Department employees could lose driving privileges or suffer non-judicial punishment, officials said.

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