Horde descends on dunes for holiday

November 25, 2001|By MARIO RENTERIA, Staff Writer

Four-by-four trucks, motor homes, off-road vehicles and motorcycles filled the Imperial San Dunes Recreation Area this Thanksgiving weekend as visitors took off on off-roading adventures.

Every year during the Thanksgiving vacation, thousands of families, friends and off-roading enthusiasts travel from near and far to spend anywhere from a day to a week together in the dunes.

"It's very family-oriented," said Ira Long, off-highway vehicle grant coordinator for the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.

"It's a kind of generation thing. Some of these people came with their fathers and now they're here with their families," he said.

He said this year the dunes had more than 95,000 visitors as of Saturday but BLM officials expect that to increase by today.


David Simmons of Lake Forrest was one of those visitors. He brought his wife and two daughters, ages 9 and 11, to the dunes.

"It's fun," he summed up of his reason for visiting the sand dunes.

This year is Simmons second Thanksgiving in the sand dunes. He said he used to race motorcross but now only does so for fun with his family.

He praised off-road enthusiasts for always being willing to lend a hand.

Zachary Zuppardo of Moreno Valley came to the dunes with his son, Zach Jay, 10, and a friend, John Jones.

"This place is great and I hope it stays open," he said of the sand dunes.

Zuppardo and company arrived about a week ago and plan to leave Monday.

"I like the dunes, the riding around and having a good time," he said.

Zuppardo has been visiting the dunes for five years.

With more than 95,000 people visiting the sand dunes, Long said it's common for accidents to happen.

"Accidents do happen and all you can really do is stress safety and keep the public informed," he said.

Long added about 30 percent of off-road riders suffer an injury each year.

He said, "Accidents sometimes happen because people challenge themselves too hard."

Long said rangers try to stress to dunes visitors the dangers of drinking and driving.

Long praised several organizations that helped in the public information effort on safety, particularly a citizens' technical review team.

>> Staff Writer Mario RenterĂ­a can be reached at 337-3435.

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