Smaller crowds in sand dunes, and fewer problems

December 30, 2001|By DARREN SIMON

Staff Writer

GLAMIS — With much smaller crowds than over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, authorities reported few problems in the Imperial Valley Sand Dunes Recreation Area.

By Sunday evening, about 50,000 off-road enthusiasts had gathered and some were starting to head home early.

Roger Scott, public information officer for the incident management team in charge of law enforcement efforts in the dunes, said 73 officers had been in the area throughout the weekend.

Scott said there had been five arrests for driving under the influence, the most serious involving a man who led the California Highway Patrol on a short pursuit on Interstate 8 while on a quad. Scott said there had been no assault arrests and few scuffles.


There were, however, serious accidents.

A 16-year-old girl on Saturday was riding double on an all-terrain vehicle that struck a parked ATV. The girl was ejected and reported having no feelings in her limbs.

The girl was flown out of the sand dunes by helicopter. Scott said he was unsure to what hospital she was flown, adding he did not have information on her condition.

In an incident Sunday, a 19-year-old man crashed while driving his dune buggy. He complained of back pain and was flown out of the dunes by helicopter to Yuma Regional Medical Center. Information on his condition was unavailable.

Scott said while there had been few incidents of violence as of Sunday evening, the concern is midnight through 2 a.m.

Still, he said authorities are making sure those in the dunes are aware of their presence.

He said officers were in the area where off-roaders drag race and were citing people for having open containers of alcohol.

The increased law enforcement effort grew out of the problems in the dunes during the Thanksgiving weekend — the most violent weekend authorities said they had seen in the area in recent history.

During that weekend some 190,000 people crowded into the dunes and there were only 40 officers to manage the area.

Local U.S. Bureau of Land Management and county Sheriff's Office authorities said they are determined not to allow a repeat of the Thanksgiving weekend.

An incident management team made up of different agencies was assigned to the dunes.

Increased communication and a "zero-tolerance policy" were key parts of the efforts to decrease violence in the dunes. The plan to increase the number of officers in the dunes is meant to extend to all future holiday weekends, officials have said.

They have said the ongoing effort is going to require more funding, adding they are going to continue to work toward securing more funds to manage the dunes during such weekends.

>> Staff Writer Darren Simon can be reached at 337-4082.

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