Holiday still peaceful at dunes

December 31, 2001|By DARREN SIMON, Staff Writer

For 20 years Bob Byron has been coming to the Imperial Valley to enjoy the sand dunes with his family.

This New Year's weekend was no different, except, he said, he did notice more law enforcement officers in the area.

Byron arrived Thursday in the motor home that also carried his family and some all-terrain vehicles. The family stayed in the Gordon Wells area, a section of the sand dunes he said is more family-oriented than the Glamis area.

On Monday, Byron gassed up his motor home at the 7-Eleven store on Ocotillo Drive in El Centro. His plan was to stop at Rio Bend RV Resort Ranch to cleanup and relax a bit before leaving for his home in Santee.

Byron was just one of an estimated 50,000 people who gathered in the sand dunes for the New Year's holiday.

If he noticed more law enforcement, that was the way it should be, according to local, state and federal authorities manning the dunes over the long holiday weekend.


Some 73 officers from the different agencies covered the dunes. As of presstime Monday, authorities described the weekend as relatively peaceful.

Roger Scott, public information officer for the incident management team in charge of law enforcement efforts in the Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area, said there had been few incidents of violence.

"The serious arrests were way down," he said, comparing the incidents to the Thanksgiving weekend in which the level of violence sparked authorities to re-examine how they manage the dunes.

He added as of Monday there had been less serious accidents than occurred during the Thanksgiving holiday, and no fatal accidents had occurred.

Scott said by Monday afternoon, a steady number of people were leaving the dunes. He said as many as one-third of the dunes' visitors had left by the afternoon, leaving about 30,000 in the area.

For his part, Byron said he and his family had enjoyed the dunes as they do every year.

When asked if he knew of the violence that had occurred in the dunes during Thanksgiving, he said he had only heard recent reports.

He said such news did not stop him from bringing his family.

He said anywhere you go where there are large crowds, a few will cause problems. The other 99 percent, he said, are there simply to enjoy the area.

Byron said of the added law enforcement: "I like them out there. They are good to have around."

Byron added he plans to keep bringing his family to the dunes. He joked that even if he wanted to stop, his family wouldn't let him.

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

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