Sand Association opening chapter in El Centro

April 12, 2002|By LAURA MITCHELL

Staff Writer

A chapter of the American Sand Association, one of the main players in the public debate to reopen closed areas in the Imperial Sand Dunes, is starting in El Centro.

The association has about 20,000 members dedicated to keeping open access to public lands for off-road recreation.

El Centro is a logical place for an association chapter, El Centro resident and ASA member Randy Arms said. The U.S. Bureau of Land Management, which oversees the dunes, has a field office here, off-roaders live here and businesses that cater to visitors at the dunes are in this county.

Arms, who is organizing the chapter, said he is already the main point of contact between the ASA and the BLM.


Communication with the bureau is critical since it released its draft management plan for the sand dunes last month.

"I see millions of dollars being spent by the management plan but the bureau's constant complaint is it has no money," Arms said. "Who is going to pay for this?"

He said the plan could be devastating to local vendors. As a Valley native, one of his main concerns is the negative effect the management plan will have on the local economy.

The plan calls for a 55,000-capacity limit at the dunes. On busy weekends, the BLM says up to 200,000 people visit the dunes, Arms said. If the BLM cuts the number of visitors by almost one-quarter, it will be cutting the money those visitors bring to the county by a quarter.

"I grew up with the Imperial Sand Dunes in my back yard," he said.

Arms and his three sons, ages 7, 8 and 10, visit what he calls "the biggest sand box in the world" almost every weekend of the off-roading season.

He said Boy Scouts camping trips to the sand dunes taught him to appreciate the beauty of the desert environment when he was a child.

The ASA Web site is still the main place to find information, but not everyone has access to a computer so forming local chapters is important, Arms said.

The association is also dedicated to off-road education and safety. It promotes sand dune safety through the Safety Bug program and support for law enforcement through the Checkered Flag program.

The chapter's first meeting will be at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the American Legion Post 25 at 569 Broadway in El Centro. For more information leave a message for Arms at 482-0554.

The American Sand Association's Web site is at:

>> Staff Writer Laura Mitchell can be reached at 337-3452 or

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