Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area Manager
El Centro Field Office
"People think I'm crazy to stay in El Centro for this long," says Neil Hamada. "A status quo day here is crazy, hectic, and full of surprises. Except for a few things, I love it here."
His enthusiasm and dedication shows in all he does. And he does a lot. He manages the fee and grant programs, establishes and nurtures partnerships, he meets and greets the public, coordinates planning efforts and provides emergency medical services.
Neil started as a contracted park ranger, eventually converting to a career BLM employee. He has been in the El Centro Field Office for thirteen years.
He grew up in Gardena, California. He says he spent all his time asking his dad to take him to the desert to go camping and riding. That time spent in the desert sparked his interest in the environment, which led to his pursuit of a bachelor degree in geography from California State University-Dominguez Hills in Carson, California. He says he got the job because he loves to ride off-highway vehicles and spend time in the desert.
"The best thing I ever did was marry my wife, Debbie," he says. "She has put up with a lot, including living in remote desert ranger stations for many years. I have a great time teaching my kids (daughter, Ren, and son, Aiden) things about nature, how to build and fix things and having fun together. Watching them learn and grow up in the country, not in the city, is great."
Neil started and managed the fee program from nothing to a $3.5 million project, and developed partnerships that led to improved visitor services without much cost to the public or BLM. He especially likes to get out from behind his desk and help rescue injured OHV accident victims.
When not managing the expansive Imperial Sand Dunes, he likes to hang out at home in Jacumba with family and friends, riding his dirt bike, jeep or baja bug. He also likes to get away every once in a while to go surfing, fishing and camping.