U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIORBUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT
Preparations help visitors enjoy MLK weekend at Dumont Dunes
Blue sky, bright and clear, hung over Dumont Dunes Off-Highway Vehicle Area on Martin Luther King Weekend. Ridges and hollows in the ancient dunes caught the afternoon sun, transforming it in a pattern of light and shadow. Modified golf carts, quads, motorcycles, sand rails, and other vehicles ran in the dappled light, kicking sand into the atmosphere.
Not far away, Larry Blaine, Recreation Branch Chief at the BLM Barstow Field Office, pulled into the Dumont Dunes Visitor Center lot, just as two recreationists exited the building and headed for their modified rig flying an Arizona flag. Smiling, they stopped to chat with Blaine after he stopped the truck and howdied in a friendly yet professional manner reminiscent of every good park ranger in history. New to Dumont, the couple said they were "delighted" with the Dunes Visitor Center. Blaine says that Dumont is truly a family scene and that the folks who staff it are approachable and helpful.
People come from all over to visit Dumont Dunes -- Dumont features virtually every type of common active sand dune and the 400-foot-tall formations offer an exciting ride, even for experienced riders. Right next door, Little Dumont Dunes is an ideal training ground for new riders and children. BLM, in partnership with the County Sheriff, even offers free OHV training to riders ranging from the smallest to 18 year old age groups. There are also ample opportunities for other outdoor activities -- hiking, rock scrambling, rock-hounding, bird and wildlife watching in the adjacent Kingston Range Wilderness and Amargosa River Area of Critical Environmental Concern.
It is easy to see why folks were impressed with the Visitor Center. Ideally located right next to Dumont's main road, the Center is a great place for people to stop and gather information before they head out to meet their party or choose a campsite. Parking space abounds and the "open" sign and a handicap ramp invite all to enter. Inside, Lillie Cooper was on hand to greet visitors, answer questions, and sell both Desert Access Guides and holiday and non-holiday season passes. Brochures on a variety of subjects such as desert tortoise, California's Natural Wildlands Legacy, OHV recreation and safety, abandoned mine lands, and fossils, as well as a Dumont Dunes guide, Tread Lightly! guides to recreating, and other materials were displayed on granite-topped wood cabinets. The Center also offers information on areas outside the Dunes -- like Tecopa Hot Springs, Death Valley National Park, Shoshone, China Ranch, Amargosa, Mojave National Preserve and more. Many guests paused to sign the available visitor register.
Fee collection officers Jim Shearer (team lead), Dave Roan, Aubrey Reynolds, Anthony Chavez (team lead), Brad Mastin, and Lorenzo Encinas are among the first impressions visitors get of Dumont Dunes. Their responsibilities include, but are not limited to: making sure everyone has passes, providing information and direction, and ensuring compliance with all procedures. Along with collecting fees, the fee collectors also make visits to the Little Dunes campsites to remind campers that passes are available for purchase at the entrance station. Thanks partly to these visits, more folks have begun to purchase their passes online -- which we encourage.
Emergency Medical Service personnel Joan Patrovski and BLM Fire Crew members Daniel Srednick, Jessie Monzillo, Eric Downard, and Alberto Camba were on hand during the MLK holiday weekend, as they are all holiday weekends when visitation is expected to rise. While MLK weekend was quiet, it was obvious how vital these trained staff, and their equipment, were in the case of an emergency. While it would take at least an hour and half for an ambulance to reach Dumont from Barstow, and at least a half hour from Shoshone or Baker, staff on site can perform live-saving procedures within the first critical hour. The EMS trailer at Dumont is outfitted with two medical beds, an OSHA standard hazmat floor, hand-washing sink, oxygen, and incubators. An adjacent heliport allows the Flight for Life to land directly at Dumont. For those who are hurt within the dunes the BLM emergency sand rail can reach virtually any part of the OHV Area.
No major incidents occurred over the holiday. Routine infractions were enforced, such as riders going into areas that were not designated as Open Routes. The area was patrolled by Barstow Law Enforcement Rangers Alex Trujillo and Win Waterman to keep the public safe, which included reminding riders to put on their helmets, campers to remove glass bottles, ensuring riders had and used the right gear, and being the eyes and ears in the case of a need to respond quickly.
A number of branches work in unison to support the mission of making it safe and an enjoyable experience for everyone at Dumont Dunes. In fact, during some events, both California Highway Patrol and the Sherriff's departments are on site as well as law enforcement rangers from the BLM Needles Field Office.
Maintenance crew members Mike Trost, Ron Salazar, and Jamie Livingood, led by Danny Pando, worked constantly to ensure that all the Dune facilities and roads were in excellent working order. One of these essential functions was to water the gravel roads to keep down dust. Instead of wasting resources to haul water in from the closest communities of Baker, Tecopa or Shoshone, maintenance crew members pumped water from the Amargosa River, using a special screened box to ensure that wildlife remain in the river, and don't end up in the water hose, tank, or on the road. Besides the main access road the fee station, command post, heliport area, and vendor's row were watered to combat dust. It also seems that the toilets at Dumont are not only the cleanest, best kept vault toilets anywhere, but that they are even cleaner than a good number of public restrooms! The maintenance crew ensured that visitors had access to a very well-kept facility.
Adjacent to the dunes, Kingston Range Wilderness and Salt Creek Hills Area of Critical Environmental Concern offer opportunities for non-mechanized recreation. To make it easier for visitors to distinguish between these areas and the Off-Highway Vehicle Area, and prevent OHV riding outside of designated routes and areas, Barstow Office project lead Ron Salazar, aided by Vicki Salazar, a multi-branch crew from the Barstow Field Office, SCA Wildcorps and CCC crews, erected post and cable fencing this summer at the northern and southern boundaries. It took only 60 days for the fencing crews to complete 8 miles of fencing split evenly between north and south. Extensions are underway to extend the fencing another 3 miles. Over MLK Weekend panels were also installed in Sperry Wash where a new fencing project also aims to deter OHV riding beyond designated routes and areas. By ensuring that the OHV Area is contained, sensitive species, such as the Fringe Toed Lizard, may better live un-harassed.
All in all, Martin Luther King Weekend was a pleasant and successful holiday at Dumont. The BLM strives to provide the necessary resources at the Dumont Dunes OHV Area to make accessing, riding, camping, and recreating a rewarding experience for visitors. As BLM employees it is in our power to leave such a positive, lasting impression with those who enjoy public lands. If we can do so, the public -- such as those who visited Dumont on MLK weekend -- may nurture a love for public land and a spirit of stewardship which will in turn be passed on through generations.
- Amy Oechsner and Aubrey Reynolds, Barstow Field Office (February, 2012)