Recreational area closed off in part to protect rare plant

The Associated Press
Saturday November 25, 2000

BRAWLEY — A portion of a popular off-road vehicle playground was closed for the holiday to protect a rare plant, and prevent accidents. 

About 100,000 people converge on the Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area, just east of Brawley in Imperial County, every Thanksgiving weekend. A judge signed an order earlier this month shutting down 40 percent of the recreation area to off-roaders to preserve Peterson’s milk-vetch, a federally protected plant. 

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management will have 60 federal officers patrolling the area to enforce the order.  

Anyone who doesn’t abide by it will be cited, said Doran Sanchez, a BLM spokesman at the bureau’s Riverside headquarters. 

One of the agency’s chief rangers said off-roaders have been unruly in the past, and there are as many as 360 accidents over a long holiday weekend. 

“These little punks come out here, think they can handle their liquor and they cause all sorts of accidents,” said BLM chief ranger Robert Zimmer. 

Last month, a 38-year-old Riverside woman was killed when she was hit by another off-road rider. Authorities said alcohol apparently was not a factor. 

Off-road riders fear the closure will cram visitors into a smaller area and increase the number of accidents.