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Dunes Thanksgiving weekend numbers down
While attendance was down at the Imperial Sand Dunes this four-day Thanksgiving holiday weekend, there were still 92 medical-related calls, according to the Bureau of Land Management, which oversees the popular recreation site.
According to Joya Szalwinski, a park ranger for the El Centro Field Office, there were 131,404 visitors to the dunes during the holiday weekend, compared with 142,000 during the 2011 Thanksgiving holiday weekend. Szalwinski said Thanksgiving is seen as the big kickoff for the winter sand duning season.
“Thanksgiving has traditionally always been our busiest holiday and usually draws some of the largest crowds,” Szalwinski said. “The activity of sand duning is very family-oriented and generational.”
The busiest weekends typically are Thanksgiving, New Year's, Presidents Day, Halloween, Martin Luther King Day and Easter.
Szalwinski said this year's 92 medical-related calls were slightly above last year's 86 but could be expected for such a long weekend. Most of the calls, she added, were for minor injuries and no fatalities. There were also no illegal gatherings.
Visitation to the dunes, however, has been on the decline since 2008. While Szalwinski said it was difficult to know why there have been fewer people, she suspects the downturn in the economy and high gas prices are to blame for keeping people home.
Despite this year's number being lower than last year's, Szalwinski said she is still pleased because there has been an overall reduction in medical calls during the duning season the past five years.
She credits the efforts of law enforcement and the agency's safety campaigns for being a big part of that overall decrease. This year's safety campaigns are “Mind the Terrain” and “Restrain Yourself.”
Szalwinski explained that “Restrain Yourself” encourages duners to wear their safety harnesses, while “Mind the Terrain” is an effort to get duners to take time while they are riding to check out the terrain so they know what they are riding into.
“The dunes are quite a dynamic place and always changing. We are asking people to stop and check the other side of the dune if they don't know what it is like.”
Overall, Szalwinski said, she thought the holiday weekend went well.
James Gilbert can be reached at email@example.com or 539-6854. Find him on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/YSJamesGilbert or on Twitter @YSJamesGilbert.