Decline in dunes crowd bad sign for season
Communities have different ways of assessing the impact of what has come to be called the "Great Recession" of the past year or so. In Yuma, one way to measure it is the number of people on the sand.
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) reported there was a significant drop in the number of people off-roading and relaxing in the Imperial Sand Dunes west of Yuma this past Halloween weekend.
Thanksgiving weekend has traditionally been seen as the big kick-off of the winter sand duning season as huge numbers of local people and others from California and elsewhere take their RVs, dune buggies and all-terrain vehicles out for some fun.
Lately, however, the time around Halloween has attracted a large crowd too, and it is something of a pre-Thanksgiving indicator of what the season will be like.
That indication was not very good this year, with a 45 percent drop in the number of people in the dunes for Halloween. BLM officials are hopeful that is not a sign of what is to come.
They said the likely culprit is the economy. Off-roading in the dunes is an expensive excursion, especially for those who come from long distances. Like other leisure activities, it tends to be sacrificed during hard times.
But we wonder if something more is happening. A complaint we have heard is that stricter enforcement of rules in the dunes has made it less fun to go there. Of course, some rules need to be enforced for safety reasons and to prevent misbehavior, but a balance is needed - and same say that balance is now missing.
Whatever the reason, if the decline continues it bodes ill for local merchants who benefit from the crowds who trek to the dunes each winter.