A tragic accident like the one that killed eight people Saturday in the Mojave Desert is unlikely to occur at Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area, the park’s superintendent said Wednesday.
Several years ago, the park stopped holding closed-course racing events like the Mojave event because of environmental concerns, Oceano Dunes Superintendent Andy Zilke said.
“We don’t have anything permitted that compares to that kind of activity,” he said.
On Sept. 24 and 25, the park will be the site of the Pismo Jamboree, an event for Toyota truck enthusiasts. The main activity is a GPS competition that is more like a scavenger hunt than a race, Zilke said. Last year, the event attracted 100 participants.
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It is possible that the park could hold races in the future. If it did, precautions would be taken to keep spectators a safe distance from the vehicles, Zilke said.
In the Mojave accident, a truck went out of control in the California 200 race near Lucerne Valley and rolled into a crowd of spectators. The way to avoid that kind of accident is to require that spectators stay back a safe distance, such as 150 feet, he said.
That did not happen in the Mojave race. Witnesses reported that spectators were standing so close to the race course that they could reach out and touch the vehicles as they went by.
With only 1,500 acres of riding area, it would be much easier for rangers at Oceano Dunes to enforce safety protocols than at the 50-mile-long Mojave race, Zilke said.
Protection of endangered species is the main reason races are not held at Oceano Dunes. Two protected birds, the snowy plover and least tern, nest in the park and the noise and lights associated with races would be disruptive to them.
“We don’t hold any kind of event during bird nesting season,” Zilke said.
The park is also faced with a new environmental issue — dust blowing off the Dunes and creating unhealthy air quality on the Nipomo Mesa. It is unlikely races will be held at the Dunes until that issue is resolved, Zilke said.
Reach David Sneed at 781-7930.