What in particulate to do about the Dunes?

The kick-the-off-roaders-off-the-Oceano-Dunes camp scored a major victory this week with a scientific study that found air pollution from the state park is posing a health threat for people on the nearby Nipomo Mesa.


Yes, when you mess up the air in one place, there’s a very good chance the messed-up air will spread around to somewhere else, especially when the one place is right at the edge of the ocean and susceptible to strong winds blowing to the other place.

The study discovered two critical points:

One, that the air on the Nipomo Mesa has significantly higher particulate levels than anywhere else in the county.

And two, that the levels measured directly off the all-terrain-vehicle area were higher than those off areas not occupied by the cast of “The Road Warrior.”

I’m pretty sure that’s how the study worded it, but don’t quote me on that.

While air pollution control officer Larry Allen declined to elaborate specifically on just how ATV riding was contributing to the higher particulate levels, it seems pretty obvious that at least one and probably all of the possible noted impacts are to blame.

Off-road vehicles basically pummel the dunes, blasting away the natural crust, grinding sand particles into dust and shooting everything into the air.

The wind catches this plume of pollution, whisks it east and deposits it on Granny Flo, who assumed she would enjoy a perfectly cozy retirement on the Mesa watching soaps from her velour La-Z-Boy and now instead finds she needs to tug an oxygen tank around with her everywhere she goes.

As far as coming up with ideas to mitigate the pollution, I’m not optimistic.

One idea is revegetation, but unless they want to lay down a carpet of ice plant as thick as Bill Morem’s chest hair (Bill being the manliest of all men, you recall), how would anything survive the off-roading to actually keep the sand in place?

Then there’s watering, and I’m imagining a giant network of sprinklers pelting the dune buggies as they bounce by.

Funny, but probably not practical, unless the sprinklers can be individually operated. Then, you could invite in the enviros and charge them a fee to play Squirt-a-Motobiker.

For his part, Pismo Beach City Councilman Ed Waage suggested dust screens, and visions of Christo’s fluttering bed sheets — er, “art” — dance in my head.

Aside from simply limiting the number of riders or booting them altogether, I see only one other option.

Big glass globe.

Lower it down on the OHV area.

Call it the Thunderdome.

Let all the Mad Maxes frolic as they will, undisturbed and (relatively) undisturbing.

Hundreds of dirtbikers enter, no dirtbikers leave.

They have their area. You have yours. Pollution AND noise problems solved!

Now if only we can spruce it up with some colorful linens. ...

Presentation Editor Joe Tarica writes the Joetopia blog at