Photos from the Vault

Holiday at the Dunes: Jumping over flames on a 3-wheel ATV

Joe Souza of Visalia soars across an open fire pit on his sand cycle as his buddies watch during Labor Day weekend 1982.
Joe Souza of Visalia soars across an open fire pit on his sand cycle as his buddies watch during Labor Day weekend 1982. Telegram-Tribune

A frosty beverage, lighter fluid, testosterone and a gasoline-powered three-wheeler are active ingredients that can be identified in this photo.

Telegram-Tribune photographer Tony Hertz documents the energy that young dudes sometimes bring to the sand hills next to the ocean.

The park is now called Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area and the prone-to-tip three-wheeler is no longer made by the big five manufacturers of all-terrain vehicles. Three-wheel ATV’s are largely a relic of another era, replaced by more stable four-wheelers.

A ranger once described a holiday weekend at the Dunes as an instant city.

Within that city, people occasionally mix testosterone and other ingredients incautiously.

On Sept. 6, 1982, S.E. Seager wrote about a holiday weekend at the Dunes:

Pismo Dunes

Volunteers help make holiday peaceful

Park rangers, police and hospital officials agree this was one of the most peaceful Labor Day weekends at Pismo State Beach and Dunes in recent memory.

They said the number of accidents and injuries to the estimated 30,000 vacationers was a minimum thanks to the small number of overnight campers and the aid of volunteers.

“People are a lot more polite this time,” said Mary Foraker, charge nurse in the emergency department at Arroyo Grande Community Hospital.

“It’s been busy, but the injuries have been mild compared to the Fourth of July. They’re kind of cooling it. They aren’t drinking as much,” she said.

Today marks the last holiday weekend for unlimited camping on the South County beach and dunes.

Supervising Park Ranger Don Patton estimated that the crowd was down more than 20 percent from last year, with only 1,700 campers registered on Saturday night. There were 2,700 overnight campers on the same night last year, he said.

“The number of daytime (users) didn’t drop much,” Patton said. “But it helped having fewer campers. He said crowding always causes problems.

“It was better than any other weekend in the three years that I’ve worked here,” Patton said. “We had 50 percent fewer accidents and no serious injuries.”

Patton added that six drunken driving arrests — the “usual number” — were made.

“The number of incidents were fewer,” Patton said. “And I’m happy to report that our controversial fence suffered absolutely no damage.”

The seven-mile long fence was erected to protect dune vegetation from being trampled by off-road vehicles.

Patton praised the volunteer horse patrol and ATC (All Terrain Cycle) brigade for guarding the new fence.

As of Sept. 15, the state park will be limited to 500 camping units, though off road groups are pushing for a limit of 1,500

The off-roaders have protested the camping limit to county supervisors and the state Coastal Commission but called off their plan to stage protest demonstrations at the beach this weekend.

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