H-OCEANO DUNES

Jul 5, 2013 3:05 PM by Keli Moore, KSBY News

A holiday spent at the Oceano Dunes


While Independence Day has come and gone, many are still enjoying the cooler weather at the beach. In fact, this weekend is the busiest time of year at the Oceano Dunes. More than a thousand people will camp there through the weekend.

"I saw you get a little bit of air and we were going to run the hill, but I wanted to make sure you are okay," said Don Preble, who has been riding on the dunes since 1985.

"I went to college at Cal Poly and that is when I discovered this place," he said.

He said the place has become a small city overnight and a playground for off-highway enthusiasts.

"We come every Fourth of July, Thanksgiving and any other holidays that we can get down here," explained Preble.

In ways the dynamics of the dune culture have changed over the years.

"Back in my 20s there would be five thousand people out here watching people race that hill," said Preble.

Today you see families with young kids, and not everyone gets behind the wheel. You also see people relaxing and going for a swim.

"It's better than being in the smoking heat of Fresno or San Jose right now," said Preble.

During a holiday weekend, the dunes are patrolled by park rangers.

A few years ago a law was passed to help prevent accidents. Now all sand cars and ATV's must have a whip and flag to help spot other riders.

"We never allow our kids to ride unsupervised. We ride in groups. Typically we will have a lead car and a tail car," said Preble. "There are a lot of people around so you have to pay attention to your surroundings."

With thousands on the beach and the mix of alcohol and motorized toys, accidents do happen. Park rangers say so far this holiday weekend, one person was taken to an area hospital after an ATV accident, two people were arrested for a DUI, one person was arrested for a controlled substance, and three missing kids were found.

Beyond the sand, there were also half a dozen water rescues, but no major injuries to report. Park rangers say rip currents are a major concern, so be careful out there.

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