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5th death at Oceano Dunes follows Coastal Commission’s rejection of new OHV restrictions

Posted at 6:57 PM, Jul 12, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-12 23:29:14-04

The Coastal Commission’s Thursday conversation about recommended changes to the Oceano Dunes riding area did not cover safety concerns, but the death of a fifth rider that same day is prompting many on social media to ask if OHV associated risks should be addressed.

Data requested from State Parks by KSBY shows 2019 is already the deadliest year on the Dunes in over a decade.

An Arizona man died Thursday at the Dunes in a single vehicle crash involving a motorcycle, marking the fifth fatal crash since April at the Dunes. The crash happened within an hour of the Coastal Commission vote not to adopt new restrictions on the riding area.

In 2014, there were 186 reported OHV crashes with 19 of them considered serious injury and one fatality.

There were 253 crashes in 2015 with 19 of them serious injury and four fatal.

In 2016, there were 231 crashes. State Parks reports one fatality and 29 serious injuries in that year.

There were 227 crashes in 2017 with 22 of them considered serious injury. No deaths were reported that year.

In 2018, 228 crashes were reported with one death and 40 serious injuries recorded.

Ocean Dunes Park Superintendent Kevin Pearce said excessive speed factors into most of the crashes.

“In those open areas, the riding area, the speed limit is kind of whatever is safe for conditions,” Pearce said.

Speed enforcement was recommended by the Coastal Commission as a means of protecting wildlife but not for safety reasons.

Recreators are celebrating the Commission’s vote to allow State Parks to come up with a public works plan for the Dunes but many environmentalists are concerned about whether the plan will protect native species, as well as air quality.

“I’m disappointed by the decision,” CA Audubon Bird Conservation Director Andrea Jones said. “But I also thought it was a really good opportunity for all sides to air their concerns and opinions and I think the Commission really heard OHV can’t continue to exist the way it has at the park.”

Pearce said his team is working to incorporate the recommendations of the Commission into its new plan in a way that preserves access to recreators while protecting the environment.

The plan is due in summer of 2020.