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June 07, 2009


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What a pleasurable opportunity to meet and greet such a kindly expert! As a resident of nearby San Luis Obispo ("SLO" to the locals), I jumped at the opportunity to learn more about sand at your enthralling lecture and presentation at the Long Beach Aquarium. It was my honor to "host" you and your lovely wife here in our local dunes. I learned even more about the wondrous sand formations we call 'dunes' and especially loved the micro-world "canyon" (pictured above) that eroded in front of our eyes to the vibrations of our voice. Your close-up photo could just as easily be an aerial photo of any mountain side. Thanks for teaching me about cross-bedding, sorting and other fascinations. I wish you book was on tape so I could listen on my way to work. The radio interview was a nice warm-up, though.

Any sand enthusiasts are welcome to contact me. I'd love to be acquainted with anyone as congenial as Michael.

Kevin P. Rice
[email protected]

Our group, Safe Beach Now, wants a vehicle-free beach so that children can play safely without fear of being run over. Kevin P. Rice, off-roader and member of Friends (sic) of Oceano Dunes, is trying to steal our name to interfere with our efforts. Please see www.safebeachnow.org for our mission statement, and www.safebeachanddunes.org for our documentaries.

It is indeed interesting to observe the physics of sand movement, and it makes for interesting and beautiful photographs. However, please don't lose sight of the fact that our Dunes are subject to unnatural erosional activities that disrupt the crust, which is what keeps this sand from becoming airborne. Each year, thousands of acre feet of sand are dispersed into the air by the unfortunate activity of offroading, polluting the air living creatures must breathe with particulate matter that is more than mineral--harming the lungs of animals and humans alike, and causing cardiovascular damaage. The effects of this, not to mention other vehicle-related alterations of natural landscapes, have become an international problem. The fragile dune ecosystem, hinted at in your photographs, is typically overlooked by most riders, and is losing its foothold as increasing numbers of people who put their recreational needs above those of mother nature's. The dunes are more than sand--and people need to understand that they are more than the substrate. OHV traffic has increased 400% since 1991, according to the USGS. A few vehicles weren't such a problem in the past, but the growing swarm is. The Oceano Dunes were once considered an international environmental treasure, much photographed by National Geographic photographers of the past. Alas, because of offroading, today it has become a blight on California's coastline. If you truly love the Dunes, please walk them, photograph them, but leave your cars and your trash behind.

Sharon Leavitt provides no basis or references to her "facts". It is provably false that "thousands of acre feet of sand are dispersed into the air" by offroading. The USGS estimates (http://pubs.usgs.gov/of/2006/1219/ -- p. 26) "that about 150,000 cu. m of sand are blown inland each year along the 55 km stretch of coastline from Pismo Beach to Point Arguello". Converted to Leavitt's odd use of acre-feet, this would be 122 acre-feet of sand.

Also know that vehicle recreation only utilizes 10% or less of that same area (http://www.duneguide.com/images/OceanoDunesClosedAreas.jpg ).

Thus, Leavitt asserts that "thousands of acre-feet of sand are dispersed" by vehicle use in 10% of the dune complex, when only 122 acre-feet of sand feed the entire 100% of the dune complex! Spread evenly, the sand supply in the vehicle recreation area would only be 12.2 acre-feet, yet Leavitt would have us believe that vehicles remove THOUSANDS of acre-feet annually? There would quickly be no dunes left, yet vehicles have recreated there for over 100 years (http://www.bob2000.com/pismo.htm ).

Additionally, OHV traffic at Oceano Dunes has not increased--it has decreased. I'd like to see where the USGS spoke about a 400% increase--the USGS studies the earth, they do not measure park use. If they have, please provide references to your facts.

While there are private and public places (national forests etc.) for the responsible use of ORV's, country, irresponsible off-roaders have helped to destroy precious habitat of the protected North Carolina Outerbanks National Seashore and have maliciously run over the young of endangered shore birds as documented in now "famous" photograph of a ORV tire track over a squashed baby bird that appeared in Audubon magazine. It is these ecologically ignorant(and proud of it),self-absorbed, infantile "it's all about my rights" abusers of our public spaces who have only themselves to blame when they are blocked from using these places.

Since I run this blog to be (hopefully) informative and fun, I explicitly do not want it to be a place for controversy and antagonism - that's not what it's about; as I've commented in my most recent post on the British libel laws, it's not that I don't have my own opinions, but I have no axe to grind with anyone on the issue aired above and, at the end of the day, it's none of my business. Reluctantly and in many ways uncomfortably, I have decided to exercise author's prerogative and terminate this comment thread here. I profoundly hope that this will be a rare event!


THe dunes are amazing! WHo could ever think such beauty could be found in a big sea of sand :) I am so glad I got to read your post and look at the amazing visuals of this place.

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