For what appears to be four years running, the number of visitors to the Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area during the Thanksgiving weekend are down.
This year, the drop-off seemed quite steep, from 142,000 people in 2011 to 131,000 in 2012. If the numbers are accurate, potentially 11,000 fewer people are spending money that could benefit Imperial County. That is significant.
The reasons seem to be both a mystery and many at the same time.
Recreation is always the first casualty of a soft economy. California has been traveling a path of pain and austerity for at least that long.
It can be argued that the state is on an incremental rebound, but there is still much uncertainty, in the job market, in people’s personal finances.
We imagine that translates to fewer trips to the dunes for long weekends where a hefty amount of disposable cash is needed. People need to hold onto what they are earning.
The great multiplier in that scenario is gas prices, which in California during that time period have ebbed and flowed. Yet, with each raising of the bar, the baseline gets a little higher.
Taken as a body of evidence, the avid dunes-goer is not going to miss out on an opportunity to head out to the desert. Who is being impacted is the casual dunes user, who given a choice where to use their entertainment dollar, is not going to choose Glamis or Buttercup Valley.
Still, we believe the economy, gas prices and more rules and regulations thanks to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management have also eaten into the numbers.
What local officials who depend on the tax increment from dunes traffic should be concerned with is a worsening bottom floor to the numbers.
We’ve written of new BLM regulations, law charges and possible raised fees impacting users starting the first of the year. There is the potential for the numbers to dip even further into the future.
We hope that isn’t the case. An economic rebound in California and the nation as a whole could slow that descent. But the heyday of big numbers and big money might be done.
Attendance at ISDRA dropped 11,000 in one year.
Economy and gas prices are having an effect, but more could come in January.
WHAT DO YOU SAY?
Send us your thoughts on this topic to www.ivpressonline.com/letterstotheeditor
Concerned about a current issue? Want to share your point of view? We want to hear from you. Send a letter to the Editor. Click here!