Fee's have been in place at Dumont Dunes for only two years and the BLM is considering an increase to help meet operational costs of the popular motorized recreation area.
For many of the most avid duners the current $60 annual fee is just a grain of sand compared to the cost of their sand toys, RV, hauler, and fuel. Can the BLM justify the increase? And will another $15 or $20 meet any opposition?
For decades Dumont Dunes was just another BLM "OHV open area", which are lands that have been designated appropriate for OHV recreation. Other OHV open areas managed by the BLM's Barstow Field Office include El Mirage, Razor, Johnson Valley and Stoddard Wells, but since 2004 only Dumont Dunes began charging users a recreation fee to visit.
This levying of fees resulted from newly granted authorization from Congress to do so, combined with dwindling allocations from the California's OHV fund, and a surge in visitors at the Dunes. To offset the siphoning of resources from other needs of the Barstow Field Office, the BLM implemented a user fee program which attempts to meet the costs of managing the 20,000+ visitors who congregate at the Dunes during the peak weekends of the winter season.
In prior years grant allocations from the State's OHV licensing and gas tax programs provided significant funding to meet the expense of providing law enforcement personnel and vehicles, road maintenance, restroom cleaning and maintenance, and visitor safety and medical teams.
Because OHV activity and number of visitors continues to balloon at Dumont Dunes, so do the costs of managing the area. Unfortunately, State OHV grants are highly competitive and increasingly political. As more and more of the grant program's pie is allocated to route closures and restoration, it become more and more difficult for law enforcement and operations and maintenance grants to receive adequate funding, if any at all.
As a result, funding for Dumont Dunes has become more unpredictable and less adequate. With funding levels changing drastically from year to year it has become impossible to initiate any planning beyond the end of a fiscal year. Multi-year projects are out of the question, and achieving consistency in the BLM's level of services from one year to the next is a tremendous challenge.
The previous objective was to keep user fees at Dumont Dunes as low as possible, and augment them when possible with the increasingly iffy annual allocations from the Federal budget and the State OHV Commission. One year the fees may be sufficient enough to fill unmet needs, but not the next.
With the goal of providing a consistent and predictable source of revenue for Dumont Dunes the BLM is considering increasing users fees, possibly enough to meet ordinary operating costs. Grants and special allocations may no longer be relied upon for regular operations, but could be sought for special or long-term improvements in facilities and services.