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A ribbon cutting and Grand Opening celebration was held on October 25, 2008, for the new Visitor Center at the BLM El Mirage Off Highway Vehicle Area.  The event featured presentations by Mike Pool, BLM State Director, Steve Borchard, Desert District Manager, Daphne Green, Deputy Director for the California Off Highway Motor Vehicle Recreation Division, and Brad Mitzelfelt, San Bernardino County Supervisor.

The El Mirage OHV Area is managed by the Bureau of Land Management and its centerpiece is the 3,000 acre dry lakebed.  A variety of motorized and nonmotorized activities take place there including landsailing, speed trials, ultra-light and gyrocopter flying, model rocketry and remote control airplane flying.  The lakebed is also popular among the film industry as a site for automobile commercials and major movies.

Honored at the event was Ed Waldheim, president of the Friends of El Mirage, a coalition of users and representatives from several local, state and federal agencies. Ed was credited with keeping the project alive for well over a decade and for working to fund the Visitor Center's construction.

The Visitor Center was dedicated to the late Jim Livermore, one of the founders of the Friends of El Mirage and an early visionary for what has become the El Mirage OHV Area. 

The new Visitor Center is open daily from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm. The El Mirage OHV Area is a recreation fee area with per vehicle fees starting at $15 for one day.  Weekly and annual passes are also available.  For more information, click here visit the BLM's El Mirage OHV Area webpage .

This upcoming November 2008 will likely see the first formal public meetings by the California Department of Parks and Recreation on their Red Rock Canyon State Park General Plan Revision. 

For well over a year, DeathValley.com has been hearing from officials that Red Rock Canyon State Park would be preparing a new General Plan.  Earlier this year, the well-entrenched environmental consulting firm EDAW received the contract to conduct the planning process, and they have made significant administrative progress.

The last planning process undertaken by Red Rock Canyon State Park was brief and unsuccessful, abandoned in 2003, and it only covered the newly acquired areas referred to as the Last Chance Canyon Addition. Click here for a map of the last preferred alternative.  Some of you will recall how the public stood to lose access to significant recreation opportunities under that proposal.

Park officials have already publicly affirmed that this process will be different than before.  First, it will seek to revise the General Plan for the entire State Park – both sides of Highway 14.  Second, the process is determined to arrive at a successful conclusion, no matter what the public throws at it.

Stay tuned here for additional details on the process.

A popular historic attraction in Death Valley National Park has been closed to human entry.  The Keane Wonder Mine and its associated complex of mines, mining structures, equipment and ruins is now off limits to both motorized and foot travel.

The rather large closure of approximately 4,250 acres was issued by the Park Service in the interest of public safety.  The closure area does not include the Chloride Cliffs and Chloride City sites above the Keane mine complex, but does includes the Big Bell and King Midas Mines, as well as the much visited springs to the northwest of the mill site.

The Keane Wonder Mine was one of Death Valley's most prolific gold mines, rich in both history and production.  During our last visit in February 2002, the lower mill site was largely in tact and well interpreted with signs and displayed.

The closure order remains in effect indefinitely and will not reopened, according to the Park Service, until "the site can be made safer while preserving its historic features" and "it is hoped that funding is available within the next few years."

For more information on the Keane Mine closure order and closure area, see the National Park Service release dated September 11, 2008

The much loved Schulman Grove Visitor Center in the White Mountains burned to the ground on September 4, 2008. The world popular attraction was built 10,000 feet high in the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest to teach its visitors about the oldest living trees on Earth.

Old Schulman Grove Visitor Center
Photo courtesy Inyo National Forest

The log cabin structure was already completely destroyed when crews arrived. Lost are the interpretive exhibits, a small theater, and the books, maps and art work offered for sale by the Eastern Sierra Interpretive Association.  The cause of the fire is still under investigation.

The Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest remains open to the public to visit and explore and the Inyo National Forest website reports that staff will be available to assist the public. The Methuselah Trail, however, is temporarily closed, but the Discovery Trail remains open.

Also according to the website supporters are already "thinking and strategizing" on rebuilding the visitor center.

Death Valley Area News
The latest news from inside Death Valley National Park