NewsPaper Article States $415 million Economic Benefit

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Jerry Seaver
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NewsPaper Article States $415 million Economic Benefit

Post by Jerry Seaver » Sun Jul 29, 2007 5:42 pm

BRAWLEY — Glenn Haas this Labor Day will know exactly when and where each visitor arrives at the Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area.

Haas will be tracking this from a distance using a computer that will be linked to 15 new underground vehicle counters that will be placed at all the dunes’ entry points.

This isn’t a covert government surveillance operation.

It’s about money.

A recently released economic analysis of the dunes said visitors spent an average of $415 million on their trips to the dunes during the busy season from October 2005 to May 2006.
“We’re dealing with a very loyal customer base here. They come frequently, they stay longer, they’re passionate, but I don’t think they know what services are available locally,” Haas said.

The Colorado State University professor is working for United Desert Gateway as part of a comprehensive assessment of the economic impact the dunes has on Imperial County.

The UDG, a nonprofit corporation that promotes the dunes, is paying $10,000 for the new vehicle counters, which will replace older ones being maintained by the Bureau of Land Management.

Haas, who specializes in natural resources, is integrating the results of a visitor survey he conducted last year with the results of an economic analysis by the California Center for Border and Regional Economic Studies released last month.

The numbers from both assessments are staggering but not surprising to Haas and UDG president Nicole Gilles.

“It’s an in-your-backyard phenomena,” Haas said, adding dune enthusiasts travel from as far as 200 miles away — from Southern California and portions of Arizona.

Avid dune visitor and Phoenix resident Jerry Seaver, 61, said he and his family spend on the average a combined total of 45 days each year at the dunes.

“There’s just something intriguing about the dunes, with the sand moving, the atmosphere. It’s just an intriguing area,” Seaver said.

Contrary to the widespread perception that the dunes are primarily a recreation spot for off-highway vehicle drivers, the place is also a popular campground site for families, he said.

“It is something that draws families together. It takes them away from the city, from watching television at homes. … They’re spending time with their parents,” he said.

Five generations of the Seaver family have been going out to the ISDRA since 1973, he said.

For all of its natural intrigue, though, the intriguing economic question that Haas and Gilles hope to answer is: How can gateway cities such as Brawley and El Centro get a piece of the estimated hundreds of millions of dollars dune visitors spend to get here and play here?

During a five-month survey period, visitors spent an estimated $330 million getting to and staying at the dunes, according to the CCBRES analysis.

“I think we’ve always known that dunes users spend a considerable amount of money in our community and these numbers solidify that fact,” Gilles said.

Haas said local cities, to attract more dune visitor dollars, should take a page from the small Colorado community he’s from by letting duners know they are welcome here.

“People are looking for a whole variety of information that could either keep them here longer or get them to do more things,” he said.

Gilles is in the process of publishing the latest UDG annual newsletter which she said is a success among duners because it provides them with the area information they need and want.

The average dune visitor comes to the dunes 5.8 times per season compared to people who visit national parks which is once every year, according to Haas’ survey. Dune visitors stay an average of 18 days when they come to visit, he said.

Earlier this year UDG paid for a Tucson-based aerial photography company to take pictures of activity at the dunes to assess the level of activity on one particular day.

Gilles said the UDG intends this coming season to have more aerial photographs taken to further refine their data on dune activity.

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Post by L&L Corvairs » Mon Jul 30, 2007 12:04 pm

Great article. Good to see a positive news story.
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Post by Woodglue » Mon Jul 30, 2007 3:54 pm

We [the Night-Ride group] were talking about this last weekend. It's good to see some hard numbers! Thanks for posting it! :wink:
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