Visitor numbers up at Sand Mountain |

Visitor numbers up at Sand Mountain

Burke Wasson

Tribune News Service / File photo/ Despite fees at Sand Mountain doubling since Oct. 1, the Bureau of Land Management reports riders have more frequently trekked to the massive sand dune since that time.

FALLON – Even if you raise fees, they will come. Or so it goes at Sand Mountain.

One month after usage fees at the sand dune were doubled, Bureau of Land Management officials said people apparently aren’t shy about paying more money.

According to BLM Associate Field Manager Elayn Briggs, activity at Sand Mountain increased during the month of October – when annual and weekly passes at the sand dune popular for attracting off-road vehicle riders doubled.

But despite that doubling, Briggs said each of the weekends in October saw an estimated 2,000 to 2,500 people at Sand Mountain. This dwarfs the estimated figure of 1,500 to 1,800 people reported during Labor Day weekend.

Whether the reason for the higher traffic at Sand Mountain is because of the cooler weather or more popularity, Briggs said she is nonetheless pleased that people are continuing to rev up their off-highway vehicles at the massive sand dune located 25 miles east of Fallon.

At the same time, she and other BLM rangers are cautioning people to be careful while riding at Sand Mountain.

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A 31-year-old Ruhenstroth man illustrated these concerns Saturday when his motorcycle collided with a sandrail dune buggy and left him with severe injuries that put him in intensive care.

News reports indicated that Hawker sustained severe head injuries, lost his spleen, has a lacerated liver, a broken left femur, a left arm broken in three places and ribs on his left side shattered.

Briggs said no other serious accidents were reported last weekend at Sand Mountain.

As for the usage fees doubling, Briggs said she and BLM rangers have heard a variety of feedback.

“It’s kind of all over the place,” Briggs said. “Some people wish we wouldn’t have raised our fees. Some people seem to like having free admission on Tuesday and Wednesday.

“And a number of Nevadans have said that people from California should have to pay more. It’s all over the board. But for the most part, people are complying.”

Yearly passes at Sand Mountain jumped Oct. 1 from $45 to $90, and weekly passes rose from $20 to $40.

But the BLM has helped people adjust to the fee raises by offering free admission to Sand Mountain on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

Briggs said the increased fees are necessary in order for the BLM to continue to offer needed amounts of law enforcement and emergency management services as well as enough funds to cover maintenance of the park.

According to BLM officials, Sand Mountain fees generated $170,000 in revenue last year. This money is exclusively reserved for maintenance costs, which include cleaning restrooms, trash disposal, pumping vault toilets, additional toilets during holidays, grading the entrance road, emergency medical services, law enforcement, fee collection, signing, brochures, education and resource protection.

The cost of maintaining those services last year at Sand Mountain was $225,000, according to the BLM.