Ocotillo Wells SVRA was host recently to the 53rd annual Tierra Del Sol Desert Safari event. What started out as a small group of friends getting together to drive their Jeeps in the challenges of the desert has turned into one of the largest OHV events in the United States.
The preparation for this event starts months ahead of time and includes the permit review process, scheduling of additional staff, development of the Incident Action Plan, interpretive displays and staffing, temporary measures to protect resources, and coordination with outside agencies. Every aspect of the parks’ operation is intricately involved in this event including interpretation, maintenance, public safety and resource staff.
This year’s event may have been the largest, with over 20,000 in attendance each day. Although more than 1,000 vehicles participated in the “Safari ride”, a majority of the crowd show up to enjoy the 60 vendors and fireworks show.
As with any large event, public safety is a primary concern. This year, Ocotillo Wells SVRA received assistance from staff at Lake Perris State Recreation Area and Hungry Valley and Oceano Dunes SVRAs and Anza Borrego Desert State Park. With this additional assistance, the Law Enforcement and Emergency Services team was able to maintain a noticeable presence and keep the event safe and peaceful.
Several visitors expressed their appreciation for the professionalism of our State Parks team. Over the weekend there were about 10 arrests, primarily for Driving Under the Influence. Additionally, 10 medical aids, and one Search and Rescue (SAR) kept our officers busy.
The SAR took place towards the end of the event and involved and elderly couple that was several hours overdue and both had medical issues. The Peace Officers and Desert Lifeguards began a hasty search with the assistance of a CHP helicopter. After several more hours, the couple was located and assisted to safety. The couple had become helplessly stuck and had no way of contacting anyone for assistance, but they did the right thing and remained with their vehicle and waited for help.
The Interpretive Department set up a variety of displays and hands-on exhibits for Safari goers. Visitor’s marveled at solar flares while gazing through the park’s solar telescope, they took a trip through time as they held fossil replicas of past beasts that once swam or roamed the area, and finally, they were able to test their rock crawling skills while practicing the Treadlightly Principles on the park’s R/C Jeep course. More than 3,000 visitors stopped by the booth.
The encampment at the Tierra Del Sol Safari at Ocotillo Wells SVRA
Officers Russ Fortin and Callan McLaughlin help at a medical incident