BY CHRIS McDANIEL, SUN STAFF WRITER
People who have been coming to the Imperial Sand Dunes for years noticed there were fewer people out this year.
Ammanda Moore has been coming to the dunes every year with her family from Riverside, Calif., and said it wasn't as busy as last year.
"No, less busy," she said. "It's been that way. There are a lot less people and we noticed a gradual decline in how big the (RV city) was because normally people are parked way out towards the hills. It's so crowded usually but now it's a lot lighter. It's not scarce but most people came out for just a few days."
Moore said her family saves up in advance to be able to still come to the dunes even though the economy is faulty.
"We've been doing this since I was born. We come out Christmas Day and stay until a little after New Year's."
Jim Green, who lives in Yuma and has been going to the dunes since 1975, said many of the people enjoying the dunes were leaving by Saturday.
"Everybody is going home now. Saturday everybody's packing up and going and that's when we come out. People came out right after Christmas, so they are leaving."
Moore and her family don't have to worry about paying for a hotel room because they bring their RV with them to sleep in.
"Since we have to conserve water, we don't get to shower much. The sand gets everywhere and all over your feet. We used to stay in a hotel in clean beds with no sand, but it's really nice out here at night when you look at the stars because it is so dark."
Green said it's easier for people in Yuma to go to the dunes because they don't have to stay out there all night.
"I actually come out here for the day and go back at night. It's close enough to town where you can come out and go play and then come back and take a shower and have a meal. I don't have the money for all these motor homes and toy haulers."
Green said he comes out to the dunes even when it isn't the holiday season.
"We'll come out here after work at night, it's only 20 minutes, and run for a couple of hours. We come out here two or three nights a week after work. It's close to Yuma and doesn't cost you a lot of gas money to get out here. It's just another whole city this time of year."
Green said the price for a permit doesn't keep him or his friends away.
"Well, it was the same this year as it was the last two years, and is $90 for an annual, but that pays some wages and keeps the Dumpsters out here, which is the big thing. When they were talking about taking the Dumpsters away, everybody was concerned about what it would have turned into out here. I don't mind paying it."
Green said most people at the dunes are responsible with their trash.
"You bring it in, you carry it out. That's the rule. At the end of the weekend, we will do a trash run and fill up a couple of trash bags.
"We have to keep it clean because if it get's bad and gets out of hand and gets where people aren't (picking up their trash) ... it's going to lead to higher fees or they might even close the place. Everyone is pretty good about it. There are very few who don't take out with them what they bring in. Even then, we’ll go out and pick it up for them."
Green said the people who play at the dunes are there to have fun.
"There are a lot of families, it is a family sport. My son started when he was 4 years old and is still doing it, but he's got all his own stuff now."
"This is a really family-oriented place, and there is not a lot of drinking and driving, so it's safer for kids. That's why you see a lot of kids out here on their quads. This is a great family spot."
Green said there is nothing like driving up and down the hills of soft sand.
"It's like floating on a cloud. With the suspension and stuff nowadays, you just kind of float. It is really a neat experience. It takes the stress away."