CALIFORNIA CITY — The winter storm that snarled holiday travel also looks to be putting a damper on the crowds of off-road enthusiasts that typically flock to California City each year during the Thanksgiving holiday.
Tens of thousands of riders annually visit the off-highway vehicle areas on the city’s northeast side, camping in the desert and riding the miles of unimproved city streets that criss-cross the area.
This year, however, the weather forecast appears to have kept some away, as early-week arrivals were down from what officials typically see. A forecast calling for more rain over the weekend may keep away those who would usually arrive late in the week, OHV Manager Inge Elmes said.
“Hopefully, it’s not so bad (and) it doesn’t deter people,” she said.
The larger influx of visitors traditionally arrives for the latter half of the week, according the program officials.
A somewhat quieter Thanksgiving holiday this year may have an upside, however, as the city’s off-highway vehicle program has recently transitioned from the California City Police Department to its own department under the purview of City Hall.
Elmes, who previously served as a Planning Commissioner and who owns and operates Cal City MX Park with her husband, was brought on to manage the program in recent weeks.
The City Council on Oct. 22 agreed to create the position and shift the program from the Police Department.
That transition has been much of the focus of Elmes’ job, including establishing the contacts with state officials who provide the bulk of the program’s funding through a grant program.
That’s not to say the city isn’t ready for the holiday hordes, a priority for Elmes as she took the position.
“We’ve been ready for some time now,” she said Tuesday.
Visitors are unlikely to notice much difference with the change in program management.
Signs are out alerting riders to the businesses in downtown Cal City that sell the city’s OHV permits, which are also available at the epicenter of the riding area at Borax Bill Park on Twenty Mule Team Parkway.
Funds from the permits help support the Desert Incident Response Team, or DIRT, which provides patrols and some emergency services in the off-road areas.
DIRT is active this week, although in somewhat smaller numbers than previous years, Elmes said. One effort the program will be undertaking in the next year is recruitment to build the team’s numbers.