The Social Fight For Ocotillo Wells

Jean Turner | June 19, 2013
The deadline for the state parks to defend its management of the off-road use area at Ocotillo Wells is coming up on June 20  2013.  Photography By: Andrea Wilson
Photography By Andrea Wilson

Off-road racer Desiree Bates didn’t exactly plan on becoming the name and the face of the fight to keep Ocotillo Wells open, but things kind of worked out that way when she found thousands of people rallying behind her Facebook page, “Fight For Ocotillo Wells!” (

“I was just trying to get the word out,” Bates said. “But since I started the Facebook group, they’ve wanted me in on meetings with EcoLogic and District 37 because there’s now over 4000 people in this group. They just want to rally people together, people from the press, from Districts 37 and 38 – groups that have a large impact on getting the word out to the off-road community. Each week we have a meeting now and we’re trying to organize everything, and start fundraising efforts as soon as the state decides to fight this.”

Currently, that is the question of the week. After being served by PEER (Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility) and the DPC (Desert Protective Counsel), the state parks department has 30 days to respond, and decide whether or not to defend its management of the off-road use area. That deadline for the California Department of Parks and Recreation to fight the lawsuit is coming this Thursday, June 20.

“It sounds good,” Bates explained. “It sounds like the state is going to fight this so that’s positive news. They haven’t announced that yet, but we’ve heard that it’s going that way.”

Other support tactics have popped up on social media, such as a federal petition, which began circulating recently. But as Bates explains, a federal plea isn’t necessarily the way to go.

“You’re petitioning nationally and this is a state issue,” she said. “I guess people thought, ‘We should get the word out, etc.’ Yeah… but the best thing we can do is write a hand-written letter hand typed, in your own words telling people why you love Ocotillo Wells.

For more information on writing to State representatives in support of keeping the Ocotillo Wells area open, go to

Another way to be proactive is to become involved with the Ocotillo Wells SVRA General Plan. “They’ve been updating the General Plan,” Bates said. “People can go onto Ocotillo Wells SVRA page and make suggestions to the General Plan and get involved.”

People can weigh in on the Ocotillo Wells General Plan at, a site that is dedicated to revising the broad-based policy document that establishes long-range vision and goals for the area. The site explains that the current version of the General Plan was adopted in 1982 – a fact that seems to irk the environmentalists. In a recent article by the Ramona Sentinel, California PEER Director Karen Schambach is quoted as saying, “That General Plan update, promised since 2007, never seems to get done.”

Getting involved in the discussions, spreading awareness and writing letters to elected state officials is the best off-road enthusiasts can do for now. Pending the state’s decision to fight the lawsuit, the next step being taken by groups such as CORVA (California Off Road Vehicle Association) is to gain intervener status. At this point, since the suit is between PEER and the State, the off-road community doesn’t technically have a dog in the fight. Yet. A law intervention can allow a nonparty (in this case, the off-road community) to join ongoing litigation at the discretion of the court. Should this take place, Ocotillo Wells OHV supporters will have a voice in court, and the fundraising efforts will commence.

“It all depends on how the lawsuit progresses,” Bates explained.

There is still much up in the air at this point, but people like Bates are keeping the public up to date on how you can help find ways to support the opposition to the lawsuit.

“Get involved with an off-road group so you know what’s going on,” Bates said. “A lot of times, like a few years ago, they wanted to put geo-thermal drilling out there and people didn’t even know about that. They try to do this stuff during the off-season so people don’t know about it. Even in this case, let’s say we are to win this battle, there’s going to be more. So just get involved and be knowledgeable about what’s going on out there.”

Jean Turner | Contributor

A former staffer at Cycle News, Turner continues to contribute to the website and magazine as a columnist and someone we can count on to whip up a few thousand words on an off-road race when needed.