• Mon. May 27th, 2024

3 off-road drivers cited after getting stuck at Death Valley National Park

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Three drivers were cited and face possibly thousands of dollars in restitution after going off-road in protected Death Valley National Park and getting stuck, park officials said Friday.

On Dec. 22, a rented Porsche and a pickup hired against park commands to retrieve it both got stuck; and on Wednesday, a man drove a BMW and got stuck in the sand, the National Park Service said.

“Vehicles driving off roads can damage fragile ecosystems and damage archeological sites,” park superintendent Mike Reynolds said in a statement. “They also impact the experience of other park visitors. People want to take photographs of the park’s beautiful landscapes without car tracks in the picture, which can last for many years.”

A Porsche and its attempted rescuer stuck south of Badwater Basin.
A Porsche and its attempted rescuer stuck south of Badwater Basin.National Park Service

All three drivers were issued criminal citations, the park service said.

The park will also seek damages, said Abby Wines, a spokesperson and management analyst at the park.

The amount is not known, but she said a different off-road case a few years ago resulted in an order for $50,000 in restitution.

In the Dec. 22 case, two men in a rented Porsche SUV drove off road and got stuck in the mud while driving toward a salt flat, the park service said. It only made it 200 yards.

A park ranger told them that park personnel needed to oversee the removal, because trying to do so can cause even more damage, the park service said.

But they hired someone in a pickup to try it anyway when the park service was not there, officials said. The truck, too, became stuck.

The Wednesday incident occurred when the driver of a BMW SUV drove a half-mile through Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes and was stuck, the park service said.

Death Valley National Park covers 3.4 million acres of desert landscapes in California, near the Nevada border. It has extreme temperatures and holds the record as the hottest temperature ever recorded on Earth — 134 degrees Fahrenheit on July 10, 1913.

It’s unclear what will be done to try and repair the damage caused by the drivers. It can take many years for tracks to disappear naturally, Wines said.

Wines said there will be an evaluation on options, because more damage can be caused in restoration efforts.

The most common option is to use a hose to lightly spray the ground with water while raking or sweeping over the tracks, she said.

“But we can only use that method within hose distance of the road, or we’d get the water truck stuck out there!” she said in an email.

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