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#3 - How the ASA got its start

#3 - How the ASA got its start

| Vince Brunasso

Sometime back in 1968 or so I was introduced to off roading. My employer had 2 Honda Mini Trails and I had a 5 hp Bonanza mini bike.

Fast forward to 1982 at the ISDRA;  the only name I knew back then was Glamis. It was pristine: no crowds, no trash. There were even some trash barrels that Honda had placed there. For some reason, the dunes on the North side of 78 were closed.

Keith Rosewitz and I enjoyed many trips there and loved the remoteness. It felt like the edge of the planet or middle of the Serengeti Desert.

By 1998 or so, more people stated going to “The Dunes”. Trash was becoming a problem as was distain for law enforcement and the rules in place at the time. Many had no idea there in fact were rules. Nights at Comp Hill were right out of a Mad Max movie. I posted a page on AOL listing the rules: very crude by today’s standards. There was really no good way to get duners to read the primitive page as email and the web were just then catching on.

About that time, a ranger came into camp one evening and invited us to her presentation that night at the ranger station on Gecko Road. Three of us attended. We learned about how the dunes were formed, the various species that eke out a life there, but more importantly, the newly listed Peirson’s Milk Vetch.

Having seen what happened to other areas when a species got listed, Keith and I knew “someone had to do something”. Other organizations were stretched thin as it was. There was not one that specialized in sand dunes as they all concentrated on areas specific to their club. Our thinking was to unite them and their member bases to form one giant association that did its own fundraising. The thinking was that this is America, this is our sand too and we have a right to some of it  – especially since most of the other dunes in Californian and other states had already been closed. So the name American Sand Association seemed natural.

Keith Rosewitz immediately set up a website called (GOL). I spent a lot of time going camp to camp with fliers telling people what was going to happen.  Many did not believe it, but GOL’s readership boomed nonetheless.

Keith and I caught the eye of the Technical Review Team and the BLM El Centro Field office. GOL became the “official” site of the TRT and it was there we met Jerry Seaver. Jerry was the chairman of the TRT and an avid dune enthusiast. The TRT was a citizen input panel.

Jerry and I would spend countless hours walking camp to camp handing out fliers and letting people know what was coming. We picked up a lot of great volunteers in that process. A volunteer database was created based on forms we had people fill out. We kept track of what areas they could volunteer and their email addresses.

Long story short, then the closure came – it basically gutted the center of the ISDRA and was not based on any science. We thought, well, that’s easy, we just have to show that the plant is alive and well. Yes, we were very naive back then.

We managed to assemble over 700 duners at the first ISDRA public meeting at Barstow where the closure was officially announced. Keith, Grant George of Funco, and I sold ASA tee shirts and hats out of my van in order to raise funding for our future efforts. We knew that we would have to go to court eventually.

Jerry, Keith, and I did our first Sand Sports Super Show and to our amazement, we collected some $30,000. On top of that, Mark Harms of Sand Tires Unlimited stepped up in a big way at the show with a couple of significant checks that literally brought us to tears. We continued to collect volunteer information. A mass email database was established and effectively utilized.

We now had enough potential volunteers for a full blown operation: on line store and sales, Sand Show Coordinator, Newsletter Chairman, Event Coordinator, Checkered Flag Program, camp to camp flyer distribution, and so on. We also had the money to make it all happen.

We saw Mark’s commitment and wanted his help running things. Mark agreed to sit on our board. We also brought Grant George on board. Little did we (or they) know the commitment we had asked of them. When it came to ASA business, they would put their own businesses on hold: even as most their competitors stayed busy at work. Eventually, I am happy to say, that many of the others stepped up as well.

We wanted respected sand oriented businesses that would lend creditability to our effort. It paid off handsomely. Grant and Mark both hosted ASA information meetings at their businesses to standing-room only crowds. Not only did these after-hours meetings inform the dune community, they contributed to needed capital and the all-important volunteer database. Duners were energized to take a stand.

There were many donations, time away from work, unreimbursed trips to Sacramento, emails to read, and on and on. Funco built, donated, and raffled off our first fund raising vehicle. Others followed suit.

Millions were raised. ASA donated to CORVA, Blue Ribbon Coalition, Friends of Oceano, and many others.  Millions were spent on legal fees and biological studies. ASA was instrumental in founding EcoLogic which is the legal entity that represents and is funded by many pro-off road organizations.

Countless hours of fantastic volunteers made possible the reopening of 40,000 acres at the ISDRA. Many great volunteers still give their spare hours and continue to make personal sacrifices so that we all can get in that next great ride.

I shudder to think how much of the ISDRA would be left now if not for all the volunteers that gave freely to Unite, Inform, and Mobilize.

It scares me to think how few off road opportunities would be left if all the pro off road organizations just packed up and went home.  Our freedom to go off roading would soon be whittled down to nothing.

Please help to keep the fight alive: donate your time, your talent or your dollars.

As Thomas Jefferson said, “The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.”

Vince Brunasso
ASA Founding President

Vincent Brunasso – ASA Co-Founder

Desert rat since early 60's - duner since 1980. Self employed from age 20 on -- focus on real estate. Started Glamis On Line website in 1998 to bring awareness of rules, safety, and land closure issues pertaining to ISDRA.