Rangers urge responsibility at Illia Dunes


LUKE HOLLISTER | The Daily Evergreen

Dozens of people socializing and playing beer pong at the Illia Dunes on Monday. The shallow water and sandy beach is located about 50 miles away from WSU, making the dunes a popular local get-away.

JACOB MOORE, Former Evergreen sports editor

There are few places to go around the Palouse to cool off from the scorching summer months. The Illia Dunes, more informally known as just “the dunes,” is included in that compact list.

If you make a trip to the dunes this summer, you’ll likely smell sunscreen and alcohol lingering in the breezy air. Some go to relax, some to drink and some to splash around the water. Others choose all the above.

As long as the dunes is open, it is almost guaranteed that WSU students will drive the 50 or so miles to get there every weekend. The dunes are an obvious summer hot spot. Therefore, taking care of this treasure should be a major priority of anyone who uses it.

After arriving, there is a five-minute walk through the gravel to the scorching sand. As the muffled electronic music nears, mosquitoes and overgrown plants hide the path.

The rules are simple and posted before and after the path so everyone can see them: pets must be on a leash, no glass containers, no open fires and no camping. Most students go to the dunes for just a few hours at a time, so these regulations are easy to follow — most of them, at least.

The rule that park rangers strictly enforce is the policy on glass containers. It’s not uncommon to see multiple tables with red solo cups set up for beer pong or people wandering around with alcohol in their hands. Sara Jones, a park ranger that patrols the dunes, believes the problem occurs when that alcohol is stored in glass bottles.

“The biggest challenge is the amount of trash that is left on the beach after high visitation,” Jones said. “We also encounter many people with glass at the dunes, which is prohibited. There are trash bags and dumpsters available on site, and we encourage everyone to be responsible and pack out all trash.”

One park ranger said he was talking to some students with beer bottles about the importance of the glass container rule. Suddenly, a football landed feet away from where he was standing, shattering the very glass bottle he was lecturing about.

That football made the ranger’s point. Glass bottles that break can harm anyone that unknowingly steps on broken glass. On a sunny day, glass might be easily spotted in the sand, but it’s not so easy when it sits on the clouded river floor. Many who lose items in the water hardly ever find them for this reason.

To keep the dunes from being shut down like it has been multiple times in the past, the community has a responsibility to keep up with the rules.

“When there is a considerable amount of trash and when human waste is on the dunes, it can result in the area being closed down,” Jones said.

Disrespecting the dunes is like disrespecting fellow community members. Not only does trashing the dunes make it look less appealing, there’s a safety hazard posed to anyone who might accidentally step on glass shards. If rule-breaking continues, dune-goers may have to find a different place to play water Frisbee.

“Visitors and their behavior help determine future public use of the area, which is a wildlife habitat management area,” Jones said.

Jones also emphasized that breaking the law instead of breaking the rules would result in more than just a citation.

“The dunes are patrolled by federal and county officers,” Jones said. “All federal, state and local laws apply. It is important to remember that Illia Dunes is federal property, therefore it is not legal to possess or use marijuana or any other illegal drugs.”

If students can follow the straightforward rules and remain safe while at the dunes, Jones is convinced that the dunes will stay open all summer.

“We greatly appreciate [visitors’] responsible use of the dunes and picking up after yourselves so the dunes stay clean and safe for visitors to use all summer long.”