Valley couple's mission to keep the Imperial Sand Dunes clean picks up steam
NEAR YUMA, Ariz. - The Imperial Sand Dunes are recognizable to many who have made the drive to San Diego from Arizona. The dunes can reach heights of nearly 300 feet (ca. 91 m) above the desert floor, and the area is great for off-road recreation.
However, who is keeping it clean?
As it turns out, the same people who like to tear through the dunes for fun are also trying to make sure there's no trash left in their wake.
The area, also known as Glamis Sand Dunes, is a sprawling sea of sand dune tranquility until adrenaline junkies arrive for their adrenaline fix.
For people like David and Jenn Karbginsky, the dunes are home for seven months of the year.
"I didn't know about it seven years ago," said David, who is from Peoria. "I had zero idea what Glamis was. Didn't know Glamis was a word. My wife here introduced me to it."
David and Jenn started a business catering to the off-roading crowd, renting out dune vehicles while living where the work.
"We started staying out here because we knew if we didn't stay out here and make it a regular thing, we wouldn't succeed," said David. "It has to be seven days a week."
David, however, quickly realized there was an issue with his sand castle.
"I was out on my front porch one morning after a big event at the beginning of the season, and noticed there was trash all along my front yard," said David. "I really realized that nobody was going to pick it up, so I felt that it was my obligation to clean my front yard."
From there, an idea was born.
"Glamis Black Bag Project is a movement," said David. "It's as simple as cleaning up trash."
David and Jenn have made it a mission to clean up the dunes. The Glamis Black Bag Project started to pick up steam, and they took it to social media.
"We'll make a video and say you can come by anytime you want," said David. "If you want to pick up trash, stop by here, grab a bag."
They knew they were onto something following their first big weekend of the season in 2017. Thanksgiving weekend brought out a bit of NASCAR star power.
"First year we did it on Thanksgiving was the first year that Greg Biffle came out, and he helped us," said David. "He brought his truck out, and we got five-and-a-half truckloads of trash from the flats."
Since then, there's been a quest to bring the amount of bags down to zero. On busier weekends, thousands of people will be lined up for the dunes, but thanks to the project, self policing efforts have led to a reduction in the amount of trash.
"There's going to be trash. There's going to be wind," said Jenn. "We all make mistakes of dropping something here and there."
Now, David and Jenn can't go out to the Dunes without keeping an eye out for trash.
"We're trying to gear it more towards the kids," said David. "Obviously the parents out there, but if we can get the parents to teach the kids that are coming out in the next generation, hopefully they can teach the kids, and we won't have this problem."
The project's popularity has led to raffles and swag giveaways. David, however, wouldn't call himself an environmentalist.
"Maybe a little bit now," said David. "I'm definitely a lot more self-aware and self-conscious about the trash around me and what's going around in my environment. I don't know that I'm an environmentalist, but I'm definitely more self-aware after what has transpired here.
The Glamis Black Bag Project works with other groups to organize trash pick-ups, as well as the Bureau of Land Management to make sure there's as little trash left in the dunes as possible.