Responsible alcohol consumption will continue to be allowed at popular area; visitors will help determine future use by their actions
POMEROY, Wash. – Typical summer weekend visitation at Illia Dunes, a popular area near Lower Granite Lock and Dam on the lower Snake River, is 100 to 300 visitors, with up to 2,000 visitors on long holiday weekends or just before school begins in late summer.
After an unexpected Aug. 25-26, 2012, weekend crowd of about 3,000 Illia Dunes visitors left behind thousands of pounds of trash, broken glass, foam coolers and other litter on the beach and along three miles of road ditch, the Walla Walla District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers had no choice but to temporarily close the “Dunes” on Aug. 27 last year until it was safe again for visitors. The Dunes reopened on Sunday, Sept. 2, after a week-long cleanup effort by Corps staff and volunteers, just prior to the Monday Labor Day holiday. At that time, the Corps announced it would review options for maintaining public safety and health at Illia Dunes during the 2013 recreation season.
To maintain safety, beginning in May this year, the Corps plans to limit Illia Dunes parking to two nearby Corps parking lots only. No public parking will be allowed on the adjacent 50-mph speed limit Almota Ferry Road as in past years. Warm-weather visitors parking on the two-lane, road shoulder have often encroached on traffic lanes, making the roadway narrower and preventing cars and emergency vehicles from safely passing. Shoulder parking also creates pedestrian hazards.
Limiting parking to Corps parking lots will have the effect of limiting Illia Dunes visitors to a maximum of about 500 people at a time. The two parking lots hold a total of about 120 cars.
Alcohol consumption at Illia Dunes will not be banned at this time. Alcohol will continue to be allowed if consumed in a responsible manner. No glass containers are allowed on the Dunes, underage drinking is not allowed, and the Corps provides free trash bags for visitors to use for “pack it in, pack it out” trash removal. The Corps has the option of banning alcohol consumption on Corps lands at any time, and such bans are in place at several locations in the region.
The Corps will continue to monitor how well visitors keep glass containers off the beach at all times, consume alcohol responsibly, use provided restrooms, not use fireworks on Corps lands at any time, and enjoy their visit without violating laws or posted notices. In this way, visitors will be helping determine future public usage of the area, which is also a wildlife habitat management area.
After announcing closure of the Dunes last year, Corps staff and a grounds maintenance contractor initially cleaned the shore area of the Dunes. But three miles of roadway ditch still needed to be cleaned. The Corps received many offers of volunteer cleanup assistance from nearby university fraternities and sororities, plus individuals. To maintain safety and efficiently manage final cleanup, the Corps worked with a single organized group of 64 volunteers from Washington State University on Sept. 1. Corps officials expressed appreciation for all offers of volunteer help.
More information about Walla Walla District recreation opportunities is available on the District website at http://www.nww.usace.army.mil/Missions/Recreation.aspx.
Also, original Aug. 27, 2012, downloadable photos of trash and a large crowd on the beach remain available with a 2012 news release at http://www.nww.usace.army.mil/Media/NewsReleases/tabid/2614/Article/3493/illia-dunes-closed-until-further-notice-due-to-visitors-trash.aspx