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By Nadin Abbott

Photos by Tom Abbott

March 4, 2013 (Ocotillo Wells)—The 51st  annual Tietra del Sol Desert Safari, a large meeting of off-road enthusiasts, convened at the California State Vehicular Area at Ocotillo Wells over the weekend.

Among the many thousands who came out were active duty Navy personnel, including Chief Mark Shultz, who serves as the President of 4 Wheel to Heal in his off duty time. This organization is an extension of Ward 57 at Bethesda National Naval Center in D.C.  Its goal is “boosting the morale of wounded veterans from all branches of service” by taking them four wheeling, rock crawling, mud bogging, shooting and camping.

At this point they are not modifying four wheel vehicles, and are in the early stages of outreach to local veteran organizations such as the Veterans Administration, and Balboa Naval Hospital , where casualties from both Afghanistan and Iraq are treated.

According to Chief Schultz, this organization has a very low overhead since they are staffed by volunteers. It also takes anywhere from $50 to $70 to bring a wounded warrior out for the day. In the future the organization hopes to have a Jeep, or other four wheel capable vehicle, modified to take out more disabled vets.

There were exhibits on safety and off-road enthusiasts of all varieties--including Coda Bear, a nine-year-old dog who goes four-wheeling and boating, strapped in with a safety harness.

ECM also talked to Park Ranger Steve Quarteri. He told us that the Park Service is doing outreach, explaining to people about the fauna, flora and geology of the park, as well as the resources presents in the park. These include the cultural resources of the park. This area has been inhabited by Kumeyaay Indians for thousands of years.

He also explained that there is a new General Plan in the works and invited citizens to get involved by giving in input.

For star gazers, this coming weekend they are going to have a star gazing weekend, with telescopes and astronomers at the south end of the park by the Ranger station.

The Park straddles both the Eastern most end of San Diego County and the Western most end of Imperial County.

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