My Voice: Letters to Joshua Tree Voice

By David Ray
Photo Credit: Sandra Goodin

Jan 30, 2022, 8:15 AM
to MyVoice

I am a resident of the high desert and Joshua Tree and have been for over 10 years. I bought & renovated a home that I now live in. That being said however, I still carry with me a 323 area code and did move here from Los Angeles, where I lived for almost 10 years. So, I understand that for many longtime residents, I am part of the problem.

I moved here because it was quiet. I moved here because there wasn’t much to do. I moved here because in my frequent sojourns to the area, I found a solace and peace that I wasn’t aware that was integral to my being. I met and befriended many people who live and had grown up here, and found them to be more grounded, kinder, never in a rush, and certainly more polite.

As all of the residents of this area can attest to, the past 5 years has brought exponential (often times unwelcome) change to the area. The explosion of short-term rentals and the exploitation of the imagery, the name, this area has become a hashtag, a bucket list item. But far and away one of the most damaging aspects of what has happened, and continues to happen to this area, is the entitlement and lack of respect the people that visit this area show to the businesses, landowners and locals that live here.
Yesterday I drove to an area in Joshua Tree to see a massive art installation called Transmission. The piece is situated on the crest of a hill and can easily be seen from over a mile away.

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As I approached the area where the piece was, I could see a handful of cars parked off the road in an area that was obviously graded to be a parking area to view the piece, which is about 100 yards away. There is a fence directly in front of the parking area, there are signs on the fence that clearly say, “Private Property, No Trespassing,” and there are also posts with signs on the other side of the fence that clearly say, “Private Property, No Trespassing.”

Looking up at the piece from the fence, I could easily see ALL the occupants of these parked cars milling about and taking photos directly underneath the installation. The trails of footprints in the sand told the story of where these people had climbed though the fence, underneath the words, “Private Property, No Trespassing,” and footprints that lead past the other sign that said “Private Property, No Trespassing.”

As I stood there in awe of the installation and of the blatant disregard of the people surrounding the piece, one of the people who had gone through the fence and was now coming back made a joke to me about how dangerous the fence was, and I should definitely not go through it. He was smiling ear to ear.

I quickly wondered if he would still be smiling if he came home and found someone he didn’t know wandering around in his backyard?

I will freely admit, when it comes to the general public (tourists in particular), it’s a big ask to install a massive outdoor piece of art in a relatively remote area, surround it with a fence that can easily be passed through, and ask people NOT to pass through it. But that’s not the point.

Another quick note, I went on two hikes in Joshua Tree National Park this week. Both trail heads have large and easy to read signs that say NO DOGS and even explain why. On both hikes there were people hiking with dogs, off leash. When I stopped and pointed this out to them, one said, “Thank you,” and the other said, “Oh.” Neither made an effort to leash their dog or turn around.

Visitors, please have some basic respect for the area, the basic rules, and the people that live here.

No matter what happens in this area, I love living here, and the omnipotent element of the nature will always be amazingly beautiful.

It’s a good portion of the people that visit that are ugly.

Dave Ray
Joshua Tree, CA

Note from the Publisher: It has always been a goal of Joshua Tree Voice to be a reflection of this brilliant collective of creatives, to support foundational needs in the community, and to be a vehicle for writers and residents to have a Voice. If you would like to submit your thoughts for consideration, email us at

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