NOHVCC Newsletter - June 2017 edition

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In this Issue:




Creating Work Plan Is First Step To Updating Iowa’s Oldest OHV Park

by Dave Halsey, NOHVCC Contributing Writer


First in a series. Across the country, there are off-highway vehicle (OHV) trail systems that started out as user trails. Many have since been redesigned into safer, more economically and environmentally sustainable trail systems that also provide a great rider experience. This article series will provide a step-by-step look at the redevelopment of an OHV Park in Iowa that is 23 years old, showing its age, but filled with potential to be one of today’s “Great Trails” destinations.


Breathing New Life Into The Bluff Creek OHV Park

Several people looking at a mapEver since it opened in 1994, the Bluff Creek OHV Park in southern Iowa has been an incredibly popular riding area. Built on an abandoned coal mine in Mahaska County, southwest of Oskaloosa, it’s 350 acres of winding trails, steep hills, three motocross tracks, a no-frills campground, and a deep pit rutted with trails in every direction, that dirt bike riders call the “gravity cavity.”


“At one time, it was the only OHV Park in the State,” said Dan Kleen, former president of the Iowa OHV Association, and president of the National Off-Highway Vehicle Conservation Council (NOHVCC). He has been involved in the Bluff Creek OHV Park since the beginning. “It was filled to the brim on weekends, and there were days when you had to look for a way to get into the parking area. Everyone knew about it, and it drew a lot of riders from the Des Moines area.”


Today, 23 years later, Iowa has eight OHV Parks, giving riders more destinations for riding on trails and tracks with their ATVs ,ROVs (Recreational Off-Highway Vehicles or Side-by-Sides), and dirt bikes. Those who manage the Bluff Creek OHV Park, in partnership with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources that funds it, are moving forward to make improvements. They hope that updates and additional rider opportunities will transform it from what is, primarily a day-use trail system where local riders show up for a few hours and leave, into a regional destination where riders will camp and ride for extended periods.


Dale Witzenburg and Randy Van Maaren, who manage the property, did the original restoration of the coal mine. They have been making improvements to Bluff Creek since it opened; such as building and maintaining trails, as well as performing ongoing reforestation and erosion control. Over the years, they have also enhanced the OHV Park by building a campground, picnic shelter, showers, flush toilets, and a park facilities building. Some of their work is funded by voluntary vehicle registration fees paid by riders. OHV riders are one of the few user groups in Iowa that pays its own way regarding recreation on trails. For over 20 years, the two park managers have also worked hard to make sure surrounding landowners and homeowners are pleased with the ATV Park. “We do everything we can to build good relationships with our neighbors,” said Witzenburg. 


First Step: Creating the Bluff Creek Development Plan

After a few years of discussion and planning, park managers and the DNR agreed to take the first step to improving Bluff Creek: creating a work plan that includes an assessment and inventory of the riding area. “We want to know what we have, and what we could have,” said Rhonda Fowler, the Iowa DNR’s Program Planner and Education Coordinator for OHVs and snowmobiles. The DNR hired Great Outdoors Consultants to work with all the stakeholders and create a detailed Park Development Plan. Based in Fort Collins, Colorado, the company provides inventory, analysis, planning, and design for OHV recreation, Travel Management, and other forms of outdoor recreation. It works with local, state, and federal agencies, as well as OHV organizations.


Initial phone calls with the agency and park managersLooking out at Bluff Creek OHV Park provided Great Outdoors Consultants with the background on the Bluff Creek OHV Park, as well as information on existing land use, park facilities, programs, and funding. That allowed Drew Stoll, Executive Director, and his team to establish project goals, objectives, and standards for the Park and its development. “In projects like this, you have to celebrate the good work you’re doing, and at the same time, keep improving the trail system to meet the changing needs of riders,” said Stoll. The DNR is also doing an on-line survey to evaluate how riders perceive and use Bluff Creek compared to Iowa’s seven other OHV Parks, and what features they’d like to see added. For example, Bluff Creek is one of two OHV Parks that do not allow ROVs, and the DNR would like to find out if opening the Park to them would be of interest to riding families. “We are assessing the appropriateness of side-by-sides up to 65 inches in width,” Fowler said.


In early May of 2017, the planning group gathered for the first time at the Bluff Creek OHV Park to discuss the initial work plan. Joining Fowler, Witzenburg, Van Maaren and Kleen were Drew Stoll and David Chester with Great Outdoors Consultants, Ron Potter with NOHVCC Management Solutions, and Troy Duff, with Iowa DNR Engineering. The group went over the plan, which included the following topics: park information; objectives, opportunities, issues and constraints, targeted visitors, project tasks and schedule, inventory standards, final products to be delivered, reference information, and contact information for all those involved. Later, they walked on some of the trails, discussing both the Park’s positive rider features and challenges that lay ahead to transform Bluff Creek into a state-of-the-art OHV Park, including new experiences for riding families, improved safety and navigation features, and the possibility of including ROVs.


“It’s a whole new era now,” said Kleen. “We have the capability of building sustainable trails. You don’t have to have user-created trail systems anymore. Bluff Creek is a good example of what we can do to turn a user-created trail system into a Great Trail and a Great OHV Park.”


Bluff Creek OHV Park is open year-round, but is closed when weather or trail conditions do not permit riding. A current registration is required for Iowa residents, and a nonresident user permit is required for out-of-state riders. If registration is required in the nonresident home state, it must be displayed on the machine. For more information, visit:


Next in the series: Three days of trail inventory at the Bluff Creek OHV Park included in-depth discussion on goals for the trail system, plus the collection of GPS data and hundreds of geo-tagged photos of the park and trails.



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This Army Veteran Advances OHV Recreation With Military-Like Strategy

by Dave Halsey, NOHVCC Contributing Writer


Third in a series. We publish a lot of off-highway vehicle (OHV) success stories. They often feature one or two people leading the charge on challenging OHV projects, with patience and perseverance. They are engaged and energized. This series of articles features some of those OHV leaders who have military backgrounds, and how they use their military training and experience in their efforts to create a positive future for OHV recreation.


Ken KylerKen Kyler is a retired Lieutenant Colonel and civilian employee of the U.S. Army. He is also a long-time motorcycle rider, OHV advocate, and NOHVCC Associate State Partner.  Thanks to Ken’s approach to building recreational trails with military-like strategy, Maryland will soon be holding a grand opening for the St. John’s Rock Road trail, the state’s first professionally built, sustainable OHV trail. We asked Ken to connect his military training to his success promoting OHV recreation.


What is your military background and what were your responsibilities?

“I enlisted in the U.S. Air Force in 1971, was commissioned in 1985 and retired in 2001 as a Lieutenant Colonel. As an enlisted man, I was a Nuclear Weapons Technician (quite a boring job I assure you). I was commissioned as a Personnel Officer but spent most of my time working policy, planning and IT systems.”


How did military training impact you and does it help you today on OHV projects?

“I was taught to think of the big picture and how to develop strategies to achieve an objective within that; i.e. how to create strategies to effect change. War planning requires you identify the objective and develop strategies to achieve the objective. In Vom Kriege (On War), Carl von Clausewitz describes the concept of the ‘Center of Gravity (CoG).’  The official DoD (Department of Defense) definition of CoG is "the source of power that provides moral or physical strength, freedom of action, or will to act." This includes a variety of factors such as financial, political and social. In other words, if you can control the CoG, you can control the engagement. In each OHV “engagement” I start by asking, ‘what is the correct CoG?’ ”


Is being focused a key asset of your training?

“It is being focused on the correct objective. If you have a friendly, pro-OHV environment, that may be the individual trail. If you are operating within an anti-OHV environment, the objective may be creating a pro-OHV environment.”


Setting objectives and not giving up till you met them?

“Most military people have a saying, to either ‘lead, follow or get out of the way.’ Leaders don’t give up. What else can I say?”


Did military training help you in understanding how government agencies work and how to work with them?

“The military taught me to integrateMan riding dirt bike around corner on trail different elements into a cohesive unit or into a plan. To do that, you must understand the parameters each person or organization works within. Engaging State agencies on OHV trails is no different. You have to understand the laws, rules and policies they work under.”

Were there moral codes on dealing with people?


“The military demands all members have honesty and integrity; and to put the team first. That works exceptionally well in private life too.”


Is there a specific example of something that happened while working on your OHV project where you can point to military training really helping out?

“Maryland is a very liberal state with a very strong environmental community. The ‘environmentalists’ had infiltrated DNR and effected policies that were antagonistic to OHVs.  Whilst most thought the objective was to build a trail, in reality that was the outcome. I needed to get the business leaders in western Maryland energized. They in turn would energize their elected leaders. With the elected leadership in support, then we could get traction with DNR.  After much thought, I had an epiphany:


“The true objective (Center of Gravity) is to create economic benefit through OHV recreational tourism. As Rod Tidwell (Cuba Gooding Jr.) said in Jerry McQuire: ‘Show me the money!’  Western Maryland is one of the poorest areas of the State. Everyone there wants economic growth. We changed our strategy to focus on economic growth via OHV recreation…and the walls started to tumble.”


Any other thoughts?

“Be flexible! No plan survives first contact. Just because you have to change the plan does not mean you gave up the objective. And follow the money!”


In 2015, Kyler received the NOHVCC “Partner of the Year” Award for organizing the Maryland OHV Alliance (MDOHVA) and partnering with the DNR. At the 2016 NOHVCC Conference, MDOHVA was named “Association of the Year,” for their continued growth and development, and their efforts to preserve access for all OHV enthusiasts in Maryland.


Read more about what it took for Ken Kyler to bring OHV riding back to Maryland, in the November, 2016 NOHVCC newsletter, at this link: To learn more about the Alliance, visit:



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Have You Seen The New Saw Policy?

by Dave Halsey, NOHVCC Contributing Writer


The U.S. Forest Service has a new Saw Policy covering the use of chainsaws and crosscut saws on Forest Lands. If your off-highway vehicle (OHV) organization has an agreement with the USFS, and you haven’t seen it, you should.


Rider cutting a tree out of a trail with a chainsaw“The training requirements have changed,” said Marc Hildesheim, Program Manager with the National Off-Highway Vehicle Conservation Council (NOHVCC). “People need to know about the new Saw Policy to ensure they are in compliance with agreements they have with the Forest Service to clear trails. The new policy requires that sawyers complete an S212 class; it has new supervision requirements as well.”


Finalized in July of 2016, the new policy governs the use of saws by Forest Service and other governmental employees, volunteers, training consultants, and cooperators on lands managed by the Forest Service.


“This policy ensures that our employees, our volunteers, and our partners will consistently have the best knowledge available and, in the end, be safer when using saws in National Forests,” said Leslie Weldon, deputy chief for the Forest Service’s National Forest System. “The change also means that if sawyers are certified in one region, they are eligible to work in any of our regions.”


The Forest Service reports that, since the 1970s its nine regions developed regional policies on the use of chainsaws and crosscut saws. Sawyers covered by those policies often maintained trails on National Forests and Grasslands, helped fight wildfires, and worked in Wilderness Areas where crosscut saws are required. Employees, cooperators, and volunteers who worked in more than one region had to comply with multiple regional policies, furthermore certifications obtained in one region were not always honored in another.


Under the new national Saw Policy:Man cutting down tree with a cross-cut saw

  • Current sawyer certifications will remain valid until they expire.
  • Cooperators have one year, until July 19, 2017, to meet the new requirements.
  • Sawyers must comply with U.S. Department of Labor minimum age requirements, which limit use of chainsaws to those who are at least 18 years of age, and use of crosscut saws to those who are at least 16 years of age.
  • Partner organizations may develop their own training and certification programs that meet the requirements in the final directive.
  • Forest Service contractors are also subject to applicable federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requirements governing the use of saws. However, contractors are not subject to the final saw directive because the Agency does not believe it is necessary or appropriate to track their training and certification as sawyers given their role and responsibilities as federal contractors.


Webinar and website answer all your questions.

Last August, the Forest Service held a public webinar to answer questions about the new Saw Policy. Robert Weatherall, recreation safety and uniform program leader with the USFS, was the moderator. “The Saw Policy working group met several times monthly for about two years,” he said. “The guiding principles of this effort follow the model of the Forest Service fire organization by clearly establishing that sawyers, no matter where they are trained, or who they have been trained by, have similar levels of competency, given the same skill level qualification, when trained with the same curriculum.”


The new USFS Saw Policy website has a link to a recording and transcript of the webinar, answers to Frequently Asked Questions, a new, 33-page Saw Operations Guide, and a number of documents related to Forest Service grants and agreements. Click here to see it:



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Polaris ATV trails at the Summit Bechtel Reserve are full of thrilling twists and turns

This year, NOHVCC is helping with the Boy Scouts National Jamboree.  In a partnership with Polaris and the ATV Safety Institute (ASI), NOHVCC is helping to facilitate the training of nearly 1,000 Scouts and High Adventurers during the 10 days of the National Jamboree at the Bechtel Summit Reserve (BSR). 


The article below is part of a Bryan on Scouting blog authored by Bryan Wendell and posted on the Scouting Magazine website.  The text of the article has not been changed,  Updated photos were used to show Scouts being trained at the 2013 National Jamboree as well as an updated copy of the Polaris ATV Trail Map at the BSR.  The original blog and other articles can be found at


Standing ATV rider trainingDan Moore, a volunteer in the BSA’s Montana Council, has seen his share of first-rate trails for all-terrain vehicles.


He even helped build five miles of ATV trails at a Scout camp in Montana.


All this experience means that if you want to get Moore’s heart racing these days, your ATV trail better be world class.


Well, ladies and gentlemen, start your engines. A world-class ATV experience now awaits Scouts and Venturers at the Summit Bechtel Reserve in West Virginia.


It’s called the Polaris OHV Center for Excellence.


Moore himself helped design the trails, and they’re sponsored by Polaris, the top name in ATVs and UTVs (utility task vehicles). Polaris has generously signed on to be the official ATV and UTV provider of the BSA and SBR.


The new ATV trails and ATV educational safety pavilion were designed to meet two major goals: they had to be fun, and they had to be safe.


Check and check.


“The whole trail is fun and exciting, but there is one particular section where there are so many twists and turns you really lose track of whether you are going up or down or right or left,” Moore says. “Scouts will come away from the experience with life skills and wide smiles.”


How to enjoy the ATV trails at SBR


Scouts and Venturers who attend this summer’s National Scout Jamboree will be the first to try these new trails. After that, Scouts and Venturers who participate in a high-adventure program at SBR can make ATVs part of their week of fun.


For ATV participation at the Jamboree:ASI instructor leading trail ride on ATVs

  • Be 14 or older.
  • Complete the free, online ATV safety course.
  • Complete the parental consent waiver.
  • Participants must bring a printed copy of their completed safety course certificate and parental consent waiver to the Jamboree. They can bring printed copies or take a picture of the waiver and the safety certificate and have it saved on their phone.
  • Sign up for a time slot at the Polaris ATV Program Area at the Jamboree. There is limited capacity, so it’s suggested that you stop by the Polaris ATV Training site early in the Jamboree to reserve a spot later in the event.
  • Participants must wear hiking boots, long pants and a long-sleeved shirt while in the ATV program. All other safety gear will be provided.


For ATV participation after the Jamboree:


Keep an eye on the Summit Bechtel Reserve website to learn how you can try the new course after the Jamboree.


How the trails were built

 Trail Map for ATV trails at Bechtel Summit Reserve

When Dick Dufourd of RecConnect and Russ Ehnes of NOHVCC (the National Off-Highway Vehicle Conservation Council) built these trails, they knew they’d need to both protect the environment and meet the needs of ATV riders.

So they planned, designed and constructed trails that are challenging, thrilling and environmentally responsible.


Unlike freely riding around in an open field (which can still be a blast), the ATV trails at SBR add turns and obstacles to the mix.


Plus, established trails focus the impact on the environment. Trails that are safe and fun ensure that people don’t skip the trails and search for other unmanaged places to have fun.


Why the trails are safe


The ATV trails:

  • Keep the trails curvilinear, which keeps the speedsBoy Scouts lined up during ATV training down but the fun factor high.
  • Include proper signage, meaning riders can concentrate on the technical aspects of the trail without worrying about getting lost or off-trail.
  • Open sight lines enough for the riders to be able to look ahead — but not so much that they see a long enough distance ahead to increase speed.
  • Add rails to a low bridge that is part of a skills-development obstacle.


The trails themselves are half of the equation. The other half is the rider-education course, where ATV riders learn to use their body position to control their machine.


“Scouts can expect to learn safe and responsible riding in a safe and controlled manner and have a blast doing it,” Moore says. “The riders will definitely experience every aspect of the safe rider training they receive.”



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Mixed Gear Bag

You know we have to be creative in our titles.  Miscellaneous is too normal and potpourri doesn't sound very rider like.  Below are up-coming events and other assorted items of interest. 

Registration is now open for the 2017 annual conference will be held in Manchester, New Hampshire August 22 - 27.  Go to the conference page for links and the initial registration packet.  The agenda and other information will be coming out shortly and will be added to the page when it is available.

The Forest Service has a Trail Management Handbook.  Check out the amended FSH 2309, see Chapter 21 and specifically 21.2 for NFS guidance related to road to trail conversion.  This link is for portions of chapter 20 through much of chapter 23:


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