NOHVCC Newsletter - April 2016 edition

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NOHVCC & Back Country Horsemen Present Webinar On Preventing Trail Conflict

by Dave Halsey, NOHVCC Contributing Writer

 

Horseback riders on a trailThe Great Falls Trail Bike Riders Association (GFTBRA) and the Back Country Horsemen of Montana (BCHMT) have been providing trail maintenance on the Lewis & Clark National Forest for nearly 30 years. In 1985, when both groups were organized, neither thought much of the other. That’s about as close as they got.

 

Then there was a barbeque.

 

Seeing that the two groups weren’t working together, a land manager with the U.S. Forest Service organized a work day, and had each group start at opposite ends of a trail. When they met in the middle, he made them stay for a barbeque. They started talking. Over time, they realized they had more in common than not. Whether their feet were on foot pegs or stirrups, trail riding improved their quality of life. They wanted the same experience, and had an appreciation for the natural resource they were both using. 

 

Friendships were formed.

 

Over time, the two groups started working the trails together. They discovered their respective strengths. Motorcycles could carry chainsaws easier and were faster at clearing logs and getting to distant work sites. Horses were better at carrying signs and sign posts, and moving material.

 

Communication was shared. Safety was enhanced.

 

Today, working together, the two user groupsRider cutting a tree out of a trail with a chainsaw educate the public on proper trail etiquette for all motorized and non-motorized trail enthusiasts, using maps, signs, newsletters, websites and social media. Their common message: knowing proper trail etiquette isn’t just for common courtesy, it’s a matter of safety.

 

“The most important thing Mark Himmel (Past Chair of the BCHMT) and I talk about is that we need to keep each other safe,” said Russ Ehnes, president of the GFTBRA and executive director of the National Off-Highway Vehicle Conservation Council (NOHVCC). “Rider safety is paramount. Education and communication are the keys to making that happen.”

 

“Why resolve conflict when you can prevent it?”

 

That was the title of a webinar held in late January, where Himmel and Ehnes shared their experience as a real-life example of motorized and non-motorized clubs partnering to prevent trail conflicts. Part of the American Trails “Advancing Trails” webinar series, the hour-long presentation was made by Himmel, Ehnes, and Karen Umphress, NOHVCC IT and Project Manager.

 

“Because it’s not a perfect world, there will always be conflict. There will always be somebody that’s unhappy,” said Umphress, at the start of the webinar, attended by trail enthusiasts from around the country, on their computers. She went on to define conflict and the steps it takes to manage it.

 

Identify the cause and avoid conflict escalation.

“First, you have to understand the underlying cause of the conflict. On a trail, what is the resource and value people are interested in? Sometimes it’s the trail itself, or it may be at the end of the trail, a waterfall or fishing area. Is there one group allowed to go but another that’s not?

 

“Next you have to understand the subsequent steps that may lead to conflict escalation.  If there are groups all seeking to use a limited resource, there will be conflict. The groups start forming cohesiveness that butts up against the other group. It sparks stereotyping, or insulting, or an ‘us vs them’ attitude. The two sides start seeing each other not as people, but as ‘the other group.’ Animosity develops and conflicts escalate.  What are the actions that the groups may or may not be taking to intercept the conflict?”

 

Start communicating with each other and work through the issues.

Umpress continued: “The key is for the two groups to start communicating. In working through a conflict, very often, the land managers with state or federal agencies are caught in a lose-lose situation, because the two sides may not work together. If you can get both sides communicating, with land managers as the mediator, you can then start working toward a win-win position. That may involve working toward a common goal, or identifying a trail project that requires cooperation by both groups. Then the two groups start seeing everyone as people again.”

 

Make all stakeholder groups equal.

“One group can’t think they have more rights,” Umphress explained during the webinar. “The playing field has to be lefront of trail sharing brochurevel. You have to remember that you aren’t managing bikes or horses, you are managing people. Keeping that in mind, that all forms of recreation are performed by people, who all have the same wishes, across the board, it’s for exercise, enjoying the trail, getting out to nature.

 

“It helps in the communication efforts to show that they have more in common than not. And not just the trails, but the ability to spend the same amount of time on trails. If you are combining single-track mountain bike and dirt bike trails, there should be the same amount of recreation time. The motorcycle can go faster, so that user group needs more miles to have the same amount of recreation time as the mountain bikers.”

 

Set expectations for user groups at the trail planning stage.

“If people go to a trail system and understand it’s open to horseback riders and hikers, and they know they will see the other user group, they’re fine with it. If it’s open to horseback riders and people walking dogs, but horses that can’t stand dogs go on it, the expectation isn’t set, they aren’t prepared and conflict will come. If you do a good job of setting expectations ahead of time, the users can bring the right kind of horse on that trail.”

 

Today, thanks to the long-standing partnership of the GFTBRA and the BCHMT -- and the friendships that developed among their members -- dirt bike riders and horseback riders do all the maintenance work, and work together, in the Lewis & Clark National Forest. Said Himmel during the webinar: “We don’t have boundaries anymore. We learned how to work together, using each other’s strengths.”

 

You have questions. NOHVCC has answers.

After their discussion, the presenters fielded questions from the webinar participants.

 

One question was: “Have you encountered formal structures to get user groups to work together from the start?” 

 

“In a formal setting, it’s more difficult to form the groundwork of a partnership,” said Umphress. “The best way to get people working together is having them work together on a common trail section, and then have a fun activity, like a barbeque.” Ehnes agreed, saying:

 

“Local collaborative efforts are important...and nothing beats hands on a pulaski out on the trail, followed by hands on a hamburger.”

 

The psychological term for group conflicts over limited resources is called Realistic Conflict Theory (or Realistic Group Conflict Theory).  The most well-known study was conducted in 1954 and is called the Robbers Cave Experiment.

 

What is happening on your public lands today? Do you have a level playing field? Does one group have more rights than another? If so, you are promoting conflict rather than preventing it. The webinar was recorded in its entirety. To listen to it, save it to your computer, and share it with others, click on this link: http://atfiles.org/files/ppt/AT_WEBINAR_Why_Resolve_Conflict_When_You_Can_Prevent_It_01.28.16.mp4.

 

Partners on this American Trails webinar were: NOHVCC, Back Country Horsemen of Montana, Federal Highway Administration, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, and the National Park Service.

 


 

 

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What It Took To Get A Unanimous Vote On Wisconsin’s Motorcycle Sticker Program

by Bryan Much

 

Part Two. Last month, this newsletter reported on the new “OHM Law” in Wisconsin that creates a sticker program, allowing motorcyclists to generate funds in order to build and sustain off-highway motorcycle trails. The effort was started in 2008, when NOHVCC State Partner Alex Bub created the Wisconsin Off-Highway Motorcycle Association (WOHMA). This month, Bryan Much, current Association president and NOHVCC Associate State Partner, who spearheaded the legislative effort for WOHMA, gives the backstory on what it took to get the bill written and signed into law, with a unanimous vote.

 

A Strategic Plan Turned Misconceptions Into State-Wide Acceptance

 

In early 2016, the Wisconsin Assembly voted 98 to 0, and the Wisconsin Senate voted 32 to 0, in favor of an off-highway motorcycle (OHM) program for the state. The Governor soon signed the Act into law. What went into getting this law in place with such overwhelming support?

 

The most important concept is that “Understanding Brings Acceptance.” People that lack information about a recreational interest can sometimes imagine the worst about what it involves. We must tell our story so people come to know the reality of what we do and who we are.

 

Stack of letters to be sent to Wisconsin DealershipsWhen I started working on the background involved with this legislation, I asked myself several questions. Who needs to know about what we are doing? Who will support us?  Who will oppose us? What are the common complaints or misconceptions that we will have to overcome? I then went to work on these issues.

 

In my role on the Governor’s State Trails Council, I worked through that multi-user group format to explain who we are and what we do, and to develop relationships with the other user groups. Over time, I was able to thaw some opposition. Getting involved with other organizations and local councils of interest can provide opportunities to tell our story and cast our recreational interest in a positive light. Show people you are interested in and support their interests as well.

 

I created an orientation briefing that I could take to committees, councils, forestry, parks, economic development representatives, and others around the state. I had to account for some people knowing very little about OHM, so I used a lot of photos in the presentations as I methodically explained what we are all about and what we were doing legislatively.

 

The presentations hit the spot. When I presented to a working group of state foresters and officials, I had someone point me to what could be good riding in his forest. At another briefing to a county trails council, I went from “never heard of OHM” to “now that I’ve learned about it I want to do it myself,” with three people telling me they wanted to take it up. A fourth, a local government official who was at the meeting, called me a couple of weeks later to tell me that he and his wife wanted to get involved in riding dual sports. He is now a member of a new local club in the area and is working to help us develop a trail project. There are many more stories that demonstrate the success of making these presentations, but you get the idea.

 

Understanding brings acceptance, and sparks enthusiasm.

 

Pictures and video clips in presentations are very valuable in showing people who we are and what we do. The pictures of family groups and individual riders go a long way to overcome negative stereotypes that people might have.

 

I try to tailor each briefing so that there is some local connection.

 

I also did an assessment of the common complaints or misunderstandings that we might face. For example, people complain about noise. I show them a sound testing kit and explain that we require sound testing at each event, and that we also offer voluntary awareness testing even during informal get-togethers. With regard to overcoming the “squirrelly kid” stereotype, I point out that I am 61 years old, a retired Colonel, and that I am somewhat typical of a good portion of our user group. I also highlight our involvement in “self-policing” (peer) and the Trail Patrol program. 

 

Some people will resent what you are doing just because they have an emotional bias against motorized recreation. It is best not to try to engage them completely because it is difficult to win an emotional argument with facts. When I would encounter this type of behavior during presentations, I would try not to get drawn into an unproductive argument and instead try to counter the opposition by continuing with a positive and factual representation of what we do. You can’t satisfy everyone and it is sometimes best to move on.

 

One thing I learned as I engaged some people or groups is that there are many people that “never heard of you” as a recreational interest. We needed more visibility. I went to Travel Wisconsin (who never heard of us either) and sold them on giving us an account to post rides and events on the state-sponsored travel site. Their interests are largely economic. Our recreational interest contributes to that concern if we bring more people to an area or event.

 

The economic development representatives in a county can become huge supporters.  They are always looking for a way to improve the local economy.  If there is an opportunity for OHM to contribute to this, the economic development people can be very valuable allies, with a broad reach, as I found out in my work with some counties.

 

As things evolved, what could have produced the most opposition for our program became one of the biggest supporters. There are about 350,000 ATVs and UTVs registered in Wisconsin. Local clubs have significant influence with politicians. If we did not have the involvement, understanding, agreement, and support of the state ATV/UTV association, we would have been plagued with fighting what could have been local misinformation, speculation, and rumors that could lead to widespread opposition of what we were doing. Bad information and rumors seem to travel the furthest and fastest.  Although the purpose of the legislation focused on developing motorcycle trails, enabling more access to ATV trails was also a goal.

 

Gain legislative attention and commitment: Do’s and Don’ts.

 

Representative Mursau accepts award from Bryan MuchAt the very beginning of the process, we needed to get legislative attention and convince someone there was a need for an OHM program in Wisconsin. To meet this need, I wrote a comprehensive white paper that described the need, listed key components, explained to someone not familiar with the recreational interest what it was about, and presented a clear path as to what had to be done to make things better. One Assemblyman enthusiastically embraced the issue and made it a priority for a legislative aide to work on.  In the Senate, it was more difficult to find a sponsor.  While waiting for an extended period for someone to commit, I recognized that there are politics within politics that are out of my realm, so I just needed to wait until it worked itself out. Doing otherwise might have derailed someone becoming a sponsor. As much as I like to drive an issue to keep it moving, there is also a time to sit down and shut-up and wait.

 

As good as the legislators, aides, and drafters are, they need you to be involved, share what you know, and work with them to get the best product you can. If you are respected in this process, you will have more opportunities to be part of getting it just right. You also have to watch for developments in other bills and related programs to make sure you are updating your bill.

 

Don’t take up issues that will create opposition with other groups that will cause them to start throwing flags in opposition of the bill. For example, Wisconsin is a “no-helmet state” for on-road motorcycles. Some thought OHM should require helmets. If we would have included an overall requirement for helmet use, we would have had other motorcycle groups in the state opposing our bill on principle.

 

Keep your eye on the ball: get a program up and running and worry about changes that might develop later on. It is routine to have to modify legislation over the years to account for changes or unintended consequences.

 

Keep everyone informed along the way.

 

It is important to communicate the progress of the bill with our user group to keep them in the loop and ready to respond if you need a show of support. I chose to do this with a blog and through e-mail notifications. I would also give an update at the AMA District meeting. One must be aware that whatever is shared on social media and web sites is also usually available to those who may oppose you.

 

At key times during the process, I solicited members of our recreational interest to submit meaningful comments to appropriate legislators. Since there is a lot of material to digest and issues to understand, I would create a list of points to make that aligned with the consistent message we needed to send. This was not a cut-and-paste or mass e-mailing. People were encouraged to draw from the talking points to create their own message in their own words. I also offered more guidance about a proper attitude and approach that would make a legislator more likely to want to respond favorably. Part of this involved telling the legislator more about who the writers were and how all this affects their families. 

 

Present a clear and coordinated message.

 

When it comes to committee hearings related to the bill, it is important to control what is presented during the hearing. Even the most well-meaning enthusiasts can inadvertently take things in the wrong direction, simply because they don’t know what they don’t know. I witnessed some other hearings where people on the same side of an issue don’t even agree and they inadvertently open cracks in their position. 

 

Those in favor of the bill need to present a single, coordinated message. There is no need for a bunch of people to repeat the same thing over and over. Have a principal presenter that has the right presence and message for the committee. Have a back-up to respond in the event that someone presents some opposition during the course of the hearing. Have a show of support and interest in the bill by bringing in additional people to register in favor of the bill. You don’t need a mob, but you do need to show that approving the bill in committee is important enough for at least some people to show up and watch.

 

Support of the state Associations and DNR was critically important.

 

Also key to success at these hearings was the testimony (written or in person) from WATVA, that the bill had been fully coordinated with them and that they supported it.  This answered any questions that arose from individual legislators about how this affected their ATV riding constituents. I also highlighted this coordination in my remarks.

 

As I was working on the bill with the legislative people, I contacted people within the Wisconsin DNR that would later be affected by the program, to get their insight on how we needed to handle some issues that would involve them. This was a huge payoff. Getting the input from the people actually involved in some of the systems led to their confidence and support that things would properly accounted for. This was especially important when the draft bill went to the DNR for comment. It headed off some opposition by addressing it ahead of time. Developing these contacts proved useful during the DNR review of the complex bill. DNR people felt comfortable contacting me to help them sort through the requirements of the bill. 

 

Relationships develop credibility and trust.

 

Sen Petrowski accepts award from Bryan MuchMuch of the progress is based on the credibility and trust that is developed through relationships with people involved in the process. Don’t underestimate this.

 

Developing contacts is a long process. Once you have the confidence and trust of some others, they may be willing to make introductions and share some of their contacts with you. Even so, you still have to prove yourself to the contact. People are careful about sharing some contacts because of the risk of someone that doesn’t get it screwing things up.

 

Our process took about seven years. We had a period of upheaval in Wisconsin that put our legislation on the back burner for quite a while.  Nonetheless, once I took this on I wasn’t going to quit. 

 

Recognize and thank everyone involved.

 

Once the legislation was done, I made it a point to recognize the people that were the significant contributors to this effort. It was important, not just because it was the right thing to do, but also because many of these are the same people that I will have to go back to in some future action. I wanted to be sure they were treated right. 

 

One of the quickest ways to lose valuable players is to fail to acknowledge the extraordinary effort they made for you. Some of the key people I recognized, and made a big fuss about calling attention to their contributions, include the President of the ATV/UTV Association and his principal coordinator; the Assemblyman and Senator who sponsored the bills, and the legislative aide that I worked with for a few years to get the bill put together. During the process, he got a different job as a legislative rep in the DNR, but I didn’t forget him simply because he transferred out before the project was done. Of course, I was always expressing my appreciation along the way for the people that meaningfully helped out in other capacities.

 

During its annual meeting in mid-April, the Wisconsin ATV/UTV Association, Inc. awarded Much with its Presidents Award, “for outstanding service and leadership.”

 

To learn more about the Wisconsin OHM Association, visit: www.wohma.com. To follow Much’s blog on the progress of the new OHM Law leading up to October 1 when it goes into effect, go to: http://advrider.com/index.php?threads/wisconsin-ohm-ds-motorcyclists-trail-and-legislative-issues.423792/.

 

 

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What 27 State And Federal Workers Told Us About Their Jobs And Their Rides

by Dave Halsey, NOHVCC Contributing Writer

 

Last in a 12-part series.
Is it important for land managers, recreation planners and off-highway vehicle (OHV) program managers to know how to ride a dirt bike, ATV or ROV?

 

How does being a rider help them in their work managing trail systems, promoting rider safety, and partnering with OHV user groups?

 

Nancy on a motorcycleIn this year-long article series, we posed those and other questions to 27 people at state and federal agencies who work in positions related to off-highway vehicle (OHV) recreation.

 

They are recreation planners, OHV program managers, park rangers, trail technicians -- with a total of 22 different job titles. Their job responsibilities vary widely, as do their educational backgrounds, career paths and off-road riding experiences. Some have been on their current jobs with the USFS, BLM or a state OHV program for months. Others are nearing retirement after a career in public service, a few having built their state’s OHV programs and trail systems from the ground up. 

 

This article series ranks way up there as one of the most interesting and enjoyable I’ve written, because virtually everyone I talked with was so enthusiastic about their jobs, and willing to share their enthusiasm about working with the public to enhance their experiences with motorized and non-motorized recreation. Thank you to everyone who took the time to talk with us about their work, express their opinions, share their personal “ride history,” and allowed us to share it all with our newsletter readers.

 

Here are a few of the questions we asked, and what we discovered talking to people in 18 different states:

 

Is it important for land managers, recreation planners and off-highway vehicle (OHV) program managers to know how to ride a dirt bike, ATV or ROV?

 

Whether they got their start riding off-road on mini-bikes in kindergarten, dirt bikes in college, or ATVs on the job, those we talked to answered that question with “absolutely,” “definitely” and “extremely important.” It’s important not only to do their job successfully, they told us, but to also enjoy their work within their agencies and with the riding public.

 

“I definitely think it’s important for a program manager to ride,” said Marc Hildesheim, who started his career as a Trail Ranger in Idaho, was the OHV Program Manager with the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish when we visited with him, and today is a Project Manager with the National Off-Highway Vehicle Conservation Council (NOHVCC). “If you can’t go out and see the trail and feel the flow of the trail, you’re not going to understand what your riders are talking about.”

 

Scott Ramsay, Director of Maine’s Off-Road Recreational Vehicle Office, has been with that state’s OHV program for 33 years. He put it this way: “Could I be an administrator if I never got on a vehicle? Sure, because I know some that don’t. But you might be more successful if you have that tool in your tool bag, to know what riders need, and what they’re looking for.  I think it just makes you a better program manager.”

 

“If you roll up in a truck, you’re kind of looking down on people,” said Kerry Wood, Wilderness & Trail Program Manager on the Sandia District of New Mexico’s Cibola National Forest. “When you’re on a dirt bike and you manage 100 miles of dirt bike trail, you’re meeting them on the same level.”

 

And this analogy is from Bob Gliko, Forestry Technician and Trail Coordinator on the Lewis and Clark National Forest in Montana, where he’s worked for 30 years: “If you’re not on a horse, you don’t know what riding on that rock shelf is all about. It’s the same with an ATV or motorcycle. Until you ride, you don’t know if that switchback is too tight or not quite sloped out enough. You’ve got to have the feel for it.”

 

How does being a rider help you in your work?

 

A better understanding of rider needs, the importance of Barry Collins in a jeeptrail design matching vehicle type, and improved communication and credibility with user groups were the top answers to this question. Depending on their job description, people’s answers were based on personal experiences with clubs, state associations, other land managers and policy decision makers. Here are a few of the comments, in their own words:

 

“Being a part of the culture of riding motorcycles or ATVs or four-wheel drive, it’s irreplaceable when it comes to knowing what users are looking for on the trail, and communicating with them.” -Reid Brown, OHV Specialist, Tillamook State Forest, Oregon.

 

“Being a rider gives you credence. You can’t fake that. And it gives you standing on difficult conversations about things like education, enforcement and mitigation, the hard stuff.” -Dave Claycomb, Bureau Chief, Recreational Resources, Idaho Dept. of Parks and Recreation.

 

“I need to understand what it is that they do. The work, the expense and the time it takes to go out there, and go for a ride. And I like the sincerity of the people that I’ve met. They understand the environmental concerns and want to do the right thing.” -Nancy Spooner-Mueller, Acquisition and Development Specialist, Minnesota DNR.

 

“Because I’ve been a rider and have been able to talk to people using the same language, I have a better understanding that certain trails are better with smoother tread types, and others are better left more rugged and challenging. That way, we’re providing trails for a better cross-section of users, and can really help them enjoy riding.” -Brad Colin, Outdoor Recreation Planner, Butte, MT, Field Office, BLM; Motorized Recreation Coordinator for the Pipestone OHV Area. 

 

“If I’m involved in writing laws for ATVs and UTVs, I should know what those people are experiencing on the ground. And in safety education, I need to be out there doing the same things they’re doing.” -Kim Jackson, Boating/OHV Safety Education Program Manager with Arizona Game and Fish Dept.

 

“I try to do be a participant in everything that I manage, from kayaking down our rivers and lakes, to camping at our campsites, to staying in our cabins, to snowmobiling to skiing to riding ORVs and dirt bikes. It not only helps me better understand my users, but it’s a great way to stay in touch with the quality of our facilities.” -Anne Okonek, West Zone Recreation Program Manager, Hiawatha National Forest in Michigan.

 

Did being a rider help you get your job?

 

Dave Claycomb and his son on dirtbikesAs it turned out, asking that question is like asking what is the best way to design a trail. The overall answer is: “It depends.” 

 

In states where the majority of OHV trails are on not public land, but private property, being a rider is important to know what riders want and why people ride, but secondary in the hiring process to understanding the unique character of the state. In Maine, for example, 95% of the land is privately owned, so everyone dealing with motorized and non-motorized trails must have a clear understanding of how to work with private landowners.

 

In states with extreme terrain and black-diamond trails, the job interview may start with “do you ride?” and “describe your ability to change a flat motorcycle tire in the field.” In Idaho, to become a Trail Ranger, qualified candidates educated in natural resource management, must pass a riding skills test, on a trail motorcycle, carrying a chainsaw, pulaski, shovel, gas and oil.

 

In states with more moderate terrain, new hires may get the job for their education and experience in resource management or recreation planning. Riding skills are not part of the interview process; learning them are part of their on-the-job training.

 

“The trail to success can go both ways”, said Kathleen Mick, Regional Program Manager for Trails, Motorized Recreation and Travel Management for the Pacific Southwest Region of the USFS. Said Mick, “Do you take someone that has a passion for riding and train them to be a resource manager, and hope they take some college courses and get a degree in resource management? Or do you take a resource manager, someone who’s aspiring to have some sort of resource management degree, and teach them how to ride? We’ve had success with both.

 

“In order to be successful, you may not necessarily have to be a rider when you come to the job. But you have to have an interest and passion that the recreation is legitimate. If you don’t have that, then I don’t think you’ll enjoy the job, nor will you be successful.” 

 

We asked everyone what they like about their job in OHV recreation.

 

This comment from Anne Okonek -- who has been with theRhonda Fowler on ATV USFS for 30 years, and took her ATV first ride at a NOHVCC workshop -- sums up the answers we heard: “Every day is a challenge. Every day is different. I love working with the public and all the users that we’re so dependent upon, all the volunteers, all the groups that do the trail maintenance and construction for us. That’s a big part of why I love my job.”

 

Many people we talked with said they grew up in families that enjoyed camping, hiking, or riding horses or mountain bikes, which led them to seek out a degree in recreation or resource management. Some still participate in all those activities on the land they help manage. Several life-long OHV riders said that it wasn’t until they were in college that they discovered there were jobs that involved riding motorcycles and ATVs, and found their calling. Some who learned to ride on the job now enjoy OHV recreation so much, they bought dirt bikes, motorcycles or ATVs for their personal use, and have introduced their families to OHV riding.

 

Many of those we spoke with have fond memories of growing up riding mini-bikes, dirt bikes, snowmobiles, ATVs and street motorcycles, and could name the year, make and model of their very first ride.

 

And the award for best ‘I’ve been riding since I was a kid’ story goes to:

 

Kim Jackson, with the Arizona Game and Fish Dept. “I have a twin brother. Our parents bribed us to get really good grades in 8th grade. My brother got a motorcycle. I got a sewing machine. So I learned how to ride dirt bikes, but my brother never used the sewing machine.”

 

 

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New Havasu Side-by-Side Club Is On The Fast Track To Success

by Dave Halsey, NOHVCC Contributing Writer

 

First in a series. ATV clubs are looking more and more like Side-by-Side (SxS) clubs. Photos of ATV club rides aren’t just sprinkled with SxSs anymore. Often, they are the dominant vehicle. In some parts of the country, new “SxS Clubs” are being formed. If you belong to one of them, or have thoughts on how SxSs (called recreational off-highway vehicles or ROVs by manufacturers) have changed your ATV club and its activities, we’d like to hear from you for this article series. Send your club name, contact info and comments to trailhead@nohvcc.org.

 

“People are begging to join our club!” - John Geyer

 

John Geyer next to his side by sideThere’s something you don’t hear every day! The Havasu Side By Side Trail Association, Inc. has over 400 members. It has 32 supporting business members. It has a cool logo, a professional looking web site, and a Facebook page open to members only.

 

And it’s just 8 months old.

 

“It’s the craziest thing,” said John Geyer, club co-founder. I put out an email, some people stepped forward and said they’d help with the membership, and we just grew, grew, grew. We get 100 to 150 people show up at our monthly meetings. We’re Side-by-Side only. There’s a lot of off-roading in this area, and so it was a natural fit.”

 

Key to the club’s rapid growth, said Geyer, is fulfilling the needs of local riders, many retired and new to the sport, and putting them at ease when riding out in the desert. “They’re scared of getting lost,” he said. “Ten or 15 miles, that’s their limit. Then they join us on an 80-mile club ride. They come back grinning ear to ear. They’ve seen new things and taken pictures of the experience. We hear new members tell us they would have sold their machine if it hadn’t been for the club showing them how to ride, and where to ride.

 

“We are a social off-road club. At every meeting, we ask new members to stand up and talk about who they are, what they ride, how they like to ride, and where they’re from, so others can gravitate toward like-minded people. When we have a club ride, we have three leaders and three “tail gunners.” We send the fast group out first, then the average-speed group, then the slower group. It works out beautifully. If you don’t want to go fast, you don’t have to go fast.” The club also holds GPS training sessions.

 

Another ingredient built into the club by Geyer and co-founder Rick Seals, was creating a club that looks professional, especially the membership application and web site. “We hit all the right buttons, and it worked. People will join a club if it looks like they know what they’re doing,” Geyer said.

 

Lake Havasu City, Arizona, population 52,000, is a major tourism destination, known for its boating, fishing, golf and hundreds of miles of off-highway vehicle trails. It’s also a stop on the World Off-Road Champion Series (WORCS) of ATV and SxS races. And while there are many “snowbirds” who spend the winters there, the majority of the SxS club’s members are residents of the area. “I think the vast majority, over 50% are retired,” said Geyer. “But we don’t have a high percentage of snowbirds. I would say it’s less than 20%. Lake Havasu is a retirement community for the most part, so it’s mostly retired couples in the club. We also have guys who are ex-Baja racers, and dirt bike racers that are members.”

 

True to its mission statement -- which includes “to work withLake Havasu Side by Side Club Logo Local, County, State and Federal agencies to keep desert roads and trails open for public use” -- the club has jumped into partnering with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and other, established off-highway vehicle (OHV) clubs in the area, on several fronts.

 

Its members have joined forces with ATV and 4WD truck clubs on cleanup projects in the desert. And it’s one of 14 OHV clubs working to create the Arizona Peace Trail, a 750-mile loop from Yuma to Bullhead City (see February, 2016 NOHVCC newsletter). “I think it’s a great opportunity to market off-roading here in Mojave County,” Geyer said. “Our club is helping to promote it. We want to connect the local trails into the overall trail system, much like the Paiute trail system. We want to make Lake Havasu be a place to stop, gas up, spend the night, get your rig fixed, and be part of that.

 

“Just recently, the BLM asked us to do crowd control at the Parker 425 (a Best in the Desert Racing Association event). We had about a dozen of our rigs down there, along with the sheriff and the BLM rangers. They said it never ran so smooth, with our help, so they want us to be involved from now on. We’re hoping to leave a good impression about off-roading to everybody. Whatever we can do to help move off-roading to the good side of the ledger, we’re going to do.”

 

As in other parts of the country, the Havasu Side By Side Trail Association was organized and built by a handful of enthusiastic and dedicated retirees who like to ride, want to give back to their community, and are willing to put in the time and effort to promote safe, responsible OHV recreation. Now, the club’s biggest challenge is handling its quickly expanding membership. Said Geyer: “It’s keeping me more busy than I planned, but I can deal with it for a while.” 

 

Learn more about the Havasu SxS Trail Association, Inc., at: http://havasusxs.com/.

 

 

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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. 

 
SAVE THE DATE! The 2016 annual NOHVCC conference will be in Great Falls again this year, but at a new hotel and season.  The conference will be located at the Best Western Heritage Inn Oct 11 - 16.  Of course, we will still have the riding at the ranch. 

 
The BLM is working to 'improve the way we plan together' by extending the public comment period for the proposed planning rule and by having listening sessions.  Get more details at: http://www.blm.gov/wo/st/en/prog/planning/planning_overview/planning_2_0.html 


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