Will Collins, Trails Coordinator, Alabama State Parks attended his first NOHVCC Annual Conference when we last met in August in Knoxville, TN. Like many participants, Will was introduced to new contacts in the OHV community and to new opportunities to improve access for OHV recreation in his home state of Alabama. He was especially interested in NOHVCC’s Great Trails Workshops, and after a discussion with NOHVCC’s Program Director, Marc Hildesheim it became clear that NOHVCC needed to find a way to get down there and host a Workshop.
Fortunately, Fox Factory’s Trail Trust grant program generously provided funding for NOHVCC that can be used to hold Great Trails Workshops, so Marc suggested we get there as soon as possible. December can be a slow time for field projects as much of the Country is blanketed with weather unsuitable for trail work or outdoor education, but cold weather was not a factor in Alabama. While it did rain on the first day (December 7th), that did not hamper involvement in the Workshop.
Naturally, we had to get our Alabama State Partner and Board member Steve Newton involved. Steve has been heavily engaged in improving OHV recreation in his home state for years and has been involved with NOHVCC since 2005. Steve acted as host and heavily engaged in the Workshop as well.
Will urged us to visit Buck’s Pocket State Park in Grove Park, which features 6.2 miles of OHV trail – the first of its kind for Alabama State Parks. The managers are looking for feedback as evidenced by this on the State Parks website: “We encourage trail users to give us feedback on the positive and negative aspects of our new trail system.”
The Workshop kicked off with discussion about trailhead and parking facilities. Then participants loaded up in ROVs and took a managment tour of the trail which included several stops along the way to point out positive trail features and to discuss techniques to address trail and maintenance issues. Highlights included several conversations about managing water flow on the trail, examination of an effective culvert installation, and brainstorming strategies to improve the experience of trail users.
Day two consisted of participants learning about Trail Managment Objectives, drawing a hypothetical trail on a topographic map, and hands-on training to properly use a clinometer to assess grade. Finally, after learning about effective trail layout techniques over a day and a half, participants had the opportunity to put their new skills to the test by breaking into small groups and flagging an on-the-ground hypothetical trail. The groups then walked the flagged trail and discussed positive aspects of the “trail” as well as potential pitfalls.
Will commented about the Workshop, “The hosting of a NOHVCC Great Trails Workshop aided Alabama State Parks in developing quality OHV trail management practices. One of the newest and most important tasks for the Alabama State Parks Trail Crew today is the proper management and maintenance of off-highway vehicle (OHV) trails. Alabama has seen an increase in OHV trail development in recent years. Alabama State Parks has developed two OHV trail systems to provide visitors and residents of Alabama with a variety of recreational opportunities.”
Steve said, “It was a great workshop where the concepts and ideas were relevant to both motorized and non-motorized trails. You could apply the principles that were taught in the course to any trail.”
It is clear that Steve, Will and Alabama State Parks are looking for opportunities to improve and increase OHV recreation. After participating in the Great Trails Workshop several Park employees and managers will be better equipped to understand proper trail maintenance and have additional insights into the type of experiences OHV enthusiasts look for when recreating on public lands.
Background on Trail Trust from Fox Factory:
Fox Factory created Trail Trust to provide grants to organizations helping to preserve the places we love to play. The goal is to bring together diverse communities to build, maintain, and expand access to trails. In short, we want to make sure that the thrill of the ride can live on forever.
Trail Trust is FOX Factory’s signature community investment program. Our products are an integral part of outdoor adventuring – from mountain biking and motorcycling, to off-roading and snowmobiling. With that, comes the responsibility to promote the responsible use of land amongst outdoor enthusiasts and protect our shared playground. We also want to expand access to outdoor sports, acknowledging the importance of providing under-represented groups with opportunities to participate in activities that have historically engaged a fairly homogenous population.