This article is one in a series designed to feature NOHVCC State Partners and some of the successes they highlighted in their Partner Annual Reports.  The first-ever round of Annual Reports was a huge success. As a result, the NOHVCC Board of Directors and staff are better able to understand the great things our Partners are up to and we wanted to share some examples with the broader NOHVCC community while introducing some of our Partners as well.

Introducing Steve Newton – Alabama NOHVCC State Partner

Steve Newton was born in Montgomery, Alabama and now lives in Adamsville, Alabama, a small town just northwest of Birmingham.  He began riding about 15 years ago when a hunting buddy loaned him an ATV.  Once Steve discovered ATV riding, he got the OHV bug, bought an ATV of his own and found himself riding more and more.  In an effort to find riding areas and friends to ride with he attended a meeting of the Cheaha Trail Riders, quickly became involved in advocacy, and currently serves as President of the club.  From there he found NOHVCC and has been a State Partner ever since.  Steve enjoys researching his family ancestry and has recently undertaken an ambitious project to map the cemetery at his family’s church.  With wife Patricia, Steve travels extensively as they enjoy their retirement – they visited 27 states and two countries last year! Steve believes the most important thing an individual can do to create a positive future for OHV recreation is to not only encourage young people to enjoy OHV recreation, but also instill in them an ethic that includes safe and responsible practices. 

SAE Race Events Prove Rewarding For OHV Volunteers

Passion is something that can’t be faked.  When Steve discusses the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) Baja events his passion is infectious.  At each event college engineering students put their skills to the test in a competitive environment by designing, building and racing an OHV! 

From the SAE website:

Baja SAE® consists of three regional competitions that simulate real-world engineering design projects and their related challenges. Engineering students are tasked to design and build an off-road vehicle that will survive the severe punishment of rough terrain.

The object of the competition is to provide SAE student members with a challenging project that involves the planning and manufacturing tasks found when introducing a new product to the consumer industrial market. Teams compete against one another to have their design accepted for manufacture by a fictitious firm. Students must function as a team to not only design, build, test, promote, and race a vehicle within the limits of the rules, but also to generate financial support for their project and manage their educational priorities.

When Steve, a mechanical engineer himself, got wind that volunteers were needed to help at one of the 2006 Baja SAE events he leapt at the chance.  He and as many as 17 other volunteers from his club, Cheaha Trail Riders, have supported the Southeast Baja SAE each year since.  Specifically, they use their ROVs to make sure that race vehicles can get back to the pits after mechanical failures or crashes.  Initially the volunteers used tow straps, but soon found that the vehicles they needed to tow were often damaged severely. So, Steve, along with other members of Cheaha Trail Riders, designed and fabricated a dolly that allows them to tow the race vehicles with either the front or back wheels in the air. 

With the dolly and, now, years of experience the volunteers are getting race vehicles back to the pits much more quickly and efficiently which allows the racers more track time.  This additional track time has inevitably led to more mechanical failures – which is a good thing!  More (and more dramatic) failures mean more learning opportunities for the student engineers. 

Steve finds the events very rewarding.  He is often thanked for his participation by students, who are incredulous that he and others take on the difficult task on a voluntary basis, but Steve notes, “it is a lot of fun for us, plus I hope we can inspire the young participants to volunteer to help others down the road.”

Steve really senses that everyone involved in the races are part of a big family.  He recounts at one race a team from Mexico was held up at customs and ended up with only a few hours to prep their vehicle for tech inspection.  Teams from several colleges dropped what they were doing and pitched in to make sure the Mexican team could pass inspection and take part in the race.  This sort of camaraderie permeates the entire event. 

These events are a lot of fun for Steve and the other Cheaha Trail Riders, but they are also a great opportunity to promote the ability of OHV recreation to bring people together and the power of volunteering.

To learn more about the SAE student events click here.

If you are aware of opportunities to replicate something similar to what the Cheaha Trail Riders have done with the Baja SAE races, please contact NOHVCC at NOHVCC staff can offer advice, and maybe even get some help from Steve and his partners!

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