NOHVCC Newsletter - July 2017 edition

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‘21 Road Toad’ Is An OHV Success Story Like No Other

by Dave Halsey, NOHVCC Contributing Writer

 

Colorado Jeep Club Adopts Toad, Works To Protect Its Habitat.
There’s a toad in Colorado called the Great Basin Spadefoot. Its scientific name is Spea Intermontana. The Grand Mesa Jeep Club (GMJC) just calls it the “21 Road Toad,” and with good reason.

 

Sign indication 21 road toad habitatFor the past few years, GMJC has been working to protect the toad’s habitat. Today, thanks to the club’s efforts, the toad and its status as a threatened species are known far and wide on the western slope of the Rockies. The small, elusive amphibian has its own logo, is featured on trail signs, as well as stickers and T-shirts used to raise funds for habitat protection. The 21 Road Toad even has its own Facebook page.

 

“We want to educate the public, protect the habitat, and expand the habitat,” said Jeff Bates, club president. At first, some people thought it was a ploy to keep the 21 Road open to motorized recreation. Not so, says Bates, as he explains in a brief history on the GMJC website:

 

“In 2013 the Grand Mesa Jeep Club was informed that one of the most scenic, challenging, and important routes; used by hikers, mountain bikers, motorcycles, ATV riders, and full-sized rig drivers; the 21 Road or Hunter Canyon in the North Book Cliffs, is the historical home of the Great Basin Spadefoot Toad.

 

“In 2001, the toad was placed on the Threatened Species list, just one metaphorical hop away from the Endangered Species list. While in the canyon, it is difficult to imagine the toad might find this a home, with only two water-dense locations where the toad can reside. Flash flooding dangers can easily decimate the larvae before they come to maturity. In fact, Bureau of Land Management (BLM) biologists have found it difficult to locate the toad, as it burrows into the mud for the duration of the cold winter and the heat of the summer.

 

“The Grand Mesa Jeep Club acknowledges both the importance of this habitat and the recreation opportunities Hunter Canyon provides. Adoption of 21 Road had been explored many times in the past with no success. After the current BLM Resource Management Plan was finalized, the club was able to adopt the trail, as well as the toad.

 

“To this end, the club has established the ‘21 Road Toad’ initiative to help raise funds to help protect these sensitive habitats, by installation of posts and signage, as well as by educating the public. Labor for the project will be donated by members of the Grand Mesa Jeep Club.”

 

Motorized and non-motorized user groups, as well asGrand Mesa Jeep Club members along trail barrier manufacturers, have taken to the club’s efforts, and support it financially. Last year, GMJC was presented with the BFGoodrich® Tires Outstanding Trails award, which includes a grant of $4,000 the club will put toward additional signage and outreach. Bestop, a leading supplier of Jeep tops and accessories, and club sponsor, donated $500 and T-shirts to the toad project. And the club created a 21 Road Toad sticker, selling them at $5 each. The Toad’s current account balance is $3,000, earmarked for education.

 

While not every OHV club has the opportunity to adopt a threatened species on its trail system, it’s not out of the realm of possibilities that some could, says Bates. “My hope is that other clubs will see what we’re doing, start thinking outside the box, and establish a dialogue with other user groups. We have to try our best and, when we do, good things come easier.”

 

Founded in 1962, the Grand Mesa Jeep Club is the second oldest, continually active Jeep club in Colorado. GMJC encourages its members to get involved in the community, through local stewardship and events. Its members work the land in conjunction with the BLM and U.S. Forest Service to assist in maintenance and other volunteer efforts. GMJC hosts an annual clean-up of the desert every June, which collects several dumpsters of trash.

 

Learn more about the club at https://www.gmjc.org/. You can keep up-to-date on the 21 Road Toad conservation efforts through the Toad’s page on Facebook.

 

 

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The Ribbon Is Cut And OHV Riding Officially Returns To Maryland

by Dave Halsey, NOHVCC Contributing Writer

 

People lined up with large scissors for ribbon cutting ceremony to open St Johns OHV trail in MDThey said it couldn’t be done. Not in Maryland. But “they” underestimated the patience, persistence, and professionalism of Ken Kyler. And on July 23, 2017, the state’s first professionally designed off-road vehicle (ORV) trail officially opened to the public.

 

It’s called the St. John’s Rock ORV Trail and Campground, located on the Savage River State Forest, in western Maryland near the town of Finzel, in Garrett County. It includes the state’s first-ever campsite designed to support trail riders, a main trail with spur loops open to ATVs and dirt bikes, and a rock crawl area for 4WD trucks.

 

The ribbon-cutting ceremony was held July 21st. Mark Belton, Maryland Secretary of Natural Resources, did the honors, slicing the ribbon with a giant pair of scissors. In attendance were the trail organizers, builders and riders; DNR representatives; State and County elected officials; Steve Salisbury, Government Affairs Manager for Off-Road with the American Motorcyclists Association (AMA); and Duane Taylor, Executive Director of the National Off-Highway Vehicle Conservation Council (NOHVCC). "I was thrilled at the opportunity to attend the kick-off event, which was the culmination of a lot of hard work by a lot of people,” said Taylor. “It was encouraging and inspiring to see enthusiasts, agency representatives, and elected officials all celebrating a new OHV opportunity."Jeep going over large boulders

 

No one had a larger smile on their face at the grand opening than Kyler. A retired Lieutenant Colonel and civilian employee of the U.S. Army, he is a long-time motorcycle rider, OHV advocate, and NOHVCC Associate State Partner. He has been working toward this day ever since the State closed all the OHV “user” trails; basically old logging roads; in 2011. Since then, Kyler organized the Maryland OHV Alliance (MDOHVA) and held two NOHVCC Workshops to educate the DNR, contractors, and user groups on building and managing an OHV trail that would be both fun and sustainable.

 

Kyler also worked tirelessly to energize the business leaders in western Maryland, who in turn energized their elected leaders, which led to increased traction with the DNR. “By staying persistent and professional, we moved the DNR from the stance of ‘there’s no way we are going to do it,’ to one of ‘we can do it and it can be done successfully.’ ”

 

A detailed trail map for riders is in the works. Total trail mileage hasn’t been calculated. But currently the St. John’s Rock ORV Trail offers enough opportunity for a full day of riding. The trails are designed for ATVs, Side-by-Sides, and dirt bikes, with no width restrictions. “It’s pretty tight and rocky,” said Kyler. “It’s 8 miles out, then back, plus the loops. So with the different permutations I'm guessing there’s close to 30 miles.” Users must have a registered ORV with the Department of Natural Resources, or a MVA-tagged vehicle that is suitable for off-road use. The campground is for ORV recreational use only, and advance reservations are required.

 

Kyler credits two of the OHV industry’s manufacturer grant programs for much of the progress to build the new trail system. “Polaris gave us $10,000 in 2016, which we used to educate the DNR, the public, and elected leadDuane Taylor, Steve Salisbury, and Ken Kyler talk before ribbon cutting ceremony at St Johns OHV trailsers on the need for and benefits of ORV recreation, and to hire an ORV consultant. Yamaha gave us $25,000 to buy kiosks and signs, as well as develop the first-ever ORV sign plan in Maryland.”

 

For now, the facility is maintained by the DNR, but Kyler hopes to change that in the future. “There are no clubs in western Maryland,” he said. “But we’re working to get a volunteer group to help maintain the trail. The people in western Maryland never believed it would open. They said ‘talk to me when it opens’.”

 

The DNR’s reservation system for the St. John’s Rock ORV Trail and Campground opened the same day as the grand opening. Said Kyler, “By the end of the day, I expect they’ll be booked for the next couple months.”

 

To see the DNR’s initial map of the new trail system and campground, go to: http://dnr.maryland.gov/forests/Documents/StJohnsRock-ORV-Trail-Map.pdf.

 

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: http://nohvcc.org/Materials/Newsletter/news11-2016. To learn more about the Alliance, visit: http://mdohvalliance.org/.

 

 

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600+ Scouts Complete ASI Training At National Jamboree

by Dave Halsey, NOHVCC Contributing Writer

 

Over six hundred Boy and Adventure Scouts were all smiles.

 

TCoach shows student how to buckle his helmet prior to mounting an ATVhey had just completed the ATV Safety Institute (ASI) RiderCourse® at the National Scout Jamboree, followed by a trail ride through the woods of West Virginia. For most of the Scouts, it was their very first time riding an ATV.

 

The 2017 National Scout Jamboree was held July 19-28, at the 11,400-acre Summit Bechtel Reserve, owned and managed by the National Council of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA). It was the first Jamboree that included both ATV safety training and a fun ride along ATV-designated trails.

 

For 11 days, 15 ASI Instructors worked 10 to 12 hour days at the Jamboree. They taught 8 Scouts per class, on 5 ranges, 3 times a day. “By the end of the day we’re tired, but it’s a good tired,” said Dan Moore, ATV coordinator with the Montana Council. “It’s a great feeling when the Scouts pull off their helmets; they’re a little dusty, but they’re all smiles. They told us they used everything they learned in the training course out on the trail. A lot of them said it was the best activity at the Jamboree.”

 

Over the past year, Moore and a team of professionalsTwo coaches direct students on ATVs designed and built the training course and trail, part of the Polaris OHV Center for Excellence at the Scout facility. Polaris has a 10-year partnership with the BSA, providing ATVs, safety equipment, and ASI Rider Safety Training to BSA High Adventure Bases around the country. “Polaris said they wanted it to be an awesome program at the Jamboree, and they came to NOHVCC,” said Karen Umphress, IT and Project Manager with the National Off-Highway Vehicle Conservation Council. “We helped create an experience that’s a lot of fun for the Scouts, and at the same time teaches them about safe, responsible recreation.”

 

Umphress recruited the ASI instructors and made their travel arrangements. She and Moore arrived at the Jamboree early, to get everything ready for the 11-day effort. Besides the trainers, what does it take to put 600 Boy Scouts through the ASI RiderCourse? Sixty youth ATVs; 10 adult ATVs for the instructors; plus 80 helmets, gloves, and goggles; 12 cans of disinfectant spray...and 350 gallons of fuel.

 

Several ATVs lined up for trainingOver 2,000 Scouts (and 600 of their parents) took the ASI e-course prior to the Jamboree, which was required in order to take the RiderCourse. The time slots filled up quickly during registration. Scouts from all over the U.S., Canada and a number of foreign countries participated. A few dozen Scouts who already had their ASI Certificates and had their cards with them were treated to just the trail ride, giving them another unique Jamboree experience. “In addition, a lot of Scout Councils that were here were interested in how we developed the training program and the fun, sustainable trail we built,” said Umphress.

 

Moore, 59, grew up in a Scouting family, and is an Eagle Scout himself. He knows the value of that feeling of accomplishment, when a Scout is handed a new patch. In addition to the ASI Certificate, all 600 of the Scouts who attended the Jamboree training and trail ride will receive a Boy Scout Polaris ATV Safety Training patch. “They are really valuable to Scouts,” he said. “Almost more than currency.”

 

To learn more about the National Scout Jamboree, go to: http://www.summitbsa.org/events/jamboree/overview/.

To see a map of BSA camps offering ASI Safety Training in partnership with Polaris Industries, visit: http://www.polaris.com/en-us/company/partnerships/boy-scouts/camps

 

 

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A Detailed Inventory Is Critical To Revitalizing OHV Trail Systems

by Dave Halsey, NOHVCC Contributing Writer

 

Second 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 presents 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.

 

3-Day Inventory Sets The Stage For Updating Iowa’s Bluff Creek OHV Park

 

Breathing new life into a decades-old OHV park takes patience, planning, and a professional, step-by-step approach to ensure that the final product meets the needs of OHV riders, as well as park and land managers.

 

Planning inventory collection with map and GPS unitBuilt on an abandoned coal mine in southern Iowa, the Bluff Creek OHV Park is 350 acres of winding trails, steep hills, three motocross tracks, a no-frills campground, and the “gravity cavity,” a deep pit with rutted, uphill climbs in every direction.

 

As reported in Part 1 of this series (see June NOHVCC Newsletter), Park Managers have partnered with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources to transform what is primarily a day-use trail system into a regional destination where riders will camp and ride for extended periods.

 

The DNR hired Colorado-based Great Outdoors Consultants (GOC) to create a detailed Park Development Plan. In early May, the GOC team and all stakeholders gathered around a picnic table at the OHV park. It was the start of a 3-day inventory and analysis of the park, its past and its potential for the future. In-depth discussions were held on the current conditions of the park, its boundaries and features, issues and constraints, the riders who were using it, and where they come from. Then GOC’s team of Drew Stoll, David Chester, and Ron Potter rode the trails with Park Managers Dale Witzenburg and Randy Van Maaren. Using sophisticated GPS units and GPS-enabled digital cameras, they documented every possible attribute, including: trails, roads and motocross tracks; trail length, width, surface, and condition, signage and difficulty level; safety and drainage issues; parking, camping, and picnic areas; fencing, power lines, water; and access.

 

“It’s a very cognitive exercise. We generally ride slowly, from one intersection to the next, and stop as frequently as needed to capture the features on our inventory,” said Stoll, GOC Executive Director. “As we’re moving along, creating GPS tracks of the trail alignment, we’re also looking for signs, culverts, conditions, anything that would be an issue or improvement, or an opportunity for riders. We’re capturing it all on GPS and with photography as well. We want a good photographic documentation of the whole park, but also the exact location of every sign, gate, spots of erosion, any of the 30 or so attributes we have in the work plan.”

 

The team’s GPS units are pre-loaded with data, and warmed up for 15 minutes prior to heading out on vehicles. “Before we go out on site, we create a data dictionary on the GPS units of all the features and attributes we want to capture,” said Stoll. “We’ve already loaded onto them the park boundaries, existing roads that are known, things like that. We start with that template, and then start adding points and lines for attributes.

 

“We like to warm up the GPS for 15 minutes before we start a run. That improves the accuracy, as it captures more and more data, then it maintains thTwo people in an ROV, taking photos for inventoryat quality of data throughout the day. And to make sure it’s all working properly, we GPS a line in the parking lot before we split up into groups and head out.

 

“The end result is an inventory map that shows the details of everything that we GPS, and points for every place we took a photo, of a scenic overlook, or a sign or culvert. We have hundreds of photos now and points representing things out on the park.”

 

GOC does a lot of road and trail inventory on federal lands. In more remote areas, where there are few intersections and vehicles can be driven at higher speeds, each team member can capture up to 40 miles of inventory a day. In areas like Bluff Creek, with a high density of trails and many intersections, that figure drops to around 15 miles per day inventoried per person. Throw in a rainy day and that can slow the team’s progress further. “The more complex it is, the harder it is to find everything,” said Stoll. “We had muddy conditions at Bluff Creek. We went very slow, trying not to impact the trails.”

 

With primarily user trails created over the past 23 years, Bluff Creek presented another challenge: too many trails to inventory. The “gravity cavity” for example is a hill climb area within the coal mine with many deeply rutted routes. “It wasn’t feasible to inventory every route in there, some of them were extremely steep,” said Stoll. “There was also such a complete coverage of trails in the area. Instead of doing inventory of those in the field, I dropped some points around the edges. That lets us draw a polygon and call it an open play area or hill climb area. It would look like a plate of spaghetti if we tried to inventory it.

 

“It’s a fallacy that you can do 100% of the inventory. It’s simply not feasible. There’s always something to prevent you from reaching that. Sometimes you can’t find things, or conditions aren’t right to inventory a route. Usually our inventory is at about 95 percent.”

 

Avoid jumping to solutions before you know what you have.
Will Side-by-Sides be allowed at Bluff Creek in the future? Could the trail system be connected to others in the area? The answer to those and other questions remain to be seen. Stoll says it’s a common mistake in OHV Park planning to talk about the “what ifs” and solutions prematurely. “You don’t want to put together a shopping list before you know what’s in the refrigerator,” he said. “You need to take the time to do the inventory and analysis. That helps to inform what the opportunities are, instead of jumping to conclusions.”

 

Building new trails or redesigning old trails, you also want to avoid over-building to the point that it’s unmanageable, adds David Chester, GOC Project Manager on the Bluff Creek project. “You can only be successful at what you can manage. If we make too far of a jump, you have to ask yourself, ‘can the DNR and the park managers handle it?’ It’s an incremental process,” he said.

 

Followup and next steps.
GOC inventoried 19.4 miles of trails and took 323 photographs during the trail inventory at Bluff Creek. It took a few days for Stoll to process and clean up all the data, and run the photos through software to make sure they are properly geo-referenced. “The data is relatively raw when we get it back,” he said. “The lines may not meet at intersections, overlap or don’t connect. We have to clean up the intersections, any overshoots and undershoots. We need clean intersections, so maps are clean when we create them.”

 

Stoll also uses slope maps and information on wetlands, vegetation, hydrology, and conservation easements as part of the analysis. GOC provided the DNR with a Trip Report on the 3-day inventory and analysis, keeping everyone on the same page, as the group moves toward an OHV Park redesigned and revitalized.

 

Next in the series: Great Outdoors Consultants presents its vision for the Bluff Creek OHV Park to its park managers and the Iowa DNR.

 

 

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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.


 


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