NOHVCC Newsletter - September 2016 edition

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At This Off-Road Race, ATVs Assist Mushers And Their Sled Dogs

by Dave Halsey, NOHVCC Contributing Writer


Off-highway vehicles (OHVs) are used every day by people to reach destinations in their outdoor pursuits: hunting, fishing, camping, hiking, geocaching... even sled dog racing. Some mushers train their dog teams during non-winter months by having them pull an ATV on gravel roads. And last winter, at a major race in northern Minnesota, ATVs were used right at the starting chute.


Mike Levig is a director with the John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon, a 400-mile race in the “Arrowhead” region of Minnesota, north of Duluth along Lake Superior. He is also an avid ATV rider. He’s active in his local ATV club, on local trail-building projects, and on the board of the ATV Association of Minnesota (ATVAM).


Sled dogs anxious to start at beginning of Beargrease sled dog raceEach February, the Beargrease Marathon draws thousands of spectators, and is a qualifying event for the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race in Alaska. Levig, known as “Big Mike” to the mushers, helps mark the trail prior to the race. “We make sure all the signs are up, so when the mushers come through, none of them gets turned around,” Levig said last year in a media interview. “One year, I put on 832 miles in 4 days. I love being outdoors, and I enjoy the people, they are fantastic.”


Levig, a retired letter carrier, is a 30-plus year volunteer at the race, which itself commemorates John Beargrease, a Chippewa Chief who in the 1800s delivered mail in the area using a sled dog team. 


At the 2016 Beargrease Marathon, for the first time, ATVs were used to assist many of the sled dog teams. Provided by the Wild Country ATV Club in Two Harbors, MN, where the race begins, the ATVs were used to help get the sleds from the trucks to the starting area. During past races, dogs and people were sometimes hurt as they attempted to get the many dog teams, barking and anxious, to the starting chute. 


The ATVs are hooked to the back of the sleds, holding the dogs back and preventing them from taking off too quickly at the start of the race. “The dogs have something solid to pull against,” said Jamie Nelson, four-time Beargrease champion, in a local newspaper article. “They’re a little eager to go.”


Levig enjoys working with volunteer groups that promote outdoor recreation, whether it’s greeting dogs and mushers at the Beargrease Marathon, or sitting in a booth promoting ATVAM at an ATV event.  At the Beargrease race, he gives the kids doggie booties from the race. “I find them on the trail,” he said. “I bring them home and wash them up, and then at the starting area, I give out booties to all the little kids. You do things from the heart, not for the wallet, especially when it comes to the Beargrease.”


Established in 1980, the John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, and attracts up to 500 volunteers each winter. For more information, visit



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This California OHV Volunteer Program Is One Of The Biggest And Best

by Dave Halsey, NOHVCC Contributing Writer


The U.S. Forest Service manages 154 National Forests. Many of them have close ties and partnerships with off-highway vehicle (OHV) clubs, organizations and state associations, to promote motorized recreation that is safe and responsible. California’s San Bernardino National Forest, in partnership with the Southern California Mountains Foundation, stands out as one of the largest and most active non-profit support groups in the nation. To learn more about it, we visited with Rick Lavello, OHV Volunteer Program Director with the Southern California Mountains Foundation.


How long has this organization been around, Rick?

“It was formed as a non-profit in 1992, as the San Bernardino National Forest Association. It later changed its name to the Southern California Mountains Foundation (SCMF).”


What is the main goal of the Mountain Foundation’s OHV Volunteer Program?

“We’re an educational outreach program. Our goal is to keep trails and public lands open for future generations to enjoy, specifically for motorized recreation. The overall mission is to promote responsible recreation on public lands. Our volunteers assist the U.S. Forest Service by providing education to visitors on trail ethics and resource stewardship.”


How many volunteers are in the program?

“San Bernardino is known as the ‘partnership forest’. On this program alone, I have about 200 volunteers. They are the ‘eyes and ears’ for the Forest Service. They contribute approximately 30,000 volunteer hours annually. This equates to nearly $700,000 in contributed labor to the San Bernardino National Forest. They ride all different kinds of OHVs, visiting with riders, encouraging safety, stewardship, and respect for public lands. I have 5 volunteer outpost/work centers on the San Bernardino National Forest. Each outpost is run by an area coordinator, who coordinates the volunteer activities in that area.”


Are most of them OHV enthusiasts?

“I’m an OHV enthusiast and all my volunteers are OHV enthusiasts. We have many experienced riders. And we get people who join the program with very little experience, and through training they become experienced.” 


What kind of OHV riding opportunities are there in the San Bernardino National Forest?

“There are more than 900 miles of dirt roads that are open to OHV recreation. AbouTrail Hosts on the jobt 140 of those miles are either dual-purpose roads or green sticker trails. Dual-purpose roads are open to street legal vehicles and green sticker vehicles. And we have some trails that are specifically for green sticker vehicles, those 50 inches or less in width.”


What are the training requirements to become a volunteer trail ambassador?

“Instead of using ‘trail ambassador’, we use the word ‘host’. To become a host, it requires 100 hours of field and classroom training, which includes two area orientations. In order to become certified in a vehicle, I have an instructor certified by Cal4Wheel (California Four Wheel Drive Association Inc). I am an ASI (ATV Safety Institute) instructor, and have MSF (Motorcycle Safety Foundation) dirt bike coaches, and ROHVA (Recreational Off-Highway Vehicle Association) instructors. We have all the vehicles covered. And we have volunteers who do 4x4 truck, ATV and ROV patrols.” 


How often do they ride as volunteers?

“We have weekly patrols from all five work centers. To retain their status as a host, we request that they do 90 hours a year. We offer training four times a year. Some join in the middle of our fiscal year, so they don’t meet that 90 hour requirement the first year. They all ride in pairs. All employees and volunteers who go out in the Forest on dirt roads have to have someone with them.” 


And I understand you also do outreach off the trail? 

“We are focused on educating the public at staging areas, but we also go to schools and trade shows. In the schools, I use the NOHVCC ‘On The Right Trail’ curriculum. We also have a unique program to help educate through the dealerships. We go to local powersports dealers, and give them materials to give to the public when they buy a new vehicle. They get maps and information on the rules and regulations. We can also provide information on ASI, MSF and ROHVA, and their rider courses.


“We put together a point-of-sale bag, geared for youth. It includes the NOHVCC ‘Adventure Trail’ color book and crayons, game DVD and safety stickers. Sometimes those bags help dealers seal the deal with a new vehicle buyer through youth education.”


Kids posing with bags of goodiesHow is the OHV Volunteer Program funded?

“It’s funded through a cooperative grant agreement with California State Parks, through their Off-Highway Motor Vehicle Recreation Division, and through corporate sponsors like the Yamaha OHV Access Initiative.”


Are the volunteers recognized for their efforts on and off the trail?  

“Once a year, we do volunteer recognition. The National Forest and the Mountains Foundation both recognize them for their work. With the Forest Service, if you put in 100 hours, you get an Adventure Pass. If you put 250 hours or more you get an America the Beautiful Pass, which is good at all U.S. National Parks and Monuments.”


Other programs in the San Bernardino National Forest provided by the Southern California Mountains Foundation include the Big Bear Discovery Center, National Children’s Forest, Urban Conservation Corps, and Fire Lookout Host Program.


The Southern California Mountains Foundation is a 501(c) (3) nonprofit that believes connecting communities to our public lands is the key to their survival. It mobilizes individuals to inspire and engage in environmental citizenship. It achieves its mission by raising money, organizing critical volunteer resources, and creating and managing programs focused on health, stewardship and sustainability of the Southern California Mountains and urban "forests”. 


To learn more about the SCMF-OHV Program, visit:



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Building This Single-Track Took Partnerships, Patience ... And Perspiration

by Dave Halsey, NOHVCC Contributing Writer


Patience, Perseverance and Positivity. The three P’s. That’s what it takes to build an off-highway vehicle (OHV) trail that’s both fun and sustainable. 


For OHV riders and clubs in western Colorado, building a single-track trail on the steep, rocky slopes of the Book Cliffs mountain range required large doses of two additional P’s: Partnerships and Perspiration.


Six men hefting a large rock with rope and polesRiders, clubs and community partner with the BLM


The Sarlacc Trail is a single-track in the Fruita/Grand Junction area, open to motorcycles and bicycles from May 1 to November 30. According to local club websites, a large hole at the start of the trail inspired its name, Sarlacc, after a monster in the Star Wars movies that lurked in deep sand holes.


Like other trails in the area, Sarlacc was built to replace a user trail that went up and down fall lines and was unsustainable. Construction of the 8-mile trail took 2 years. Key to its success was a partnership by many motorized and non-motorized clubs, volunteer organizations, the City of Fruita, CO, and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). 


“A big part of the story is that the mountain bikers in Grand Valley have been building trails for 20 years, working with us,” said Mike Jones, Park Ranger at the BLM’s Grand Junction Field Office. “Now the motorcycle guys are engaging the mountain bikers, and us, which is really cool.”


Jones supervises both agency and volunteer trail crews. He’s Several people lined up with hand tools finishing a single track trailexperienced at riding motorcycles and mountain bikes, making it easy for him to work with both groups, talking the talk, and riding the ride. “The dirt bikers and mountain bikers don’t always get along,” he said. “But they use the same trails and were looking for the same experience. I asked them to work together.


“We brought the mountain bike group out as crew leaders. They have a lot of experience designing and building trails. The motorized groups, they can get a lot of guys willing to come out and swing a tool all day long. And they can provide the necessary funds, from the Colorado OHV grant program, through Colorado State Parks and Wildlife.”


Jones worked with a number of organizations during planning and construction of the Sarlacc Trail, including some of the member clubs of the Grand Valley Trails Alliance (GVTA): the Colorado Plateau Mountain Bike Association (COPMOBA), the Bookcliff Rattlers Motorcycle Club, and the Motorcycle Trail Riders Association (MTRA). “We get them working side-by-side, and at the end of the day we’d have a cookout,” he said. “That’s where everything comes together. They start talking and realize they all want the same thing here.


“The other big partner we’re working with is the City of Fruita. They’ve supported the mountain bikers over the years, and are now at the table asking how they can support  building the next section of single-track trail.”


2 years of sweat using hand tools, then mechanized equipment 


Over a 2-year period, more than 100 people worked up a sweat building the Sarlacc Trail. In 2012, the BLM partnered with the Western Colorado Conservation Corp (WCCC) to begin construction. Working 12 weeks with only hand tools, they completed the first 3 miles of trail and depleted a sizable OHV grant.


Man on a stand behind dozer moving over rocks“The work ended up being a lot harder than anyone anticipated,” said Jones. “You’re building 24 to 36-inch wide trail in steep terrain, cutting 3 to 4 feet of dirt out by hand. And the logistics of moving people up there was crazy. It was 2 or 3 miles from the closest road with the easiest access to it. It would take them a half a day to get out there. They would work Monday afternoon through Thursday noon, and take a half a day to get back out.”


In 2013, the second year of construction, the BLM partnered with a number of groups for one- and two-day projects, including working with 75 members of the Volunteers of Outdoor Colorado (VOC), an 8-person AmeriCorps crew, and the motorcycle and mountain bike clubs. The WCCC crew operated a rented mini skid steer with rubber tracks to refine much of what they had built by hand the year before. “It was pretty rocky up there, so it was challenging. That equipment was meant to move dirt, not push new ground. The tracks would pop off. That summer, we got another 2 miles done.”


In August, Jones got access to a Sutter 300 single-track dozer, which the statewide OHV trail building crew used to complete the rough cut. The dirt bikers and mountain bikers spent much of the fall doing finishing work. “It was a big deal to me,” said Jones. “It needed to be a really good trail.” The GVTA hosted the grand opening of the Sarlacc Trail on May 3, 2014.


Planning has begun to connect the Sarlacc to other local trails, in hopes of creating a 60-mile loop. Said Jones: “Both groups, the motorcycles and mountain bikers, recognize it’s a really cool that they’re both using it, and this is the kind of thing we can do if we work together. But they want more.


“We’re working with the community, with State Parks and with a large group of partners. That’s where the real value is, in having the motorcycle guys, the mountain bikers and the hikers. The more people we can have involved in this process, the more opportunities there are to get money...and the more solutions there are.”


Building a single-track? Here’s what Mike Jones learned along the way.


“This project has been and I’m sure will continue to be a great learning opportunity for our office and hopefully for a bigger area. Here are some of the things I’ve learned from this project.”

  1. When building a motorized trail on steep side slopes, you need some sort of equipment to make the initial cut and then hand crews to clean that up. 
  2. A hand crew following the equipment seems the most efficient way to build trail. Our experience was, the dozer needs one person with them at all times.  A 4-5 person hand crew behind the machine can complete the finish work on the trail as you go, generally keeping up with the machine.
  3. Knowing the limitation of your equipment will help in minimizing later problems. We learned that the equipment would get stuck in the sand quickly and would slide on rocks. We mitigated those issues by going around sand and rocks where possible and hand building the trail. When we did get stuck we learned to stop as soon as you started to get stuck and use the ‘come-along’ to pull the equipment back up on the trail.
  4. The logistics of supporting a crew in the backcountry warrants looking at the crew working alternative schedules (8 days in the woods, 6 off), otherwise you waste too much time in transit.  
  5. We were able to tweak the trail as we learned and adjust our alignment to create a faster, flowier trail. We built, rode, and then adjusted.
  6. Having volunteers, especially clubs, helping build the trail creates ownership and understanding of what it requires to build well-designed trail.
  7. Having the trail designer present during construction helps to ensure the intended flow of the trail is built.  Adjustments often need to be made once the building begins and this is easier and more effective if the designer is on hand.
  8. Building trail is expensive, be sure to use reasonable numbers estimating cost.



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The Next Generation of Great Trails Includes Features To Challenge And Improve Rider Skills

by Dave Halsey, NOHVCC Contributing Writer


First in a series. Adding challenge features or a skill development area to an off-highway vehicle (OHV) trail system can greatly boost rider interest and the overall rider experience. They may include technical terrain courses, learner loops, kiddie tracks, tot lots and youth training areas. We’ll report on some of them in this article series, how they were built and how they met rider needs. If there is one of these unique riding areas in your area, tell us about it by sending an email to: Include a few details, along with your name and contact information.


Minnesota ATV riders enjoying new technical riding area


ATV riding up pyramid made from stacking cenment boat planksIn a state where most ATV trails are designated “Easiest” in their difficulty level, many of Minnesota’s off-highway vehicle (OHV) riders are looking for new challenges. Thanks to Aitkin County, a state leader when it comes to advancing motorized recreation, ATV riders now have a new place to test and improve their skills...and get a little muddy.


This month, Aitkin County held a grand opening for its new Axtell Technical Riding Area, 40 acres with a variety of challenge features. It’s located near McGregor, in the lakes and forest area of central Minnesota. It’s the latest addition to the county’s Northwoods ATV Trail System, 200 miles of trails within the county, that connects to an additional 200 miles in adjacent counties. Aitkin County built the new riding area in a gravel pit it purchased. It’s located adjacent to the popular Soo Line North ATV Trail, giving ATV riders a new destination along the 150-mile abandoned railroad grade.


“We expanded our trail system significantly in the last 6 to 7 years with the Northwoods Trail,” said Mark Jacobs, Aitkin County Land Commissioner. “And this sand pit had been for sale right along the Soo Line, which is the only access to it. We thought this would be a good location for a technical riding area. ATVs and dirt bikes have been using the sand pit for 25 years, so we decided to make something out of it. The new riding area addresses the shortcomings we’ve heard from some ATV riders, that the Northwoods Trail is nice, but it’s not very challenging. Here’s a new opportunity, a place where they can ride and be very challenged.” 


The new Axtell Technical Riding Area has an observation ROV transversing cement culvers stacked in a rowand picnic area. Challenge features include a hill climb, whoops section, several bowls, culvert and log crawls, cement-stair and rock crawls, scramble trail, mud pit, bunny pond, bridge, and a perimeter trail. A fence was built around the facility to address the concern of local residents about potential trespassing issues. “We think it’s going to be pretty popular,” said Jacobs. “There will be people coming up here just to ride in that area, staying in the hotels, camping in the campground, and buying lunch, dinner, gas and everything else.”


In fact, hundreds of riders visited the new site during its grand opening weekend, putting their skills to the test while attending the annual Fall Ride & Rally of the ATV Association of Minnesota (ATVAM), held September 23 to 25 in McGregor. 


Named after an abandoned Soo Line railroad siding, the Axtell Technical Riding Area is part of Aitkin County’s continued effort to expand riding opportunities for ATV owners. The effort began in 2010 with the creation of the county’s “Comprehensive Recreational Trail Plan,” a 10-year view aimed at supporting recreation trails that are environmentally sustainable, economically beneficial and community supported. Over half the county’s 1.2 million acres are in public land ownership, with heavily forested areas and over 350 lakes.


Today, the county is getting calls from as far away as Texas about its Northwoods ATV Trail System. Visitors are traveling from all over the country, staying a week or more to ride their ATVs and Side-by-Sides. 


Map of Axtel technical riding areaThe new technical riding area was funded by the Minnesota DNR OHV Program and a grant from the Yamaha OHV Access Initiative. Aitkin County staff built it, and will soon be installing signs and making other finishing touches. When completed, it will be part of the Minnesota Trails Assistance Program, popularly known as Grant-in-Aid (GIA), a cost-share program that facilitates development and maintenance of OHV trails, with the support and participation of local government sponsors. The Up North Riders ATV Club will take over general maintenance responsibilities under the GIA Program. 


Building a challenge area? Consult the new “Great Trails” resource guide.


Adding a technical riding area to an OHV trail system can create a new destination for riders, provide new challenges to riders of all skill levels, and extend riders’ recreational opportunity and total time out on the trails. “Adding skill development areas can take little space, but they add tremendous value to a trail system,” writes Dick Dufourd in “Great Trails: Providing Quality OHV Trails and Experiences”, a new resource guide published by the National Off-Highway Vehicle Conservation Council (NOHVCC). “However, like the trail system, the development areas need to be designed correctly from the beginning, built with quality materials, and have regular maintenance.”


Dufourd was a main presenter at a NOHVCC Great Trails Workshop, held in June of 2016 in Akeley, Minnesota. “Look around,” he said during a discussion on challenge features. “Be creative. There is probably material you can use close by, such as logs, stumps, old concrete, even discarded combine or tractor tires.”


Aitkin County partnered with the Minnesota DNR and NOHVCC on the Axtell Technical Riding Area. NOHVCC provided the initial plan and design through its consulting arm, NOHVCC Management Solutions. NMS is designed to work in cooperation and partnership with land management agencies, land owners, and OHV enthusiasts to improve management of OHV recreation on federal, state, county, city and private lands. It provides expertise in a variety of areas that will result in higher quality recreational experiences for OHV riders and improved resource protection. 


To see more photos of the Axtell riding area, visit the Facebook page of the Up North Riders ATV Club. To see an interactive map and Youtube videos of Aitkin County’s Northwoods ATV Trail System, go to:


For more information on planning and designing challenge areas, see the “Great Trails” resource guide, published by NOHVCC. Pages 289-294 provide helpful information and photographs of a variety of challenge features. You can order copies of the 350+ page, fully illustrated “Great Trails” book or download the PDF version at this link:


To learn about future Great Trails Workshops being planned, and to organize one in your area, visit the NOHVCC website at:



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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. 

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.

Barrett Brown Is AMA’s “Outstanding Off-Road Rider” Award Winner
Barrett Brown, from North Plaines, Oregon, was recently named the American Motorcyclists Association (AMA) “Outstanding Off-Road Rider.”  Brown, a NOHVCC Associate State Partner, is a long-time member of the Oregon Motorcycle Riders Association. He designed and built the ST240 single-track dozer, used to build single-track motorcycle and mountain bike trails across the West. It features a 6-way dozer blade and backhoe with quarry-rated bucket, all radio-controlled. The AMA award highlights the achievements of those who have contributed to the promotion of the motorcycle lifestyle and the protection of off-highway motorcycling. Brown accepted the award in July at the Washougal MX National in Washougal, WA. Congratulations Barrett

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