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 Lewis Shuler – Michigan NOHVCC State Partner and Board Member
Lew Shuler is from Fort Wayne, Indiana and is the Executive Director of The Cycle Conservation Club of Michigan. He has been involved in OHV recreation his entire life. His father raced cars and motorcycles and Shuler family lore maintains that baby Lew was brought home from the hospital on a Harley Davidson! With all he does related to OHV advocacy he finds he has little free time, but likes to hunt, fish and waterski when he can. Lew has been a NOHVCC Partner for more than 20 years and has served on the Board of Directors for 15 years. He credits the support of Cindy, his wife of nearly 38 years, and his kids Ann and Lewis II for making it possible for him to be so active in OHV recreation. Finally, Lew believes the most important thing an individual can do to create a positive future for OHV recreation is to ride quietly and follow the rules.
The Cycle Conservation Club of Michigan Maintains an Incredible Amount of Trails
Since 1992 The Cycle Conservation Club of Michigan (CCC) has received grant funds from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources to maintain, grade and sign OHV trails and routes throughout the State. In 2005 CCC received grant funding to maintain 500 miles of trail – but the amount of the funds and the responsibility of CCC have increased dramatically over time.
In 2018 CCC received grants to complete a nearly incomprehensible 3,100 miles of trail maintenance, 2,800 miles of trail and route grading, and nearly 1,550 miles of replacing trail markers! These trails include single-track motorcycle trails, 50-inch ORV trails and even some 72-inch routes for larger vehicles. Not only do all these trails need maintenance and grooming, CCC is in the process of resigning 1,550 miles of the 3,800 Michigan ORV system.
Not surprisingly completing this level of trail maintenance requires some serious coordination. As Executive Director, Lew is responsible for managing the grant application and procurement process and a volunteer, Greg Yager, is Trail Maintenance and Grading Coordinator of the maintenance, grading and signing program. This is quite a feat of planning as some of the many miles of trails may get graded as many as six times a season, and that is in addition to all the other trail maintenance and signing work.
CCC accomplishes all this work annually with only one full-time and one part-time employee. The bulk of the on-the-ground work is accomplished through contractors who provide great work at a discount because of their love of the sport. There is also a contingent of volunteers who help across the State with some clubs hosting trail maintenance days in conjunction with other events.
This tremendous level of work requires some heavy equipment. CCC owns three tractors and several members of the club have tractors that they own personally. The club was able to purchase the tractors, graders and trailers with funding primarily provided through grants from Yamaha, Polaris and the Right Rider Access Fund (more information about these grant programs can be found here). In addition to the tractors, contractors and volunteers use motorcycles, ATVs and ROVs and trailers to help facilitate the maintenance.
Lew believes that similar maintenance programs could be replicated in other States – provided all involved have a healthy dose of patience. CCC has been in place over 50 years and, as a result, has developed the relationships and trust with land managers to prove they can deliver. While it might not take 50 years to get something similar in place Lew cautions that the “wheels of government turn slow” so OHV advocates need to be prepared for successes to come slowly, but success can come if you stick with it.
Finally, Lew says, “the only way to replicate what we have done in Michigan is to involve volunteers – without the help they provide it would be impossible to get all this done. We have also found that recruiting one volunteer can bring in several to help, as volunteers nearly always include their families in the activity.”
If you would like to attempt to replicate what CCC has achieved in Michigan, please contact NOHVCC at firstname.lastname@example.org. NOHVCC staff can offer advice, and maybe even get some help from Lew and his partners!