Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Standing up for ATV riders

It’s pretty widely accepted that ATV riding is one of the most scrutinized kinds of outdoor recreation. In fact, I think it'd be safe to say it is the most scrutinized. I’ve seen people that usually take pride in not stereotyping others contradict their morals when talking about these heathen ATV riders. It seems that ATV riding is destined to be one of the most popular outdoor sports, and at the same time one of the most criticized.

Listen, I’m not saying by any means that some ATVers don’t ride irresponsibly. The key word is some, not all. The majority of riders I have come across ride in a safe and responsible manner, and it is these people who are getting the raw end of the deal. They are being punished because the general public and different government agencies looks at the small percentage of ‘outlaw’ riders and applies that image to everyone who enjoys riding their four-wheeler.

It’s no big secret that more and more riding areas (some close to home, some not), are being shut down to ATV access. And for what reason? Well, there’s a few. There are a few backwards state laws pertaining to certain types of land that prohibit all ATV use. And of course there are national laws, too, for federal lands. I’m not taking a stab at any agency locally, but what I am saying is that to totally dismiss any notion of having ATV accessible trails on different kinds of public land is way too extreme. In the explanation below, I'm not trying to take shots, but rather paint a picture of the current situation.

You have folks that will tell you that ATVs drive off wildlife and cause major land erosion. These same folks will come out and publically slam all ATV riders by saying the people who are involved in our sport are litterbugs and outlaws. You’ll have the crowd that will say “ATVs are dangerous and should be outlawed”.

I say this to these people: show me.

Prove to me that ATV traffic permanently drives wildlife from an area, because on my property I’ve driven my four-wheeler by the same white-tail, turkey, and grouse for years and they're not going anyhwere. In fact they seem to really enjoy using the ATV trails on my land. Show me an example where ATV traffic was the major contributing factor in causing land erosion and damage and prove this to me beyond a shadow of a doubt. Look me in the eye and tell me that ATV riding and not rain is the reason that a trail looks like this and see if you can keep a straight face:

And explain to me how anyone can say that all ATV riders are litterbugs. Some are, sure. So are some hikers, so are some bikers, so are some horseback riders. Litterbugs come in all shapes and sizes. To pick out one certain group and lay the blame of litter solely on them is beyond unfair. Especially when ATV clubs like the Holler Crawlers put in hundreds of volunteer man hours to keep our mountains clean. Take a look at the picture below. This is our ATV club after cleaning a huge dump that was created by trucks, not ATVs. Ironic, because trucks are allowed on a lot of different state lands that ATVs are not. What’s the logic behind that again? Oh right, that vehicles that can cause massive amounts of piled up trash are permitted and the ATV rider who may throw a Snickers wrapper down shouldn’t be allowed to? Really, does that make sense to anyone? Sure doesn't to me.

And explain to me why if most ATV riders are outlaws, why clubs like the Holler Crawlers and Ridge Runners bother to raise money for causes like a Jingle Bell Ride to buy needy children toys for Christmas, and rides to raise money for March of Dimes, St Jude, and the American Cancer Society. That doesn't sound like a very outlawish thing to be involved with.

And tell me why some agencies like the Dept. of Forestry works closely with ATV groups on their lands…but other agencies completely shun them? Forestry officials will tell you that ATV trails do not create excessive amounts of damage, but rather are beneficial because they act as a firebreak and also a pathway for wildlife to travel on. And this is the truth. However, other agencies will tell you just about the polar opposite…Why?

And tell me, if ATVs are so dangerous they should be banned, then surely you are in favor of banning motorcycles…as well as driving at night, cigarettes, sky-diving, and fast food. All can be dangerous. If a person gets on a machine, he should respect that machine and accept the responsibility of riding it and the danger that comes along with it.

This kind of moronic typecasting is not morally acceptable in other facets of society, and yet our sport gets the short end of the stick when it comes to public support. It seems the only ones standing up for ATV riders are the riders themselves. The problem lies in the fact that people are on one side of the fence or the other; there is virtually no gray area.

For as popular as ATV riding is in Kentucky, we still are not in a position to be a real ATV friendly state. There are just one or two ATV legal roads in the state, meanwhile nearby states like West Virginia, Indiana, Tennessee, and Michigan all have state provisions allowing riders to access certain types of roadways. This has rewarded the responsible drivers and given them a real advantage in the vein of ATV tourism. It also gives law enforcement a more clear cut objective when it comes to ATVs on roadways. Meanwhile, Kentucky lags behind, as usual.

Look...They don’t give IQ tests before you purchase an ATV. If they did, we could keep stupid people from buying them. But until that day comes, it’s important for us riders to stick together. It’s important for us to fight to gain more legal access and keep different agencies and interest parties from shutting down our trails. It’s important for us to keep people informed on the truth about ATV riding and to help dissolve this negative image that surrounds our sport. If we don’t, we will continue to see our riding areas disappear.

Please help the sport and do your part. Voice your opinion, ride responsibly, and fight for your sport.

- Jon

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

August 09 Update

I hadn’t realized it had been so long since I’d wrote a blog entry concerning adventure tourism. I figured it would be a good idea to let everyone know what we’ve been up to this year thus far.

We received a grant from Yamaha totaling almost $31,000 for improvements to Wilderness Trail Off-Road Park. We purchased everything from chainsaws, weed eaters, and trail mowers to a club trailer, park signs, and items for campsite developments (grills, wood for shelters, etc…). We are in the process of utilizing these items. We hope to have a few campsites up by this upcoming spring and a lot of the trail signs are already on the park. We thank Yamaha for allowing us to develop our park with improvements such as these. Without their generosity this may not have been possible.

In some other exciting news, we just finished an event called the Harbell Ride Weekend. This event was originally supposed to be held as a park to park ride with the Ridge Runners, but we had to cancel that idea due to some land issues. The good news is that both counties off-road parks were visited by none other than Brian Fisher and crew, and were filmed for an upcoming episode of Fishers ATV World. This episode is tentatively schedule to go on air in October sometime, and we will keep everyone posted on the forum as soon as we have more info. We had a good event the day that Fishers came to our park, with an estimated 500 or so folks riding on the park that day. We had some great guided rides, and then met up that evening for a pig roast and some live music from Kentucky Rain and Asa Mills. Brian Fisher said he really enjoyed the event, and was nice enough to stay long into the night signing autographs and taking pictures with folks. I have to say it went down as one of our best events ever.

We have also had several other rides this year to help raise money for different charities. Earlier in the year, we had 3 rides and helped raise several thousand dollars for the March of Dimes Foundation, Relay for Life, and the children of Sean Pursifull. We are thrilled that our club has generated a good name in the community for helping raise some money for such great causes such as these.

Our schedule rolls on through the late summer and fall, with two rides left on the 2009 schedule. First up we have our now-annual weekend with our good friends in the Southern SXS Riders. This bunch came up last year and came in strong numbers, and our clubs quickly became good friends. They had such a good time that they decided to make Bell County an annual stop on their schedule, and we couldn’t be happier. They are a great group of folks who know how to have a good time on and off the trail, so we get along like peanut butter and jelly. This event will be September 18, 19, and 20 and will only be open to members of each club. If you are interested in joining either, you can contact both clubs during the event about membership. This is looking to be a great time and the Holler Crawlers are looking forward to it.

After the Southern SXS Rider Weekend, we have one more event on our schedule. This is a family oriented event that will take place the weekend before Halloween and will be called the Holler Crawler Haunted Forest Ride. This ride will take place on Wilderness Trail Off-Road Park (Mountain Drive) and will feature an easy ride through the woods, which will be decorated in Halloween attire. There may also be another ride that is more challenging that will go through a scarier, more haunted part of the mountain. Later that evening we will roast some marsh mellows and hot dogs by the campfire. Looking to be a great time and it will be a great ride to check out all the fall foliage in southeast Kentucky.

Also, before I wrap this blog up, I wanted to thank the Robbins family who live on Hances Creek. They have generously allowed visitors to Wilderness Trail Off-Road Park access to some trails that were on their property. These include some great trails like 18, 32, and 23. We as Holler Crawlers will help them watch after and upkeep the property in return for this favor.

Folks, that’s it for now. Thanks for checking in and make sure to keep up with all our latest by joining our forum. See ya’ll on the trail!