The photo at the top of this article shows a lot of happy faces, tired bodies and muddy clothes, all carefully posed on the far end of a rocky corridor spanning a boggy creek on Grand Mesa. The photographer might simply have been seeking a "family portrait," but there's a tale behind this image. The group is the Western Slope ATV Association, and the photo clearly indicates how this volunteer organization managed to donate nearly 8,000 hours of time and energy in 2011 to various public agencies, including the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and the Mesa County Sheriff's Department search and rescue teams. The photo, taken last summer, also shows how this group spends the much-deserved grants it receives through the state's Off-Highway Vehicle registration program.
The program charges OHV owners a $25 annual registration fee and last year more than 160,000 OHVs were registered or permitted for use in Colorado, according to Colorado Parks and Wildlife. That agency recently awarded $5.8 million in grants for motorized trail work this summer and next. Of that money, the Western Slope ATV group received $98,000 for this summer's trail work and $136,000 for 2013 projects, said WSATV President Steve Chapel. "Both grants include approximately $65,000 for trail dozer crews," Chapel wrote in a recent email. "The dozer crews primarily alleviate water drainage issues and erosion problem areas that are too large for hand work." That takes some doing, since the ATVers consider "hand work" just about anything movable. They haul rocks and logs, fencing materials, tools, people and often a lunch or two on their vehicles to remote sites, anywhere trail work needs to be done. "They've had work projects on the Uncompahgre (National Forest) and Grand Mesa where they have 100 people show up to work," said Loren Paulson, staff recreation officer for the Grand Junction Ranger District of the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forest. "They are huge and active. They go way beyond their normal Adopt-A-Trail agreement." The GMUG has Adopt-A-Trail agreements with many user groups, ranging from horse riders to bike riders, and while those groups also work with public land agencies, it's hard to match the numbers or enthusiasm of the Western Slope ATV Association.
Gates such as this restrict motorized use on mountain trails to ATVS 50 inches or less in width. The Western Slope ATV Association will spend $12,000 this year on steel width restrictors aimed at preventing trails from becoming roads.
The creek crossing in the photo at left was a multi-day project that involved hauling and placing tons of rock, Chapel said. "We completed building about 50 feet of rock trail through this creek," he said. "It often times has become difficult to get through and multiple trails were being used. We blocked all other routes and rocked this one." Projects planned for this year include four multi-day events on the Uncompahgre National Forest in early June to mark National Trails Day (June 2), a five-day project near Hightower Mountain east of Vega Reservoir, and then several more multi-day projects along with multiple single-day projects, Chapel said.
The ATV group also has been protecting trails from becoming roads by building gates that limit vehicles to the 50-inch national width restriction. "Sometimes they unfairly catch a lot of flack for that," Paulson said. "But we're getting a lot of use from UTVs (Utility Terrain Vehicles) and our trails are being pushed out wider and wider. "Keeping the trails at the 50-inch limit is a big deal for this club." Paulson said Forest Service personnel work side by side with the ATV group on most projects to assure Forest Service standards are met. Having the ATV group volunteer time and money saves precious Forest Service funds for other trail users, Paulson said. "The OHV grant program is big and readily available, but where we struggle is with finding money for non-motorized trails," Paulson said. "By not devoting some funds to the motorized trails, we can spend that much more on other trails. So there is some benefit to the non-motorized trail users."
WESTERN SLOPE ATVers TO PRODUCE DOCUMENTARY OF ACTIVIES
Members of the Grand Junction-based Western Slope ATV Association spends thousands of hours each year volunteering on public lands. All that good work doesn't go unnoticed, often attracting the attention of like-minded motorized trail users. To ensure that message continues, the Western Slope ATVers will spend a portion of a grant recently awarded through the state OHV permit program to produce a half-hour documentary showing the club's activities in a typical year.
"It will include some interviews with members, (U.S.) Forest Service, BLM and Colorado State Parks personnel," said Steve Chapel, president of the Western Slope ATV Association. "But mainly (the video) will show our club at work, what we do and where we do it. The scenery should be fabulous." Chapel said the idea for the promo video evolved after learning the volunteer work was "getting other clubs interested in doing more, also. We also encountered perfect strangers wanting to help us."
Once completed, the video will be shown in Grand Junction, "inviting the whole gamut of people normally involved in our public lands," Chapel said. "We also intend to send the documentary all over the country. "We thought that if this kind of thing is attracting people on a local level, then it just might make a big impression on a regional and even national level." Last year, said Chapel, the Western Slope ATV Association donated 4,200 volunteer hours to the Forest Service; 2,200 hours to BLM and 1,400 hours for Mesa County search and rescue operations. Information is available on the group's website, www.wsatva.org.
The BlueRibbon Coalition is a national recreation group that champions responsible recreation, and encourages individual environmental stewardship. With members in all 50 states, BRC is focused on building enthusiast involvement with organizational efforts through membership, outreach, education, and collaboration among recreationists. 1-800-BLUERIB - http://www.sharetrails.org.