Our second year was just as phenomenal as our first year! Again it was all due to your help, donations and a strong Board of Directors. We continue to make progress on opening the Savage River Trail System, and have been working hard with western civic and social leaders espousing the gospel of OHV recreational tourism. It was quite a year and you made it happen with your generous support! As Paul Harvey would have said, now for the rest of the story!
It has been many years in the making and members of your Alliance Board have been working on this long before the Alliance was formed. Last year the State officially started the process to create an OHV trail system within Savage River State Forest. The initial engineering assessment was completed and the Alliance was invited to review the proposed trail layout. To put it mildly, we were underwhelmed. Fortunately we saw this coming and had been working with the National Off-Highway Vehicle Conservation Council (NOHVCC) to conduct a 2-day workshop (at no cost to DNR) on trail design and maintenance.
We used your donations and split the cost with NOHVCC to conduct the workshop. It was money very, very well spent. NOHVCC sent one of their senior project managers, Jack Terrell, as well as Ron Potter who recently retired from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resource. Ron spent 37 years as the MN DNR Recreation Systems Manager in the Parks & Trails Division. He is a nationally respected public trails manager and was very, very well received by the MD DNR members who attended. DNR sent two senior leaders and about 20 other employees who ranged from headquarters level planners to local land managers. The workshop was one-day of classroom followed by a day in the field. It was amazing and exciting to see their eyes opened by Jack and Ron over the two days of the workshop. We should also add that when we went to the field, the engineering firm DNR hired accompanied us.
By the end of the workshop, the original plan was totally scrapped and DNR proposed a dual-trail system paralleling the 7-miles of Red Dog Road with interconnecting loops. We went from 5-6 miles of trails to 30+ miles of trails and from 15 users per day to 30 users per day. We believe that a well designed trail monitoring system will show DNR that even more users per day can be achieved. This is a great start and will be a model for future OHV areas on public land.
DNR expects all the work to open the trail system to be completed by the end of 2015. You can be assured we will stay closely involved with DNR to ensure that happens!
Your Alliance was the instigator to start a trail monitoring working group with representatives from the Maryland DNR (Wade Dorsey, Savage River Land Manager), Garrett College (Kevin Dodge), Steve Storck (local volunteer and trail erosion expert) and the MD OHV Alliance (Ken Kyler). Steve has a PHD in Outdoor recreation Management and has done a lot of work on trail monitoring programs that is directly applicable to creating an OHV trail monitoring program. DNR has found seed money to fund some Garrett College students to do the monitoring under the supervision of Kevin.
You may ask why we should embrace trail monitoring. Trail monitoring is a proactive way to ensure trails are sustainable and thereby remain open! Green Ridge had no trail monitoring program and was shut down with little warning as an unsustainable trail. We view a well designed trail monitoring program as a defensive measure as well. By being proactive, we can bring volunteers to the trail and mitigate issues before they become problems—something we should have done at Green Ridge. Also, because Maryland manages all forests as “sustainable forests” a monitoring program is vital to their next evaluation. By being proactive and mitigating issues as they arise we can show that OHV recreation is compatible with sustainable forests.
The Alliance had a social meeting with Senator Edwards, elected state and county leaders, as well as landowners and significant social leaders to continue last year’s discussions on the economic benefits of OHVs to the counties. This time we presented the economic impact that surrounding areas experience from OHV recreational tourism. The attendees seemed quite surprised by the economic benefit the counties could experience. This is a very slow process but we are making inroads. One result was an invitation to meet with Mike Koch who is the executive director of Garrett County’s Department of Planning and Economic Development. Mike thinks OHV recreational tourism can only be good for the county if done right. Our job is to show him it can be.
Your Alliance will continue to push forward on the issues above as well as undertake new initiatives.
The election of Larry Hogan has changed the world and created vast opportunities for us. We believe Governor-elect Hogan will be a strong supporter of building OHV recreational tourism using State land as well as public/private partnerships. It appears that Hogan will appoint Charlie Evans Jr. (who worked as the assistant secretary at DNR during the Ehrlich administration) as the next DNR Secretary. We will be working to get on his calendar and discuss OHV recreation on DNR lands and we will push to reopen Green Ridge State Forest.
Maryland’s legislation on OHV noise is woefully outdated. With the help of AMA, we are drafting an update to use the Motorcycle Industry Council (MIC) and AMA’s recommended noise standard and testing method. It will also address spark arrestors. We are drafting language to ensure this only applies to OHV use on public property and may be waived for races or events. We all follow these standards already so this won’t be any change for you. This is primarily a defensive move on our part. We would rather have standards passed that we all already adhere to versus having someone with an axe to grind push through a very onerous law. Noise is a major issue and has contributed to closing OHV parks and other riding areas.
Your Alliance will be pushing hard on the issues above. We are achieving results many long-time Marylanders though impossible. This is all because of your strong support. We are a tax-deductible 501(c)(3) organization and we have been achieving great results with your funds!