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Land Use - What Has Worked For Us
Land Use & Trails: What Works for Us.
I apologize for the length of this post, but I want to share with you the formula that has worked for us in the Deschutes County 4-Wheelers. Will this formula work for you? Maybe, maybe not. But I think it is important for each of our clubs to share good ideas and positive results. Much of this has been posted in various threads on this forum, but I wanted to put it all together in one post.
So that no one misunderstands, let me begin by stating that the Deschutes County 4-Wheelers certainly do not have all the answers and we are by no means perfect.
Just a few years ago, there were ZERO miles of designated Class II 4x4 trails in all of Central Oregon. ZERO!! Our club consisted of about a dozen people. Our forest agencies did not know what a Class II vehicle was and few even knew our club existed. The forest service OHV department publicly stated that we didn’t need any trails since we had roads. Then something happened. Our local forest service was finally undergoing a change of leadership in the OHV department and Travel Management was coming down the pike. Randy Drake, who had been working for years against a brick wall, realized that we had to organize, diversify and change tactics in order to pounce all over this opportunity. Things had to change!!
An official Land Use committee was formed within our club consisting of Randy, his wife Mona, my husband Jon and me. God gave each of us specific talents and a common passion, therefore we joined forces. It helps that the four of us have since grown to dearly love each other and couldn’t imagine life without each other. Our club motto now is, “Committed to Growing the Sport, Preserving the Environment, and Having Fun.”
Do the four of us always agree? NO!! But rule number one of this committee is unity – NEVER disagree in public - not in public meetings, not on the trail, not before the club and not before the forest service or BLM. Just like a successful marriage, disagreements are to be worked out in private and a united front presented at all times. Rule number one is never to be broken!!
Like I said, God gave each of us specific talents. Randy has unending passion and knows this area inside and out, upside down, any which way without a map. He knows where we should concentrate our efforts and where we would be wasting our time. He has decades of 4x4 experience and has never stopped working to promote our sport.
Jon has similar amounts of passion for our sport and a willingness to spend countless days GPS trails. His schedule allows the freedom to meet with forest service or BLM during business hours and he is very articulate when speaking to the agencies and the public. Being newer to the sport, Jon has brought a different perspective and often asks, “Why not???” He rarely takes “no” for an answer when working with government agencies.
In my pre-children years, I worked for the government and also wrote various planning documents. I understand the snails pace that the agencies can work with and also understand how they think. My job is to put down on paper what our master plan is and to plan 5, 10 or 20 years down the line. I do the research, write the reports and prepare the appeals. My main job is to communicate on paper to the agencies in a manner and language that they understand.
Jon and I volunteered months of time to work on the forest service’s Travel Management working group which was the public committee of all forest users who developed the base framework and direction of Travel Management for the Deschutes and Ochoco National Forests and the Crooked River National Grasslands.
Mona is our rudder and glue. Without her, our committee would lose our way and fall apart. She keeps each of us focused, on task and on time. She takes all the notes, documents all the meetings, and referees all our disagreements. If we need to know what was said three years ago, she has it. When we need a kind and compassionate public face, we put her on camera. Yet, when someone needs a good “talking to”, she’s the one to do it. She has written more letters to agencies than anyone I have ever met. She has also saved my butt more times than I can count. Mona is the rudder who keeps us in the right direction and the glue that keeps us together.
Mona also serves on the BLM RAC committee and continues the development of a Region 6 program for school children that promotes responsible off-roading.
We have taken each of these talents and we divide up the responsibilities as needed. We have also divided Central Oregon into smaller areas that are assigned to each couple and have divided up the various governmental agencies between us.
We sat down and developed a plan and a goal. We know exactly where we want to see trails, how they will interconnect, and what they should look like. Our goal is 1000 miles by the year 2030 and a complete connection from Santiam Pass to the north, all the way to Groundhog Rock Pit to the east, and then down to Christmas Valley Sand Dunes to the south. That is a pretty loft goal; but without goals, you will achieve nothing.
A couple of years ago, Jon worked to get the Edison OHV System opened up to us. The forest service said “No”, Jon said “Why not?” It took a couple of years, but they finally relented. That gave us 21 miles of trail and the first key element of our plan. With Travel Management, we have the opportunity to add another 100-200 miles of trails and complete several sections of our ultimate connection. Our 5 year plan is to complete these specific sections. Our 10 year goal is to go after the remaining in-between sections, and our 20 year goal is to connect to Christmas Valley. By developing a specific plan, we can be focused and not run around helter-skelter. We know what we are doing and when we are doing it.
But trail development is not the only responsibility of our committee. Trail development goes hand-in-hand with club growth, public awareness and community involvement. You have to be successful in all four areas. We have developed flyers, posters, photo presentations and a website to promote our club. We have developed public awareness programs through events such as the annual Sportsman’s Show and the OHV Education Fair, as well as our annual rock crawl competition. We have connections with the local newspaper, radio and TV. We have developed community service events such as our annual forest clean up, forest shelter construction projects and wood cutting for winter trail users. Because we are now building some of the trails we have worked so hard for, we have added trail construction to the list.
Does this mean that the four of us are in charge of all these events? No, we often develop the framework and then club members step forward. Each event has improved every year as members adopt them and put their own personal stamp on them.
Have each of us gotten tired, frustrated and wanted to just quit. YES!! But we made a commitment to each other to stick it out for the long haul. Like a marriage, we have our ups and down, our good times and our bad times, our fights and our triumphant celebrations. We huddle together and work alone when needed, and we call in reinforcements from the club when needed.
You may be wondering how this applies to you. Each club has their own needs and land use issues. Because we started from zero, our main goal was just to get trails. You may need to preserve the trails you already have. You may want to expand an area. You may need to develop an education program so that irresponsible users won’t get an area closed down. You may need to grow your club or repair a fractured club. The list can be endless.
But all it takes is just a few committed individuals to change the world. Make a list of what needs to be done. Look around your club for members with passion and the talents to get it done. Don’t take “No” for an answer. Get involved with Travel Management and RAC committees, grow your club, grow your community awareness and grow your community involvement. Get to know the other motorized trail users such as quad & motorcycle clubs and snowmobile clubs and join forces. Develop relationships with forest service and BLM personnel who are supportive of motorized recreation. Figure out how to get into the school systems. Get your message on TV, radio and in the paper. Build a support system to keep you going when you want to give up.
The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing!! Set a goal and develop a plan, no matter how unattainable it may seem. We will have gone from zero to 21 miles of trail and will add several hundred miles, all within five years. We won’t take “no” for an answer. The forest service has made development of Class II trails one of their top priorities and now knows exactly what a Class II rig consists of. Our club has grown to nearly 70 people. The forest service calls upon us regularly, as do the media outlets. The community knows who we are and what we do.
Let me repeat myself, the Deschutes County 4-Wheelers certainly do not have all the answers and we are by no means perfect. But we have developed a plan that works for us and are seeing positive results of that plan. We hope you will do the same.
Deschutes County 4-Wheelers
Oregon Executive Director Staff
PNW Forum Leader Team Member
Region 6 Delegate