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By Robert Janis

OHVers Well Served by Iowa Off-Highway Vehicle Association

Iowa OHV Association

One of the many trails systems that Iowa OHV Association helped get established and accessible to OHV users.
One of the many trails systems that Iowa OHV Association helped get established and accessible to OHV users.

Iowa is renowned for its farms among other things. It is not surprising to find that many farmers rely on their off-highway vehicles (OHV) to assist them in running their farms. It is also not surprising that when residents of Iowa want to take a break from work, it is their OHV that assists in recreation. So, does the state of Iowa have a viable OHV association? You bet it does!

The Structure

Now known as the Iowa Off-Highway Vehicle Association (IOHVA), the group was created in 1989 as the Iowa ATV Association. “As we worked to develop legal riding areas, we soon realized that both ATV and off-road motorcycle riders shared the same need for places to ride. ATVs and off-road motorcycles both register as ATVs in Iowa,” said Dan Kleen, current executive director of the Iowa OHV Association. “So we changed the name to the Iowa Off-Highway Vehicle Association and have benefited from ATV and off-road motorcycle riders working together ever since. Like most states, Iowa has the same challenges of having limited amounts of public land available which makes it even more important for all riders to work together.”

According to Kleen, the mission of the Iowa OHV Association is to work within the local, state, and federal governments to provide user groups to fairly share land recreation resources. A lot of its work calls for the association to lobby the Iowa state legislature on behalf of off-highway vehicle owners. The group has learned that it is better to be cooperative than confrontational. The association has created positive relationships and partnerships with the Iowa Legislators and has worked to develop relationships with other groups that work for the common cause. One such group is the Iowa Motorcycle Dealers Association. “For many years we have had the benefit of their lobbying experience and support from their full time lobbyist Robert Kreamer,” said Kleen. “Another key partner is the Iowa State Snowmobile Association. We share many of the same issues like insurance, access, registration, fuel tax, enforcement, and more so working together makes a whole lot of sense.”

Bluff Creek Riders OHV Club, which manages the Bluff Creek OHV Park.
Bluff Creek Riders OHV Club, which manages the Bluff Creek OHV Park.

With its experience of working with all sorts of related groups and believing in the old adage that there is strength in numbers, the Iowa Off-Highway Vehicle Association helped to form the Iowa Motorsports Coalition. The coalition includes the Iowa OHV Association, the Iowa Motorcycle Dealers Association, the Iowa State Snowmobile Association, Abate of Iowa, the Iowa Enduro Riders Association and the Iowa ATV Hare Scramble Series. It also works with several national groups including the All-Terrain Vehicle Association (ATVA) and the American Motorcylist Association (AMA). According to Kleen, the government relations department of the ATVA and AMA has been available whenever the Iowa association needed support. It has also worked closely with the National Off-Highway Vehicle Conservation Council (NOHVCC), which has an extensive library and tools that help riders, clubs, associations, and land managers find what they need, as well as the BlueRibbon Coalition and the Americans for Responsible Recreational Access (ARRA).

“The backbone, or foundation, of the association is local OHV clubs,” said Kleen. It is the local clubs who lobby the city and town councils and other decision-making agencies on off-highway vehicle-related issues. The Iowa OHV Association also works with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to help influence local city, county, state, and other decision-making agencies. Most local OHV clubs support the Iowa state association by signing up their members as members of the state association. All members are encouraged to get involved. “It is important that each rider get involved,” said Kleen. “We can always use more help maintaining OHV parks and lobbying for issues that affect our great family recreation.”

Again, with the old adage that there is strength in numbers, the Iowa OHV Association helps to organize local clubs. “We usually start off by sending them a copy of the NOHVCC Club Start-Up Kit,” continued Kleen. “They are free and available to anyone who would like one.” To receive a copy, simply contact the NOHVCC through their website: http://www.nohvcc.org or calling (800) 348-6487.

The Association relies on the local clubs to maintain and operate the eight Iowa OHV Parks that are open to riders. The local OHV clubs are essential in creating OHV parks. “The first step in developing an Iowa OHV Park is to have a local OHV club sign on to manage it,” explained Kleen. “Many local clubs have stepped up to the plate including the Bluff Creek Riders OHV Club, which manages the Bluff Creek OHV Park; the South Central Dirt Riders, who manage the Rathbun OHV Park; the Trailblazers Off-Road Club manages the Riverview OHV Park; the River Valley Trail Riders Club manages the River Valley OHV Park; the Dirt Surfers OHV Club manages the Lakeview OHV Park; Club S.P.O.R.T. manages the Tama County OHV Park; the Iowa River OHV Club manages the Nicholson-Ford OHV Park; and the Webster County Wheelers Club manages the Gypsum City OHV Park. To best administer the total organization, the state of Iowa is divided into eight regions and each region has its own director and associate directors.

Iowa OHV Association
Iowa OHV Association

Website Used To Motivate, Educate

The association motivates and educates its members through quarterly meetings as well as annual meetings held in January every year and through its website (www.iowaohv.com). “We have relied on our website to be the main source of information. Most riders use the web, so we have found the website to be the fastest and easiest way to keep riders informed and up to date,” said Kleen.

The website includes information on the OHV Parks, Park Operational Rules, upcoming meetings, contact information on the directors of each of the eight regions, OHV safety education programs, links to the websites of local clubs, recall information, and answers to frequently asked questions like how to register an ATV, requirement for bonding an ATV, qualifications to register as an ATV, and what paper work is needed to sell an ATV.

The educational programs include the ASI ATV RiderCourse®. Known nationally and recognized as one of the best ATV safety programs being offered in the country, this is a mandatory program for individuals between the ages of 12 and 17 who ride ATVs on public land or land purchased with ATV registration funds in Iowa. The program is offered in cooperation with the Department of Natural Resources and the ATV Safety Institute. The course is four and one-half hours in length and offers hands-on exercises concerning starting, stopping, running, negotiating hills, emergency stopping, and swerving as well as riding over obstacles. The course also includes information on protective gear, environmental concerns and local laws. Participants in the course also get a copy of the ATV RiderCourse® Handbook which provides information covered by the course.
Another safety program promoted at the Iowa OHV Association website is the Motorcycle Safety Foundation Dirtbike School. This is a one-day hands-on training class for riders who are six years-old and older.  MSF certified dirtbike safety coaches teach basic riding skills and responsible riding practices including risk management and environmental awareness.

Finally, visitors to the site can obtain The Handbook of Iowa All-Terrain Vehicle, Off-Road Utility Vehicle and Off-Road Motorcycle Regulations. The handbook describes Iowa laws concerning ATVs and other off-road vehicles and offers information on the safe operation of the vehicles.

Working with local DNR is a major part of the Iowa OHV Association success.
Working with local DNR is a major part of the Iowa OHV Association success.

The Issues

The most urgent issues for members of the Iowa Off-Highway Vehicle Association are land and funding. To gain results in pushing its agenda on these issues, the association works closely with groups and individuals who affect family recreation. This includes the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, which administers the ATV and Off-Road Motorcycle registration program, and the Iowa Department of Transportation, which administers the RTP Grant Program. It also works with motorized and non-motorized user groups. “It is important that everyone respects each other’s form of recreation as long as we all recreate responsibly,” said Kleen.

The Iowa Off-Highway Vehicle Association has 500 members, most of whom are also members of the more than 20 local OHV clubs. However, anyone can join the organization. You don’t have to be a member of a local club. Members who do not belong to a local club are encouraged to either join a club or assist in creating one.

For more information, visit the association’s website at: www.iowaohv.com.


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