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By: Robert Janis

New Jersey OHV Association

NJOHVA Developing Ties between OHVers, the Public and the State

According to Dale Freitas, president of the New Jersey Off-Highway Vehicle Association, the one major obstacle for the association is to overcome the apathy of the OHV/ATV community. The group has developed several ways to combat it and has shown progress in making the association a strong advocate for OHV/ATV issues.

The NJOHVA was started in January 2005 as the result of a meeting between the American Motorcyclist Association, the ATV Association and the National Off-Highway Vehicle Conservation Council (NOHVCC). The mission of the group is to change the perception of what Off-Highway Vehicle recreation is all about. “We’re not a lobbying organization,” explained Freitas, “but we do spend a lot of time up at the state house and at the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection. Our primary mission is to promote responsible and safe operation of OHVs as well as to facilitate the creation of OHV riding opportunities both through support for OHV clubs as well as the creation of OHV parks and trail access.”

A Grass Roots, Low Budget Operation

Freitas noted that when the NJOHVA got started they discovered that the best way to carry through is to develop a grass roots, low budget operation. “Our first goal was to build membership but most people won’t get involved unless there are tangible results,” he said. “So to grow the organization we needed access to an advocacy recruitment tool very much like what the environmental community uses to build their ranks. We knew that if potential members felt that they were able to make a difference they would support us.”

The organization reached out to the MIC, the American Motorcyclist Association and the National Off-Highway Vehicle Conservation Council for support. As a result, MIC helped the NJOHVA with a tool they use for ARRA. The association then identified key OHV issues in the state of New Jersey and developed an advocacy program directed at the state legislature to let them know that the OHV community of New Jersey included close to 250,000 OHV users and that the NJOHVA represented them.

They also spent a lot of time working the phones and contacting legislators and their aides as well as the media in order to introduce the group. “The newspapers are always looking for someone from the opposing side to provide comment and we’ve positioned the NJOHVA as that group,” said Freitas. Also, the association stays on message always promoting responsible and safe OHV recreation.

“After about six months of doing this, our organization grew like crazy,” said Freitas. “Every legislator in the state house was well aware of the NJOHVA and the issues pertaining to OHV recreation in New Jersey.”
Although keeping in touch with legislators and other state agencies is a key to their success, Freitas pointed out that the NJOHVA has no lobbyists. “Actually our biggest obstacle as far as lobbying is concerned is funding,” explained Freitas. “Up until now everything has been out of our pockets. We’ve applied for grants from the industry and we’re waiting to hear who is going to help us out. Currently, the only lobbyists we have are John Parrinello, our government relations/legislative officer, and myself. Recently a lobbying firm in Trenton, New Jersey has been helping us pro-bono because they believe we’re ready to go to the next level, and they’d like to help us get there.”

As far as influencing local city councils and other state decision-making agencies, Freitas said that the association leads by example and creates OHV events that serve as a “Trojan Horse” to get them into communities. “I then partner with non-profits where we do an OHV event and they work the gate, get the insurance releases signed and keep the gate fee. It raises a lot of money and once you get them used to the model, you’re always welcomed back,” he said.

Freitas also targets local newspapers and radio to get them to cover the events and encourage them to cover the local kids who participate, as well as their families. “This way the story is always about how a local kid did well or how a local kid had a legal place to ride and also emphasize how the NJOHVA raised a lot of money for the community. This resonates really well up at the state house because OHV issues are local issues,” added Freitas.

Motivating the Grass Roots

As mentioned earlier, one of the toughest things the association has to deal with is the apathy of the OHV community. One tool to get them concerned and working is Get Active Advocacy e-mail campaigns in which the message is always responsible and safe OHV recreation. “Each campaign we send out has a different message and for whatever reason it has become somewhat viral--people spread the word. They appreciate that someone is actually doing work. And, as a result, new membership is constantly growing. Every meeting always has new faces and many of them want to contribute in one way or another.”

The association is concentrating on getting their members to get involved locally. “They know the players and are familiar with the politics,” said Freitas. He admitted that there are areas the association needs to work on, however, including recruitment, fund raising, and dealer development. “But we’re getting there. More dealers are taking notice and getting involved. Now our goal is to create a New Jersey Off-Highway Vehicle Dealer Association,” said Freitas.

The Atlantic Grand Prix

He volunteered that there are not many OHV/ATV clubs in New Jersey. Instead, he describes the community as being “a bunch of nomadic tribes.” To unite the tribes and to lead to the formation of clubs, Freitas has created the Atlantic Grand Prix Series, which is a cross country series of racing events for ATVs and motorcycles. The events are run as community fund raisers with the goal of developing OHV parks. “In New Jersey we get about 400 participants and maybe 1,000 spectators,” said Freitas, who also serves as the executive director of the series.

“The Atlantic Grand Prix gets us into communities and gives us an opportunity to get them receptive to OHV,” said Freitas.

The Atlantic Grand Prix Series started more than 25 years ago. Events are held in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and New York. ATV and unregistered motorcycle population makes up nearly 95 percent of the OHVs sold in those three states. ATVs make up about 65 percent of the market and unregistered motorcycles account for about 30 percent.

The Atlantic Grand Prix events are not run on state land, but it is being used to help protect woodlands and farmland from being devoured by development. “Farmers were being squeezed from all sides and needed a creative way to generate additional revenue and rural fire companies were getting their budgets slashed and were finding it harder to protect their communities. The Atlantic Grand Prix saw an opportunity to provide benefits to farmers, fire companies, rural communities and the tri-state region and at the same time promote the sport of OHV/ATV racing,” said Freitas. The series runs their events on farm fields in-between the farmer crop rotations, old gravel pits that aren’t in use, and ski resorts during their off season.

“The nice thing about this is that it really doesn’t impact the environment, and we don’t impact any sensitive state-owned lands,” continued Freitas. “We only impact a community one weekend a year. When we’re finished, we clean up and move on to the next location. The farmers then plant their crops and you’d would never know that any event had taken place there.”

The Atlantic Grand Prix Series also helps in getting communities receptive to having OHV parks. Then the association builds upon this by participating in a New Jersey state program in which the state’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and a funding organization which is a part of the DEP called the Green Acres Fund, acquires open land for preservation. The association uses this program to acquire land that is converted into OHV parks.

Sponsors of the Atlantic Grand Prix include Can Am, Moose Racing, ITP, Scott, Husqvarna, Pirie Performance Products, North American Warehouse, Montgomeryville Cycle Center, Mount Holly Powersports, Surf & Turf Powersports, Cycle World, Hanover Powersports, Mt. Holly, Sport Honda Powerhouse, Southern Ocean Cycle Center, Xtreme Machines, Trick Racing, Hamilton Yamaha, The Quadbuilder and propilotsuspension.com.
More information on the Atlantic Grand Prix Series can be found at their website (www.atlanticgrandprix.com).

Issues Plaguing OHVers/ATVers
Some of the major issues that are plaguing the OHV/ATV community in New Jersey are attempts by the legislature to pass laws that would put motorcycle shops out of business and make it illegal to operate an OHV. The NJOHVA was instrumental in turning the premise of the bill around so that the anti-OHV issues are out and the bill now includes an OHV registration program with funding going to OHV safety training, creation of OHV parks and enhancement to OHV riding opportunities in New Jersey. “I guess 250,000 OHV users generate a lot of potential revenue for the state,” quipped Freitas.

NJOHVA does not get involved in lawsuits to pursue their goals. Instead, they work with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection as well as work on endangered species issues favored by environmental groups, and they also participate in meetings of environmental groups. They also work with outside organizations like NOHVCC, AMA/ATVA and MIC.

According to Freitas there are a few thousand members of the NJOHVA. Anyone can join the organization for free. Just register online at http://ga3.org/njohva/join.tcl?is_preview=1.

The NJOHVA Website
The association also has their own website (www.njohva.org). The site serves as the message bulletin board for the group and includes everything you need to know about OHV recreation in New Jersey. It includes links to their advocacy tools; links to legislators, agencies and OHV/ATV communities; the NJOHVA brochure which can be downloaded from the site; Action Alerts; and local news articles concerning OHV riders from state newspapers.


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