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By: Robert Janis

Nebraska OHV Association

Education is Essential to the Success of the Nebraska Off-Highway Vehicle Association

Riders participate in our ATV pulls.  Norfolk Motoplex provides the ATV sled.
Riders participate in our ATV pulls. Norfolk Motoplex provides the ATV sled.

According to Dan Nitzel, business manager and co-founder of the Nebraska Off-Highway Vehicle Association (NOHVA), the greatest hurdle to solving issues related to off-road vehicle use is understanding those issues. “Understanding the issues involve knowing how the issues affect enthusiasts and understanding the perceptions that non-enthusiasts have to our sport,” he said. “Education is the key to informing enthusiasts about the issues.”

Also, education is essential in winning opponents to off-road ATV use. “Nebraska’s agriculture interests and hiker-biker trail advocates have in the past demonstrated a negative sentiment towards our sport,” explained Nitzel. “Agricultural interests oppose ATV registration to help fund trails. They believe that trails and parks are generally not needed as farmers and ranchers can ride on roads and highways and have places to ride now, and are concerned about having to pay an ‘additional tax’ to use public facilities. While rural residents frequently ride ATVs on roads and highways in the interest of agricultural activities, urban ATV owners cannot. In the past, state agencies have declared that the recreational use of ATVs and dirtbikes violates state environmental protection policy and have made it clear that they do not want to be involved in managing or sponsoring ATV or dirtbike projects. Even though there is a considerable opposition to our sport, our efforts to keep existing areas open have proven to be quite successful.”

Retailers often support our efforts to help trails and parks in Nebraska.  This trailer was donated by NOHVA to local law enforcement and rescue personnel.  The use of the ATV is donated by Curry Bros. Motorsports.  A similar trails was donated by Kearney Yamaha.
Retailers often support our efforts to help trails and parks in Nebraska. This trailer was donated by NOHVA to local law enforcement and rescue personnel. The use of the ATV is donated by Curry Bros. Motorsports. A similar trails was donated by Kearney Yamaha.

Created in 1987, NOHVA is a non-profit organization formed to benefit all-terrain vehicle and off-road motorcycle or dirtbike riders. The association has seven chapters. The main organization and chapters help manage and fund trails and parks at five locations in Nebraska.

The goals of the group are:

  • Preserve existing places to ride in Nebraska
  • Help fund public ATV and dirtbike trails and parks in Nebraska
  • Organize riders to help manage and maintain trails and ATV/dirt bike parks
  • Organize family-based off-road events for ATV and dirtbike enthusiasts
  • Promote responsible and safe ATV and dirt bike use
  • Educate ATV and dirt bike enthusiasts
  • Assist in the development and management of new places to ride in Nebraska
  • Defend recreational ATV and dirtbike owners against discriminatory legislation

"Our organization has many commitments trying to fund trails and parks in Nebraska, and it consumes a considerable amount of our resources,” said Nitzel. “Through our member information and education programs, our members have proven to be very effective in explaining our desires concerning ATV and dirtbike recreation to government leaders.”

Although NOHVA does not have any paid lobbyists, Nitzel, as the business manager, monitors legislative proposals and actions. If a legislative or governmental plan, proposal, or action is found to possibly affect the sport of ATV or dirtbike, officers and directors of the association meet to determine a plan of action. They then communicate with members and explain any threat or benefit and ask members to contact their local representatives.

Trail riders taking a break on the Dismal River trail at the Nebraska National Forest near Halsey.
Trail riders taking a break on the Dismal River trail at the Nebraska National Forest near Halsey.

“In our state legislature and state government subdivisions, we represent recreational ATV and dirtbike trail riders and park enthusiasts,” explained Nitzel. “We try and lobby as best we can.”

Nitzel noted that NOHVA establishes a local-based committee or chapter to influence local city councils. “Local officials do not respond well to people and groups who are not constituents or local voters,” said Nitzel. “We help our local chapters and committees by providing administrative support, funding in the form of membership refunds, grants for projects, and connections with groups such as NOHVCC, American Motorcyclists Association (AMA), and the All Terrain Vehicle Association. As requested and as needed, we attend local government subdivision meetings to lend advice or promote projects.”
Obviously, having an aware, well-educated membership is essential if NOHVA is to achieve its goals. So the organization has its own newspaper, “The Nebraska OHV Advisor” as a tool to achieve this. The group also uses special mailings, informational e-mails, and its website. “If an important issue needs attention by our members, such as legislation that may have a positive or negative impact upon our sport, our business office sends out information via the mail and e-mail,” explained Nitzel. “In our communications concerning legislative actions, plans or proposals, we try to explain the situation in a clear and brief manner, and then we suggest ways that members can communicate with government officials.”

Nitzel noted that members frequently volunteer for various trail projects including rebuilding an entrance trail at an OHV park NOHVA helps to manage. Members also volunteer and attend the organization’s twice yearly Jamborees. “Each one of our Jamborees is attended by 1,500 to 2,000 members. These events provide a huge amount of funding to maintain trails and educate enthusiasts,” said Nitzel. “Fifty-four percent of our annual funding is provided by riders who pay voluntary membership fees to NOHVA. Three percent of our annual funding is from donations and grants. Forty- three percent of our income is provided from our Jamborees. Eighty-eight percent of our total annual income is used to fund trails and parks and provide information to our members.”

The association is also involved in the creation of local clubs and offers education, administrative and financial assistance to new and existing chapters of NOHVA. “We now have seven chapters,” said Nitzel. “We help fund these chapters via membership refunds and grants.”

NOHVA supporters participate in a protest at the state capital asking the state to consider helping us find new places to ride.
NOHVA supporters participate in a protest at the state capital asking the state to consider helping us find new places to ride.

According to Nitzel, the most pressing issues concerning Nebraska ATV riders, racers and industry involve the upcoming Travel Management Plan (TMP) on Nebraska’s U.S. National Forest lands; development of a new OHV park near Deshler and Hebron, Nebraska; trail improvements at the Headworks OHV Park; assisting in the development of a new public OHV park in eastern Nebraska; educating ATV and dirtbike riders about the importance of responsible and safe riding habits; and advising and lobbying the state capital concerning any possible legislation involving a state registration program.

Nitzel pointed out that the proposed Travel Management Plan could cause the loss of more than 99 percent of land now available to riders. “Our proposal to deal with the Travel Management Plan on Nebraska National Forest lands involves providing funds for trail improvements and maintenance and providing volunteers for trail work, planning and patrolling. Due to U.S. Forest Service budget cuts and the fact that the areas we are involved with are lowest in funding priorities, users need to step up their help to provide funding for trails and need to volunteer to maintain them. This could prove to be a difficult task as few of the riders who use these Forest Service lands are willing to support groups interested in keeping trails open. They are often unwilling to become involved or help support trails with involvement or a financial contribution, but they really want to ride on these lands.

“The development of the new OHV park near Deshler and Hebron has met several snags,” continued Nitzel. “Our organization needs to see what can be done to ‘un-snag’ a great effort that the local Little Blue OHV Club has been involved with over the last year.

“Trails and facilities at the Headworks OHV Park are in need of improvements,” continued Nitzel. “We are trying to fund these needs as best we can. We are developing a drag racing program to meet the needs of riders there.

“Our new chapter that is based around the metro Omaha area is involved with finding a new place to ride and helping maintain a nearby riding area in Council Bluffs, Iowa.,” said Nitzel.

Other concerns involve irresponsible behavior on the part of ATV and dirtbike riders which contribute to damage off-road enthusiasts’ image. “We are trying to get the word out to those who are unknowing of their actions, and we are attempting to promote a positive peer group atmosphere among ATV and dirtbike enthusiasts. This tactic has worked well at the OHV parks we are involved with now,” said Nitzel.

Participants lineup for drag races at one of NOHVA's Jamborees.
Participants lineup for drag races at one of NOHVA's Jamborees. 

Currently, there is no trail sticker or registration program for recreational ATV riders in Nebraska. However, as far as developing a state registration program is concerned, Nitzel said, “Our organization knows that we need to move carefully on this subject. While at this time we are not pursuing any kind of state trail sticker fee or registration program, if a state-based registration program is not properly being implemented and managed, it could result in a tax upon us and not provide any assistance for trails. If any kind of user fee is ever considered for trails and parks in Nebraska, we would rather see a day use or annual use fee set for each park or trail system. The funds collected would be locally controlled, hopefully with input from a local club or group of riders who frequently use the facility or are directly involved in managing the local riding facility.”

Nitzel added that he anticipates NOHVA will help the U.S. Army Corp. of Engineers with a new 500-acre ATV and dirtbike park being developed near Harlan County reservoir and to continue to help parks near Sutherland and Alliance Nebraska through its local chapters there.

The association also helps to promote the sport side of ATV through its jamborees. Each jamboree includes side-by-side sand drag racing, timed trail racing, ATV sled pulling and the group’s Alliance MX Chapter promotes and holds ATV and dirtbike motocross races. The organization also underwrites insurance for organized events such as races and jamborees, poker runs and more and cover events involving its chapters. The insurance program also covers land managers and land owners, said Nitzel.
Moreover, from 1988 until 1992, under the name TBQ Sport Club, NOHVA operated the TBQ Raceway located eight miles north of Gibbon, Nebraska. Gary Gibbs, with the help of club members, ran the races.
There are more than 3,300 paid members of NOHVA.

There are four membership classes:

  • Single, for individual riders. Yearly membership fee is $25 or $250 for a lifetime membership.
  • Family, for members of a family or anyone living in a household that has two or more riders. Yearly fee is $30. Lifetime membership is $300.
  • Business. Membership fee is $125 for one year. Business members are entitled to a business card-size ad in four NOHVA newspapers and the Nebraska Ride Guide and business name on the association’s Nebraska OHV Retailers website. Or membership fee is $50 and member is entitled to a one line “NOHVA Business Member” listing in the association newspaper and business name on the association’s Nebraska OHV Retailers website.
  • Supporting Club Membership for a fee of $50 a year.

Forty-six percent of money raised through membership fees is spent on funding for ATV and dirtbike trails; thirty-eight percent is spent on the printing and mailing of ATV and dirtbike news and information to members; and sixteen percent is spent on member services.

Volunteers work to improve the entrance trail at the Headworks OHV Park.
Volunteers work to improve the entrance trail at the Headworks OHV Park. 

Members receive the quarterly NOHVA newspaper; special members only mailings that inform them about special events, closures or re-opening news about trails and OHV parks in Nebraska; the Nebraska Ride Guide, a special publication that includes information and trail maps for places in Nebraska to ride ATVs and dirtbikes; and yearly NOHVA stickers and membership card. Members are also allowed to vote in NOHVA elections and meetings; admitted into members only events and Jamborees; have a subscription in the members only e-mail list; and enjoy discounts at participating NOHVA member dealers in Nebraska.

The association has a website (www.nohva.com) which is used to educate members and ATV and dirtbike enthusiasts who are not members as well as the general public. The site provides information on upcoming events; an explanation of the Jamboree, ability to purchase the Nebraska Ride Guide; the Nebraska OHV advisor, the association’s newspaper; answers to frequently asked questions about the NOHVA; links to off-road/off-highway related organizations; and riding area information.

“The next few years are critical times for our sport. The average ATV rider has no idea how our sport could evolve in the next couple of years. U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management Travel Management Plans will be closing thousands of trails and untold acres of land in the western half of the nation and many parts of the eastern United States. The sales of more machines added to an already burdened trail system, coupled with inadequate funding for existing trails and parks, will cause trails to close. Continued irresponsible activity by uncaring and unknowing enthusiasts will continue to be highlighted in the press and among land management concerns. ATV riders must responsibly and intelligently take matters into their own hands. Contrary to the beliefs of many, we do not have the privilege to use public lands. Enthusiasts must become involved in helping find ways to fund and help manage trail projects and become leaders to protect existing places to ride,” concluded Nitzel.


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