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By: Robert Janis

Washington ATV Association

Washington ATV Association Struggles to Increase Riding Areas

Keeping the trails that are available now open and developing more appear to be priority number one for the Washington ATV Association (WAATVA). According to Kathy Heitmann, president of the group, “Many trails have been shut down due to erosion or other unexplained reasons to the motorized users. We need our trails to grow in miles and geographically. We have incurred an influx of motorized users, but we haven’t incurred any growth to handle the capacity. This can become a safety concern as well as an overuse trail system concern.”

The Washington ATV Association was a floundering club when it was created in 1988, but by 1993 it was growing and became more of a familiar supporting resource for ATV enthusiasts. Its mission is to protect ATV riders’ interests in the State of Washington by educating riders through organized events, attending public activities such as swap meets and expos and attending the group’s sponsors’ open houses and grand openings. The association also responds to legislative issues and supports organizations like the BlueRibbon Coalition and the Washington Off-Highway Vehicle Association.

WATVA Mattawa ATV Prize
WATVA Mattawa ATV Prize

The organization has learned how to use tricks, new systems, and technologies to help achieve its goals. For example, to help with its lobbying effort WAATVA uses a system called “CLOUT” -- Constituent Legislative Online User Target System. “The system is a database of active OHV users, indexed by their personal Washington State Representatives and Senators,” explained Heitmann. “It notifies specific people via e-mail only when their personal legislator is going to be involved in hearing something to do with any issue that affects OHV recreation in the state of Washington within a few days. This system provides everything that is needed to send a personal message to personal legislators.” ATV enthusiasts who want to participate can register via e-mail to be added to the notification system.

The association does not employ a professional lobbyist. But CLOUT makes it possible for members to deal with their own representatives on a personal level.

Heitmann also added that the group sponsors good bills on the state and local level through its website and at public activities. “We also notify the ATV public when a bill is not in our best interest, and there is a need to take action,” she said.

Educating members is another important priority of the group. That is achieved through the website, via e-mail to all members and through monthly meetings. “When we hold group trips, we have a member, who is also an ASI trainer, on site; and we hold a training session for everyone in attendance to serve as a reminder for our members,” said Heitmann. She added that she challenges members to “take ownership of their chosen sport, ATVing, and preserve their right to ride and not wait for their neighbors to do it for them.”

WATVA riders meeting.
WATVA riders meeting.

An all-volunteer organization, members of the WAATVA volunteer to host sponsors’ open houses, man the association’s booths at swap meets and perform lots of trail work. Heitmann also noted that officers of the association are all volunteers. Assisting in association events is also a top priority for volunteering members. “Once a year we hold a two-day Spring Fling Poker Run and a great number of our members volunteer to make this event successful. It takes 45 to 50 members to put on the event performing such things as gathering raffle donations, soliciting for sponsorship money, organizing pre-registered applicants and working three days of the two-day event,” quipped Heitmann.

WAATVA has assisted local clubs, and it has created its first chapter organization in Central Washington called the Central Washington ATV Association. Also, according to Heitmann, the association assists in the start up of local clubs and provides consultation on how to do it. “We help new clubs by attending their meetings and providing them with information they may need,” she said.

The association also helps to get local clubs involved. For example, it works with the Northwest Motorcycle Association (NMA) to get its Poker Run Series as a WAATVA event. “This is a series in which riders participate in various clubs’ poker runs,” explained Heitmann. “Participants collect raffle tickets and trophy points from each event and at the end of the riding season, the raffle tickets are placed into a drawing bin and a lucky contestant wins a 190 motorcycle. Last year WAATVA also participated with NMA in this series; and with the help of one of our sponsors, South Sound Honda, we were able to give away a 250 Honda ATV as the grand prize for all ATV participants. This type of thing helps ATVers and motorcyclists get along. Because if we can’t get along amongst ourselves and find that we share a common thread (the trails), then we aren’t going to get the opposition to motorized users to find value in also co-existing with any of us.”

Trailwork
Trailwork

In order to deal with the issues most important with ATVers in Washington State, WAATVA works closely with the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) by working on trails and letting the agency know what it is doing and alerting them to what issues are most important to its members as far as the trails are concerned. “As of January 2008 we have logged more than 700 hours of trail work and spent more than $3,000 in the Capital State Forest area south of Olympia, Washington,” said Heitmann. “This area sustained major damage during our November storms and we are working with DNR in doing ‘assessment’ rides. Our members also work every weekend to make riding safe for upcoming events and for the public as a whole. Without the help of volunteers, the trail system in Washington State would most likely not have been open this season. In addition, we participated and co-sponsored the first ‘OHV Safety Summit’ on March 15, 2008 at Straddeline. This summit brought together many resources, such as the DNR, local sheriff departments, Forest Service personnel, fire departments, rescue groups and motorized businesses. The public was invited to attend safety riding courses with their machines, talk with local officials from such agencies as the DNR and Sheriff’s Department, local ATV clubs, and motorcycle clubs and gain more knowledge about motorized use.”

The group’s website (www.waatva.org) is used as an educational site and includes a calendar of events, a blog, a Political Awareness/Action page, trails listings, dates and times of meetings, links to sponsors’ websites, a gallery of photos and a membership application form. “We use it as both a communication tool and a resource for information,” said Heitmann.

Currently WAATVA has 600 participating members in the Great Puget Sound area as well as members as far north as Vancouver, British Columbia Canada and as far south as Vancouver, Washington.

Anyone with an enthusiasm for the sport of ATVing, the desire to meet other riders, and the willingness to volunteer from time to time and assist in the preservation of the sport of ATVing and preserving the trails are encouraged to join. “We have members of all ages and all income and employment levels,” Heitmann concluded.


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