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By: Robert Janis

Illinois OHV Association

Illinois OHV Association Pushes for More Land on Which Enthusiasts Can Ride

It appears that the off-highway vehicle enthusiasts in Illinois are starving for more land on which to ride, and the Illinois Off-Highway Vehicle Association (IOHVA) is determined to get that land for them.
"We are in constant search for new riding opportunities," explained Lance Martin, public relations director for IOHVA. "Grant programs are available to open new riding areas, but land is very hard to obtain. There is a lot of competition from other interest groups. IOHVA links the riding areas and helps get the word out that there are places to ride in Illinois, and we are looking for more."

History of IOHVA

Based in Quincy, Illinois, the Illinois Off-Highway Vehicle Association was founded in 2006 by a few dedicated off-highway vehicle (OHV) enthusiasts who reside throughout Illinois. "Department of Natural Resources (DNR) personnel with the grant programs had mentioned that when they deal with snowmobile grants they go to the Illinois Snowmobile Association. The organization is very helpful in getting grants for snowmobilers," said Martin. "They are a statewide organization that speaks for all snowmobilers. When dealing with OHV grants, individuals and clubs were on their own. There was no statewide group uniting everyone. Eight OHV enthusiasts from different regions of Illinois met in Springfield to brainstorm how to start a statewide group. The group applied for a grant through Polaris' (manufacturer of ATVs) grant program. Thanks to Polaris, money was made available to start the group."

The eight original founders were Todd Darr, Alton, Illinois; Jeff Fredette, Beecher, Illinois; Sandy Waterman, Quincy, Illinois; James Korte, Trenton, Illinois; Bryant Vangsness, Stillman Valley, Illinois; Tim Jagieski, Loves Park, Illinois; Richard Grove, East Alton, Illinois; and Lance Martin, Harrisburg, Illinois. Also present at that first meeting was Dave Sellman of the DNR.

The mission of the organization is to pursue, promote, and protect the interests of motorized off-highway vehicle riders in a social, recreational, athletic, environmentally conscious and safe manner. The organization also wants to improve relations between the general public, media and operators of OHVs, and to promote the development, establishment, and expansion of the motorized OHV industry.

Besides establishing more riding areas, other major issues concerning members of the IOHVA include noise and environmentalist groups who oppose any off-road recreation, explained Jim Korte. "Trail riders have very little if any parks or trails to ride," he said. "The OHV grant program that A Brotherhood Aimed Towards Education (A.B.A.T.E.) helped to create has helped get some parks established, but there is still a big need for more trails. Currently there are funds available in the Grant Fund to help with more parks, but there is a need for land and people interested in developing these parks."

A.B.A.T.E. of Illinois is an organization that preserves the right to a safe, unrestricted motorcycling environment and opposes and advocates actions that can be taken by elected and appointed officials to protect and conserve the natural resources of the State of Illinois. It also battles to ensure through proper management that there is sustainable use, more recreational opportunities and enjoyment of new resources. The organization was started by Easyrider Magazine, a motorcyclist enthusiast publication, in 1971 and was first incorporated in Illinois in 1975. It has more than 12,000 members and 60 chapters throughout Illinois.

Another issue facing racers and tracks concerns noise, added Korte. "As a whole the off-road community needs to pull together and become united in protecting not only the racing tracks but the trail riding parks as well," said Korte. "Track promoters are concerned about loss of revenue to trail parks. Not every off-road rider wants to race."

Figuring that there is strength in numbers when it comes to the concerns of OHV parks, many Illinois parks are members of IOHVA. They include The Cliffs Off-Road Park, Marseilles, Illinois; Clark County Park District Mill Park, Marshall, Illinois; South Fork Dirt Riders, Taylorville, Illinois; Crooked Creek OHV Riding Area, Winchester, Illinois; Little Egypt Public OHV Recreation Area, Marion, Illinois; Rocky Glenn OHV Park, Loves Park, Illinois; Williams Hills Pass, Harrisburg, Illinois; Atkinson Motorsports Park, Atkinson, Illinois; and Coyota ATV Trail Riders, Coulterville, Illinois.

Lobbying the State

Currently, the IOHVA does not have lobbyists. However, it works with other organizations including A.B.A.T.E. regarding legislative issues. "A.B.A.T.E.'s voice is well respected in the Illinois General Assembly and has been supportive of all motorcyclists in Illinois," explained Korte. "Generally, any issues that are to be addressed are discussed in the fall and placed on the legislative agenda by their Board of Directors for the coming year. It is hoped that as our organization grows, we will be able to continue to work with organizations like A.B.A.T.E. but also develop a legislative department of our own to represent owners, industry, and sport enthusiasts of OHV."

The IOHVA influences local city councils and other decision-making agencies through the volunteer actions of its members and A.B.A.T.E. Whenever a public hearing or meeting is scheduled that discusses issues regarding off-highway vehicles, members of the organization are mobilized to attend those meetings. "Getting as many people as possible to these meetings is important in showing that there is large support for our point of view," said Korte.

The group also provides all sorts of facts to decision makers concerning OHV use and tries to work with favorable elected officials. Every once in a while, IOHVA organizes a public relations campaign to explain their stand on such issues as safety and respect for neighbors. "A.B.A.T.E. has been valuable in organizing these campaigns; and as a result of their work and the work of our members, we have been able to defeat bad ordinances in Peoria and other areas of the state," said Korte.

Martin added that IOHVA is a source of information for OHV recreation for decision making agencies and local city councils and other agencies. "Just recently an OHV enthusiast from Breeze (Illinois) wanted to help in gathering information for designating rural roads for OHV use," said Martin. "At the time the local government was identifying and designating roads for OHV use. They have the responsibility of posting and maintaining signs along the routes. So they greatly appreciated the help that the enthusiast from Breeze was able to provide."

IOHVA monitors websites for information concerning OHV riders and then passes that information on to its members. Members are also encouraged to attend IOHVA trail rides to talk about the issues and meet other riders.

Since just about everything IOHVA does is based on the assistance of OHV enthusiasts, it works with local clubs. "IOHVA stays in contact with several clubs and riding areas in Illinois," said Martin. "As membership grows, OHV enthusiasts from the same region of the state will come together to form new clubs."

IOHVA plans to organize rides with local clubs in the future, added Jimi Williams, park representative for IOHVA. "We are in the process of planning a statewide trail ride for June of 2009," said Williams. "This organized ride will be called Ride Illinois. We will welcome all ATV clubs as well as all ATV enthusiasts. Plans are to include all of the OHV parks in Illinois by offering a daily trail ride. We will start at the park farthest north and work our way south until we have ridden them all. The total number of days it will take to complete the ride will depend on park locations and hotel accommodations. Hopefully, this will grow each year and pull in riders and clubs from other states to check out our trail systems."

IOHVA also works with other organizations to get its voice heard. Besides A.B.A.T.E., it works with the American Motorcyclists Association (AMA), the All Terrain Vehicle Association, The BlueRibbon Coalition and NOHVCC. "Some of our members contribute to the BlueRibbon Coalition and our president, Jeff Fredette, is involved with NOHVCC," said Martin.

Membership

Currently there are 121 members of IOHVA. That includes a mixture of family and individual memberships, said Williams. The group encourages individuals, families, businesses, and organizations to join. "Anyone who likes to trail ride or wants to support the rights of the OHV enthusiast is welcomed to join," she said.

Benefits of membership include being informed of new places to ride, being invited to participate in organized rides, meeting and uniting with other off-road enthusiasts, being informed of OHV issues, having a statewide voice when off-road rights are being threatened, accessing forums and getting information on special events and photo galleries on the organization's website, expanding the riding opportunities in Illinois and becoming more involved in the OHV sport.

The Website

IOHVA has a website (www.rideoffroadillinois.org). From the site members and enthusiasts can get information on places to ride in Illinois; discuss issues and past and future rides with other enthusiasts through a forum; link to A.B.A.T.E. of Illinois as well as NOHVCC; and see a schedule of rides.


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