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By: Robert Janis

Florida Trail Riders

Florida Trail Riders Promote racing As It Battles Issues Favored by OHV Riders

It is apparent that in the community of off-road enthusiasts that there are organizations that push for issues that concern recreationists, and then there are groups that favor battling on issues that are of more concern to off-road racers. The Florida Trail Riders does both.

According to Brian Morris, vice president and quad representative of the Florida Trail Riders (FTR), the group is a statewide racing association and is the sanctioning body for local clubs throughout Florida. It was founded in 1971.

Forty-one and a native of South Florida, Morris is the first quadder to be elected to the post of vice president of FTR. He identifies himself as “just an average rider” who joined the group because he was frustrated to see Florida fall behind other states who were continuing to provide OHV riding areas.

“The purpose of FTR is to promote the image of ‘Responsible Motorcyclists;’ to sanction, schedule, assist and monitor off-road motorcycle and ATV events in Florida; to establish policies, rules, and procedures to be followed by clubs, with the end result being a series of organized events; to sponsor and support positive motorcycle legislation; and to establish and maintain good rapport with private land owners and local, state, and federal land management agencies,” said Morris.

In terms of promoting racing, the FTR is making a two-day racing schedule for events that will include all ages and two- and four-wheel vehicles. The events will include year-end awards for everyone.

As far as issues concerning off-road recreationists as a whole, the FTR is working with the Florida Legislature, land managers, and property owners. “We work on behalf of all off-highway motorcycle and ATV enthusiasts,” said Morris.

For example, FTR was instrumental in legislation that created and funded the Croom OHV Area in the 1970s. Moreover, working hand-in-hand with the Florida Motorcycle Dealers Association, the Motorcycle Industry Council, and several motorcycle and ATV manufacturers, FTR was instrumental in legislation that created and funded the Florida Off-Highway Recreation Program. It was a four-year effort, added Morris.

Also the FTR understands that money is essential for funding what OHV enthusiasts need. Morris noted that a portion of the annual dues of every FTR member goes to a land use fund that organizes letter- writing campaigns, motivates people to attend public meetings related to OHV, allows for visits to lawmakers, provide testimony before legislative committees, pay for lobbyists, and provides for meetings with state and federal agencies as well as other stakeholders who support or oppose the organization’s legislative agenda. The organization has paid lobbyists, but Morris pointed out that the number of lobbyists they have depends on the issue. The group used three lobbyists during work to enact the OHV Recreation Act. However normally, there is one lobbyist.

The FTR is involved in influencing local agencies, city councils, and other decision makers as well. Jack Terrell, the group’s Land Use Chairman, said, “FTR has taken a multi-layered approach to work with and influence all levels of government. Our officers, land use chairman, board of directors, local club officers and FTR members work continuously with the United States Forest Service, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, the Florida Division of Forestry, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, Division of Motor Vehicles, five water management districts, and numerous counties and cities throughout the state. We provide knowledgeable spokespersons and witnesses to appear before state, county, and municipal officials in support of OHV recreation. We serve on numerous federal, state, and county advisory committees related to both motorized and non-motorized recreation. FTR has direct input into the decision-making process for use of Recreation Trail Program funds as well as the Florida OHV program. Also, we were responsible for the inclusion of motorized recreation in the State Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan.”

Morris is quick to point out that he has attended state and local meetings, and he is involved in passing on information to members and to readers of the group’s internet Forums.

Morris also pointed out that the organization relies a lot on its members and other concerned individuals. For example, if a person is familiar with land that would be good for a park, the FTR will pass that information on to the Division of Forestry. Then when the Division of Forestry is ready to move on it and hold public meetings, FTR notifies their members about the meetings. The group uses its FTR Magazine as well as the Forums to pass on information concerning everything OHV.

“Individual counties have the biggest role in everything,” said Morris. “Getting the county commissioners behind riding areas is “key.” The state also encourages our members and non-members to form their own OHV advisory committees and go to county commissioners with a plan to open OHV parks. They need to show them the many benefits off-roading has for a family.”

The FTR motivates and educates its members through the group’s magazine and through the forums at the FTR website. The magazine is full-color and includes articles contributed by members.

Members are encouraged to volunteer. Morris said that joining a local club is the best way to get involved. “The clubs are the backbone of FTR and each one is made up of really great people who love to race. Each club is different and usually hosts one hare scramble per season. Some also host Enduros. The monies raised pay the expenses and the clubs donate a lot to different charities. FTR has a scholarship fund the clubs donate to as well. The members do everything.”

Again, the local clubs are the backbone of the organization. Morris said that anyone with any authority in the FTR belongs to a local club. “I belong to the South East Florida Trail Riders,” said Morris. “Executive members of the club as well as the members of the group’s board of directors attend local club events and always help the club who is hosting an event.” Morris pointed out that his local club hosts its event on Mother’s Day weekend at Okeechobee, Florida. “Believe it or not, we get a large turn out,” he said.

FTR members also serve as ATV Safety Institute teachers in Florida. State law now requires that children under the age of 16 must have a Safety Training Certificate to ride on public land. They obtain the certificate by attending the safety course.

According to Morris, the most urgent issues confronting Florida ATV riders, racers, and industry is the lack of riding areas and the economy. “The legal areas (for riding) are far and few between,” said Morris. “The economy is affecting everyone right down to the dealerships. They are experiencing a 25 percent reduction in sales.”

As far as lack of riding areas, the FTR is involved in the creation of OHV parks. The group is currently involved with creating a park in Polk County, Florida, and it is using this to encourage local clubs to get involved in the creation of OHV parks as well. To help with clubs doing this, FTR is creating “Information Stations.” These stations are placed in areas of OHV activity as well as in dealerships. These stations are manned with FTR members and also provide information about FTR, local clubs, and events.

The FTR also work with outside associations including the National Off-Highway Vehicle Conservation Council, the American Motorcyclists Association, the All-Terrain Vehicle Association, MIC, and SVIA.

The organization’s website is http://www.floridatrailriders.org. The site has member information that includes how to join, member guide, member directory, a forum, event classes, riders per class, information on the Florida OHV registration, how to start a club, the FTR Magazine, and the FTR rulebook. The site also lists information on where to ride, event results, scores, and event schedules. There is also a section called “Frequently Asked Questions” that help you become more familiar with the organization. Also, the name, phone number, and address of every FTR officer is available on the site.

There are about 2,500 members. And, although there are more motorcyclists involved with the club, there is a large contingency of ATVers as well. “More quadders are serving as officers and reps, and more are joining the local clubs. By joining the clubs, there is more support for ATVs,” said Morris. Anyone of just about any age can join FTR. According to Morris, they have members who are as young as 4-years old.

The benefits of joining FTR are simple, good old family fun. Members can participate in club racing events including Hare Scrambles and MX Series racing. There are classes in racing for anyone who wants to enter. In addition, a member who races also rents KTM motorcycles and ATV quads. “They bring the machine of your choice, ready to race. They pit for you, too!” said Morris. There are also a number of contingency programs, a scholarship program and the group is working to get more ATV-related sponsors. “By joining FTR you meet people, and they know of riding areas. Where they ride is a secret for many, but if you can identify yourself as a member, they are more willing to part with information.”


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