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By: Robert Janis

New England ATV Association: Maintains Current Trails, Fights for More


For ATV riders in the New England region of the country, it is access to riding areas that is the most urgent issue. There is an organization in the area that fights for more access as it helps to maintain the trails that are open.

The group is the New England ATV Association. It was founded in 1995 when there were very few organizations in the New England region that could serve as a touchstone for members of the ATV community. Thusly, there is the name NEW ENGLAND ATV Association. However, Benton Phelps, vice president of the group, explained that its primary work is done in Massachusetts where it is based.
The mission of the NEATVA is to provide, protect and enhance riding opportunities. It depends solely on the support of its members in order to achieve its goals. The group does not have a lobbyist in Boston to work on the State Legislators, Governor, or State Agencies. Nor does it have a full-time representative who can interact with the local and county authorities. Members do all of that. “We alert members to issues and encourage them to write to their legislators and other government officials,” said Phelps. The membership is alerted via snail mail and e-mails.

And the members do get involved. They attend meetings of the Department of Conservation Recreation (DCR), the agency that has the most say over the state trails. Members also belong to committees that get involved in recreational riding issues. These committees are involved with the DCR, the Bureau of Land Management, and the United States Forest Service. Phelps explained that the DCR alerts the NEATVA of meetings so that the group can send members to participate and push for decisions favorable to riders.

Members are not only encouraged to become politically involved. They are also encouraged to help maintain state forests. In fact, clubs adopt a state park and are obligated to do the maintenance on the motorized trails in that forest.

The organization also would like to see the development of local clubs. Besides being an officer in the NEATVA, Phelps is also the state’s representative for the National Off-Highway Vehicle Conservation Council (NOHVCC). And, as a member of that group, Phelps is involved in creating new clubs. He uses material supplied by NOHVCC to perform the task. He is also a member of the BlueRibbon Coalition. So it is easy for him to solicit help from NOHVCC and BlueRibbon when there is a major issue to fight about.

Although currently the NEATVA does not get involved in racing issues, it was instrumental in the creation of the New England ATV Motocross Series in about 2003. “At one time some of our members showed an interest in racing so we helped start the New England ATV Motocross Series. We are no longer involved with it,” said Phelps. More about the New England ATV Motocross Series can be found at: www.neatv-mx.com.

The NEATVA concentrates 100 percent on the sport of recreation. Phelps pointed out that the group holds rides just about every weekend during the riding season. It also hosts three campouts each year.

Urgent Issues and the Status of ATV Riding

As said, the most urgent issues concerning ATV riders in Massachusetts and perhaps the whole New England region is loss of riding areas.

“In Massachusetts there are four state forests where riding is allowed,” explained Phelps. “Other than those forests, there are very few public areas we can ride on.” The struggle involves keeping access to the state forests.

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