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By: Robert Janis

ATV Association of Minnesota

'Our Foundation is Our Members,’ Said President of All Terrain Vehicle Association of Minnesota

Question: Should an organization be managed from the top down or the bottom up? Many have argued this point, and no one can really agree. But one thing is certain, the All Terrain Vehicle Association of Minnesota (ATVAM) has lived on the bottom-up concept, and it has been quite successful.

According to Ken Irish, president of the group, the mission of the ATVAM is to:

  • Encourage and promote the use of All Terrain Vehicles
  • To advance the general welfare and safety of ATVs
  • To serve the interests of ATV owners
  • To promote legislation and regulations favorable to the use of ATVs
  • To develop a fraternal spirit among ATV clubs and associations
  • To provide a medium for exchange of information regarding the use of ATVs
  • To educate about OHV laws

Founded in 1983, the association has a paid lobbyist who works with legislators at the state capital while the members work at the local level to get trails. Irish pointed out that it is the members who are responsible for working with local groups to get the agenda of ATV riders observed and recognized when regulations and laws are being created.

“We influence local governments by having our members work with the legislators, local governments, and the Department of Natural Resources,” said Irish. “Our focus is on trails, user needs, using existing trails, showing the benefits of education on the use of trails, developing new trails, resolving user conflicts, getting people on to designated trails, and getting those trails properly signed.”

Most of the heavy lifting is done at public meetings held by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR). The DNR is the major state agency that deals with the state’s trails.

The organization has been successful in getting what was needed. For example, it was involved with legislation that developed youth safety training programs. It also was a major player in the creation of the Trail Ambassador Program.

This program encourages trained ATVers to volunteer to monitor trails for all sorts of issues. This includes making certain that the trails are not damaged by erosion or blow down. Participants in this program also hand out information on the state’s OHV regulations and meet and greet trail users and simply help people. “If a machine breaks down, our people will give emergency assistance or call for it,” said Irish. They also record violations of trail use in log books. This could include riders who recklessly drive on the trails, etc. The organization also helps clubs get grants from the state and organize special events. For example, this year it sponsored an attempt to break the world’s record for the longest ATV parade. According to Irish, 1,083 ATVers participated. It fell short. Currently, Kentucky holds the record. Its event had 1,138 ATVers. “We’re going to try again next year,” said Irish.

Members Are the Backbone

The organization is fortified by local clubs that exist throughout the state of Minnesota. According to Irish, there are 75 ATV clubs in Minnesota and each member is encouraged to be a member of the ATVAM. So it is not surprising to discover that there are more than 12,000 members of the organization. Club membership includes individuals, families and businesses. “In fact, there are 235 associated business members,” said Irish. Business members, especially ATV dealerships, are encouraged to hand out information on the ATVAM as well as on local clubs. The advantage of a business in being a member is that they receive a discount on advertising in the group’s Bimonthly magazine “Minnesota Off-Road,” and they are also listed (name and phone number) in a special section of the magazine. The yearly membership fee is $20 for individuals and families and $75 for businesses. There are also lifetime memberships. Individuals who are 18 to 62 years old pay $325 for a lifetime membership. People who are 63 years-old and older pay $225.

The ATVAM sponsors a number of events including an ATV fair the first weekend in May, a convention every September, four general membership meetings each year, and regular board meetings where issues are discussed. Local clubs participate in many of these events. So there is constant communication running up from the local clubs to the executives of the association and vice versa.

Also, to further encourage communication from the bottom up, the ATVAM holds division meetings every spring. “Club members attend, and we all discuss past successes and future issues we need to focus on; there is always a general discussion about what direction they want the ATVAM to go,” said Irish.

Moreover, the association helps to promote its clubs that hold special events. For example, three clubs located in northern Minnesota hosts a ride for the disabled. “Handicapped riders turn up at the event, and it is more successful each and every year. Another club hosts a Pork and Ride event to raise funds for trails,” said Irish.

Since the local clubs can be said to be the foundation of the ATVAM, it is not surprising to learn that the organization assists anyone who wishes to start a new club. “People who want to start a club get a start up kit from NOHVCC, and we also have our own club start up kit that we provide,” said Irish. “We help to promote the first meetings of a new club with flyers and announcements in the newspapers and on radio, and we send a representative to help facilitate their actions and answer questions. During the early meetings, the club is loose knit and just starting to set up a structure. We help with that until they are able to do things on their own.”

Most Urgent Issues and a Website

Irish volunteered that the state of Minnesota is witnessing a new state forest classification. “It is a five- year process that is about to wrap up at the end of this year,” said Irish. During the process the Department of Natural Resources evaluates all the state forests including mapping all the trails in the state forests and deciding which trails can be used by motorized recreationists. Public meetings are being held to discuss this and members of the ATVAM attend and voice their opinions. They submit written comments as well.

The association recently put up a new website (www.atvam.org). The site includes information on the history of the group, identifies who the officers are along with their phone numbers and e-mail addresses, serves as a point of contact for local clubs and businesses, offers news, a calendar of events, information on how to start a club, membership information, and a way to join the group through the website, trail updates, links to groups’ websites including the DNR, local clubs and businesses and manufacturers. There is also a “chat room” and classified ads where members can list ATVs and ATV equipment they wish to sell.For more information about ATVAM, contact the office administrator at atvamoffice@atvam.org or phone: 1-800-442-8826


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