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By: Robert Janis

North Alabama Trail Riders Association

Community Participation a Major Element of the North Alabama Trail Riders Association



Community concerns are also the concerns of the North Alabama Trail Riders Association (NATRA). The group includes the community in its events, is involved in keeping trails clean, and makes certain that riders use the trails in a safe manner.

Founded in 1987, the mission of the NATRA is to provide fun, fellowship, social interaction, and family activities with meetings, events, and riding opportunities while promoting the sport of off-road motorcycle and ATV riding through safety and education. The group also lobbies for more riding areas as well as to acquire additional land for off-highway vehicle recreation.

According to Paul Traufler, president of the NATRA, the association is based in Huntsville, Alabama and includes residents in the regions of North Alabama, Tennessee and North Mississippi. In fact, it was instrumental in the development of the Tennessee Off-highway Vehicle program and worked with Tennessee government authorities to create a fee and license program in that state.

Although it does not have a lobbyist, the group gets its views across to the community by involving the community in its events. “We have opened up to the local area money making options for all of our events,” said Traufler. “For example, a weekend Enduro event involved the local community center where food and meals were sold. They make good money, we enjoy the great food, the local community sees us as a good bunch of folks, and they want us to come back.”

The group also attracts good will from the community because safety is a major part of its agenda. “We are all about safety and learning to do it right,” said Traufler. “We require helmet use while on the land, and we work to make all riders understand it is important to always do the right thing on the land. And it is working. Landowners have noted we are making a big difference in the area.”

As mentioned, keeping the trails clean and well maintained is also part of the NATRA agenda. It encourages its members to get involved in trail maintenance and clean up by sponsoring work days and events as well as clean-up days. “We ask for folks to come join in the fun,” said Traufler. “We do NOT require work from a member, but we try to convince them to participate by educating them on why we are doing this and how important it is to help.”

Again, to pass on the philosophy of community assistance, the NATRA, which is a local club, assists other local clubs with hosting events. “We have a great deal of experience doing this,” said Traufler. It also works with national organizations like the American Motorcyclists Association (AMA), the All Terrain Vehicle Association (ATVA), and the BlueRibbon Coalition. “We are an AMA-sanctioned club. For us, in a nut shell, it is all about education on proper use of the ATV and the land,” added Traufler.



Land closures and environmental issues are the major concerns of ATV riders in the Tri-State (Alabama, Mississippi, and Tennessee) area. “We just had a review of the trail system by the Tri-State environmental agency, the TDEC. As a result of their review, we were required to move some trails and build bridges over some troubled spots. In the end, they were happy about what we did to correct the issue,” said Traufler.
As you can see, cooperation instead of confrontation is part of the mantra of the NATRA. It does not get involved in lawsuits, but it does work closely with the U.S. Forest Service. “Although it is hard to talk with them, we’ve worked to correct past errors and now have a good relationship with them,” said Traufler.
The association promotes the sport of ATV racing and recreation with events, races, and general trail rides. “We open up the trails for groups to enjoy and see what we have to offer. In general, we provide a safe place to ride 24-7.”

The group has made an agreement with a number of private landowners so that its members have access to 5,000 acres of land 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Rides, cookouts, and fund-raising events are held on the land. Members have access to all sorts of trails including single-track tight woods, open two-track trails, fire roads, hills, creeks, gravel, grass, and more. The trails are marked with paper signs of various colors stapled to trees or whatever is available.

The NATRA has more than 2,000 members. Anyone can become a member. Yearly dues are $50 per family, and the membership terms run from January 1 through December 31. There is a discount for those who join late in a year.

The group also has a website (http://natra.dirtrider.net). The site provides a way for people to join the club and also includes news, a classified section where machines and equipment can be bought and sold, and it also covers hot topics that are of interest to off-roaders.

Besides the sponsored events, the club holds meetings on the last Tuesday of each month. Topics discussed include riding adventures, upcoming events, financial status of the club, and more.


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