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By: Robert Janis

Trails and More Trails Is the Focus of the Northern Virginia Trail Riders

Many off-road associations get involved to assure that access to off-road riding trails are achieved. One such group is the Northern Virginia Trail Riders (NVTR).

Founded in 1970, the mission of the NVTR is to promote the sport of off-road motorcycle and all-terrain vehicle riding. “Our goal is benefiting the sport--and ourselves--by identifying riding areas, sponsoring competitions, fun events, and public awareness programs,” asserted Jim Cowgill, legislative officer for NVTR. “The aim has always been to provide high quality riding experiences for our members.”

Trail access is most important to the organization. That is why it has developed a history with the George Washington National Forest. “To pursue our goals, our club, in cooperation with the U.S. Forest Service, builds and maintains multi-user trails in the George Washington National Forest,” said Cowgill. “Our club coordinated closely with the Forest Service, helping to craft a user fee system that returns all fees paid exclusively for trail construction and maintenance in the Tasker Gap OHV Area near Edinburg, Virginia. Also, we are the only organization in the area applying for and receiving approved Federal RTP Grants for maintaining the trail system for ATVers and other users.”

The group also helps to promote the sport of ATV racing and recreation by having its ATV members participate in the NVTR Spring Trail Ride, an AMA-sanctioned non-competition event. In addition, the group holds a Spring Trail Ride each year that raises several thousands of dollars for the Optimist Club Youth Scholarship Program in King George County, Virginia. The event actually garnered $4,000 in 2008. “This not-for-profit off-road riding club also sponsors a sanctioned motorcycle Observed Trails Competition each September in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia,” added Cowgill. And members have participated in well known off-road racing events. For example, club president Brad Convis races in the Baja 1000; member Joey Giordano raced in the “Last Man Standing” off-road race and won a silver medal representing the U.S. in the International Six-Day Enduro in Chile. The event is a world-class, Olympic-level motorsports competition, added Cowgill.

“Members assist the organization by participating. They perform all tasks necessary for conducting events such as trail rides; observe trails and participation in the Suzuki National Shenandoah 500 Dual Sports Ride as well as in legislative projects. Members are also active in planning and supporting events sponsored by other clubs like the Green Marble Enduro,” said Cowgill.

Benefits of being a member include riding opportunities, access to subsidized camping and the chance to participate in unique civic activities. For example, NVTR members pre-ride and screen the course for the 100-mile horseback endurance and entered the first motorized off-road riding unit in the National Memorial Day Parade in Washington, D.C.

According to Cowgill, the most urgent issue confronting ATV riders in Virginia is access to legal riding areas. “Availability of legal places to ride threatens all motorized off-road recreational riders in Virginia,” said Cowgill. The organization is confronting the issue by its participation in the Tasker Gap OHV Area of the George Washington National Forest, and it has also coordinated access to land of private landowners for conducting riding events.

Cowgill volunteered that every member is a lobbyist for the NVTR agenda. “While we have only one elected legislative officer, each member is responsible for alerting the membership to legislative issues of interest and for advancing the club’s position by legal and constructive means,” said Cowgill.

Lobbying of the Virginia Legislature is done by direct contact with key legislators via telephone, e-mail, and snail-mail letter writing. “At a recent meeting, every member present wrote a personal letter to the chairman of a committee considering a bill restricting children’s dirt bike riding,” said Cowgill. “The bill never made it to the floor of the legislature. We also successfully opposed draconian ‘anti-noise’ legislation that, if enacted, would have foreclosed off-road riding in general.” And the one lobbyist for the group not only works the state but also the federal government. For example, he attended a full U.S. Senate Committee hearing on ATV management on public federal lands.

The NVTR supports court actions taken by advocacy groups as plaintiffs. In this endeavor it has supported the American Motorcyclists Association and out-of-state organizations on issues of merit. “We attend National Forest Master Plan public meetings and we submitted out goals concerning increasing trail mileage for a recent meeting on the George Washington National Forest,” added Cowgill. “And a representative of the club attended the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing on ATV management on federal public lands.”

In addition, many of the organization members are members of such groups as the BlueRibbon Coalition, The National Off-Highway Vehicle Conservation Council and other recreational trails organizations. “These members keep the rest of us informed of these organizations’ concerns and activities through sharing newsletters and alerts,” said Cowgill.

The group also has a website ( which is used to highlight riding areas as well as past and future events and disseminates information about NVTR.

Cowgill concluded that anyone who has an interest in off-road riding can join the NVTR. The only requirement is that they also be a member of the AMA/ATVA.

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