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By: Robert Janis

Little If Any Public Lands Hamper Growth of Off-Road Vehicle Recreation in Rhode Island

Rhode Island OHV AssociationRhode Island could very well be the smallest state in the United States. And, according to Bob Pacheco, president of the Rhode Island Off-Highway Vehicle Association, it has only 5 acres, if that, of national park area which is located in Providence. So, with very little public lands, it should not be surprising that the growth of off-highway vehicle recreation in the state has been restricted.

Still, the Rhode Island Off-Highway Vehicle Association (RIOHVA) is doing whatever is possible to assist those OHV enthusiasts who are looking for some way to enjoy their sport.

Founded in November 2004, RIOHVA's mission is to establish legal and safe off-highway vehicle recreation in Rhode Island.

Since there are no public lands on which trails can be created, RIOHVA has made agreements with two private landowners to use their land for OHV recreation. Pacheco noted that the group holds an annual event as well as summer time events on these lands.

Despite the lack of recreational area, the association has been able to attract 435 members. "When we started the club, we set a goal of having 500 members in five years," said Pacheco. "We will have that by our annual meeting on November 16, 2008."

Members of the RIOHVA can get a 15 percent discount on purchases of OHV-related products from businesses that sponsor the group. "If you spend $100 a year on OHV related products at businesses that sponsor us, then you will receive your membership fee plus $5 back," said Pacheco. There is a $10 membership fee.

If you join during the annual meeting, then you get a trail ride and a RIOHVA T-shirt along with a membership card. "We encourage members to wear the T-shirt which is paid for by our sponsors in hopes of getting others to ask questions about the association and to get more people to join," said Pacheco.

Founded just four years ago, the organization has not yet reached the stage where it can hire a lobbyist to work the Rhode Island State Legislature. Representatives of the group have testified before local city councils and other decision-making groups, but they don't have the power yet to influence decisions. The group is also in contact with the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service in the State and attends meetings where recreational trail plans are discussed. Also, the group has members who sit on boards and committees that are involved with off-highway vehicle recreation issues.

The RIOHVA has created one local club in the State, the Rhode Island ATV Club.

The group works with the National Off-Highway Vehicle Conservation Council (NOHVCC). In fact, it was NOHVCC and the American Motorcyclists Association (AMA) that formed the RIOHVA and Pacheco is a member of NOHVCC.

"We get ideas from NOHVCC, and we find out from that organization what other state associations are doing and how they are doing it," said Pacheco. "They give us ideas all the time and point us in the right direction. For example, they helped us get insurance."

And, Pacheco also noted that the RIOHVA has been in constant contact with other New England state off-highway vehicle associations including Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Maine, and Connecticut. These groups also provide ideas on how to promote the group and the issue of OHV recreation in Rhode Island.

Still, for Pacheco, the most urgent issue plaguing the organization is getting off-highway vehicle recreationists off their couches at home and to participate. "We need more people to get involved," he said. "Our board of directors believes we need membership to become larger and stronger so that we can reach legislators, towns, and local governments to convince them that we represent a legitimate form of recreation."

Finally, the organization has a website ( The site includes a forum, photo gallery, events calendar, news, articles from the AMA and NOHVCC, a newsletter, links to motorcycle, 4x4 clubs and organizations, ATV-related groups, other clubs and organizations and links to Rhode Island businesses that sponsor the group.

The events RIOHVA hosts include a weekend of riding at the Stepping Stone Ranch, a fund-raising affair for a member who was severely injured at a motocross event.

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