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By: Robert Janis

Polaris T.R.A.I.L.S.

Forest Ranger District Uses Polaris T.R.A.I.L.S Grant Funds to Finance Construction of Safety Training Course

According to Marsha Wikle, Assistant Ranger of the Ironton Ranger District in the Wayne National Forest in Ohio, the photos show the grassy land that will be transformed into the training course.
According to Marsha Wikle, Assistant Ranger of the Ironton Ranger District in the Wayne National Forest in Ohio, the photos show the grassy land that will be transformed into the training course.

The Ironton Ranger District of the Wayne National Forest in Ohio is using funds it received from the Polaris T.R.A.I.L.S. Grant Program to finance construction of an ATV-training course.

The training course is actually part of a larger project that also includes an addition to an existing trail system and trail heads, explained Marsha Wikle, assistant district ranger for operations on the Ironton Ranger District of the Wayne National Forest.

The idea to construct an ATV safety training course came after half of the all-terrain vehicle trail patrol were certified as ATV safety instructors after taking a course sponsored by Ohio State University. “We have an ATV trail patrol that monitors 46 miles of ATV trails in the Ironton Ranger District,” said Wikle. “Five of our patrollers took the Ohio State University course.”

About the same time, Doug Berringer, law enforcement manager of the Ranger District, was talking to Polaris about getting a Sportsman 500 which would assist him in performing his job. When the idea of constructing a training course came up, Berringer asked Polaris if the ranger district could get a grant that would cover the purchase of the Sportsman as well as the construction of the training course. “He mentioned to Polaris that we had an opportunity to construct a venue for safety training and Polaris got real excited about it,” said Wikle. “So he submitted an application for a grant of $10,000--$6,500 for the purchase of the Sportsman 500 and $3,500 for the development of the ATV safety training area.” The course soon became one of the projects the T.R.A.I.L.S. Grant Program financed in 2009.

The $3,500 will be used to grade the location of the course as well as construct barricades around the course. “There will be a designated trail in the vicinity, so we need barricades to keep riders off of the course,” said Wikle. A bulletin board and a panel thanking volunteers who helped develop the area including Polaris would also be added to the site.

The Ranger District is also receiving a $325,000 grant from the Recreational Trails Program of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources to finance parts of the overall project. However, according to Wikle, a lot more could be done, so they are hoping to find more funds to do more work. “There is a warm-up area near the training course site that could use a couple of bridges. That is not in the grant, but we are always looking for more money so that we can include it,” said Wikle.

The Ranger District is working the project in a very efficient manner to save money and time. For example, the grading of the site for the training course will be performed by either a trail maintenance company or a road maintenance company already contracted by the government for the overall project. “We will use part of the trail maintenance workers or road maintenance workers depending on whose equipment is most suitable for doing the work that needs to be done,” said Wikle. “We are trying to keep it very simple and efficient. We don’t want to create a separate contract because that would cause a lot more overhead costs.”

Volunteers will also be used. “For example, if we put in posts, then that will be done by our Trail Patrol as volunteers,” said Wikle.
The ATV Safety Institute (ASI) is providing the design of the course. “The ASI has a layout for the course. It is a pretty simple template that is about 200 ft. by 200 ft,” said Wikle.

In addition, the Ironton Ranger District borrowed the services of a landscape architect from the Alabama National Forest to fine tune the design. “We had a design in mind, but we wanted him to look at the area to see if any improvements could be made. He didn’t make any major changes. But in the vicinity there will be toilets. So he worked with us on their placement, and he also suggested placement of the bulletin board. We also talked to him about how much grading will have to be done and about access to the training area,” said Wikle.

All the work on the course as well as the other portions of the overall project will probably be done at the same time. Wikle expects work to begin sometime this summer. “The grading work for the safety training course should take about two days. Getting signage and the barricades up should take another two days depending on how well we coordinate and schedule the volunteers and schedule the rock delivery,” she added.

The entire project could be done by the start of the 2010 trail season, concluded Wikle.

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