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By: Robert Janis

NorthStar ATV Club of Minnesota 

Make Friends and Influence People

Joining a club is important, the clubs are the voice of riders, and riders are voters.  This is the 2009 Fall ATVAM convention held at Bemis Hill, near Roseau, Minnesota
Joining a club is important, the clubs are the voice of riders, and riders are voters. This is the 2009 Fall ATVAM convention held at Bemis Hill, near Roseau, Minnesota

Warm, inviting meetings with elected officials, Natural Resource Staff, and ATVers is critical in promoting an agenda that everybody can work with in order to reach a common goal.  Trail access and responsible recreation is the goal here.
Warm, inviting meetings with elected officials, Natural Resource Staff, and ATVers is critical in promoting an agenda that everybody can work with in order to reach a common goal. Trail access and responsible recreation is the goal here.

Sign in the parking lot.
Sign in the parking lot.

In the 1930s, American self-improvement author Dale Carnegie wrote “How to Make Friends and Influence People.” The concept is self-explanatory. You’ve also heard the phrase, “You can attract more bees with honey than you can with vinegar.” All this simply means that you should create relationships with people who hold power so that you can more easily sell your ideas.

That is exactly what the ATV Association of Minnesota and the NorthStar ATV Club of Minnesota is doing. And it has helped enormously in the groups’ success of creating ATV trails on the ground in several regions of Minnesota. The groups concentrate on working with the state’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and officials of the various local governments of Minnesota. This strategy has proved more successful than working with state officials alone.

Phill Morud, director at large of the All-Terrain Vehicle Association of Minnesota, said, “It helps to have a prior relationship with elected officials from the township level to the state government. Just simply get on the phone and call them or have breakfast with them. Develop a relationship so they are more receptive to you when you are trying to create a trail.”

In Minnesota, and probably in most states in the United States, the Department of Natural Resources is a key agency with which to have contact. The DNR has a number of grant programs that provide funds for the development and maintenance of ATV trails. It can be a major source of money for a club that wants to start a trail and maintain it. It is no accident that Keith Myers, president of the NorthStar ATV Club, and Morud has developed a strong relationship with Wade Miller, parks and trails area supervisor with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR). A simple explanation on how a club can get a grant shows why such a relationship is imperative. Miller explains.

“To apply for a grant a club or group comes to the DNR’s Parks and Trails Division. They and a DNR representative discuss a preliminary proposal on a trail development after the club, individual or group has identified a trail, system of trails or tract of land they want funding for to develop a trail. The rep gives them a grant-in-aide manual which outlines the criteria of the grant-in-aide program, an application and several forms that must be filled out. Also the club or group and the DNR representative make a map of the area in question and put together a project proposal or application.

“Once that is done, the club or group must get a sponsor. That can be any local unit of government--a township, city, or county. The government entity then drafts and passes a resolution which identifies it as the fiscal agent for the club or group. The sponsor then submits the application for the grant to the DNR.

“The application or proposal then goes through an area review which includes the land’s administrator, and/or the owner of the corridor being considered. After the area review is complete, the proposal goes on to other reviews and the public is notified and given an opportunity to comment and offer improvements to the proposal. There are a total of three to four levels of reviews before the proposal is approved or modified. If approved, the club or group gets the grant-in-aide permit and trail insurance, and they can begin to maintain the trail. As the club or group does work on the trail, they document the work, submit reimbursement documents to the grant-in-aide program through the sponsor, and they are reimbursed for their costs based on the grant-in-aide allowable worksheet.”  Current and accurate record keeping is the responsibility of the club or group and the sponsor. The DNR grant-in-aide program pays up to 90 percent of the cost of maintenance and grooming and up to 65 percent of the cost of acquisition, development, and administration. It also pays for 90 percent of the trail insurance that the club, individual, or group needs to get every year. The permit is renewed every five years and the grant money can be re-applied for as long as all criteria are met.

Obviously, if you know the DNR representative with whom you will be dealing as well as members of a local government entity to sponsor you, then the process works better and more smoothly.

However, you don’t necessarily have to rely on the DNR for money. Phill Morud noted that the All-terrain Vehicle Association of Minnesota has seen funding come from counties. “We’ve had counties who funded the trails or allowed clubs to build trails on county land without going through the grant-in-aide process,” he said.

“That’s when the county becomes very important,” continued Morud. “It may own large enough pieces of land from which trails can be created. Also, an interesting thing about the grant-in-aide program is that the sponsor can be any unit of government. It does not have to have jurisdiction over the area where the trail will be created. A city could be a sponsor for a trail outside the city’s limits.”

Still, if you are involved with the DNR, the government entity can provide you with a trail-building manual which offers the nuts and bolts on how to build a trail and what the standards are that need to be satisfied.

Jack Nelson, president of the Fourtown-Grygla Sportsman’s Club, pointed out that if a bridge needs to be constructed, it must meet certain engineering standards as well as be environmentally friendly. The DNR manual provides the information needed to do this.

Keith Myers of the NorthStar ATV Club said that his association has “great relationships” with all the local counties in northwestern Minnesota. He volunteered that his club has been able to achieve a lot specifically with seven counties in the northwest section of Minnesota. Because of the clubs’ close relationship with these counties, it is now permitted to use ATVs for transportation, not just recreation, in that region of the state. Moreover, the city of Thief River Falls in northwest Minnesota allows the use of ATVs as alternative transportation as long as the driver has a permit. “It helps to build relationships,” he said.

“It all comes down to developing relationships,” concluded Myers. “They are just people like you. Talk with them. Take them out for an ATV ride. People only know what they’ve been told or experience firsthand. When they hear that ATVs can be a great family experience and a great economic development tool, they will cooperate. The key is to get to know each other and understand each others’ concerns and address those concerns to find common ground and move forward.”

More information can be found at the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources website: http://www.dnr.state.mn.us. Click on “grants.” Then click on “Recreation.” Then click on “ATV.” Or at Find the Trails: http://www.findthetrails.com. This site identifies trails available for riding in Minnesota and offers links to information that guides you in the process of creating and maintaining a trail.


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