By: John Arkwright
In the last ten years ATV use has taken on a whole new dimension. In some regions newly amended bylaws have allowed ATV access to towns and villages on local roadways. This is great but before we get too complacent, we need to remember that this is a privilege, not a right!
One of the great things about working for All-Terrain Vehicle Magazine is that I get to ride all across North America. Having been a club volunteer since the mid 70’s I’ve witnessed firsthand how organized off-road activity has grown.
Back in the early days, building trails was simple. There wasn’t much red tape and politics involved. Today, our industry has evolved into a huge asset to many states and provinces, bringing in billions of tourism dollars every year and actually keeping many communities in business on a 12-month basis.
This economic spin-off has enabled small communities to enhance the quality of life of their citizens and allowed masses of visitors to enjoy winter as it was meant to be enjoyed.
What does this have to do with ATVs? Well, we need to be organized in order to sustain our trail systems. Even more than that, we need to join forces with other fraternities whose trails we are already riding.
As a snowmobile club volunteer I see private property trails closed because of a small group of inconsiderate people with the attitude that if it is a snowmobile trail then it must also be an ATV trail.
Last summer, on a six day trip to Quebec’s Gaspesie Region we rode ATVs 520 miles (850 kms) on a ride with Danny Gagnon, the General Director of Quebec’s ATV (FCQC) Federation. In its 23rd year of operation it has 145 clubs with 59,100 paid members and maintains 10,400 miles (16,685 kms) of trails.
Several years ago I snowmobiled in this region and it is very mountainous and rugged. A 10-foot wide trail with a vertical drop of 2,000 feet is just a bit more than I can handle. When we rode ATVs on the same trails last summer I noted that many of those narrow ones that had worried me were now upgraded and probably over 30-feet wide.
Danny smiled and informed me that the Federation had formed a partnership and are now working hand in hand with Quebec’s Snowmobile Federation (FCMQ). It’s been a huge success. In the last five years the government of Quebec has injected $5 million into trail maintenance and development.
In the Gaspesie Region alone there will be another $4 million added in the next three years for permanent off-road vehicle trail securement. What we have here is a single trail being used for all four seasons. It all adds up to a credible partnership that government recognizes as a great return on investment. Now we’re talking!
I believe that, as we move into the future, in order to keep our favorite pastimes strong we need to work together making all trail user identities strong and viable. By working together we can preserve our trails for years to come. If we don’t, we’ll all lose.