ATVs —all terrain vehicles — are a common sight on agricultural and the federally managed lands of western Colorado.
A valuable work tool, ATVs are used on farms, ranches and orchards to herd livestock, inspect and repair fence lines, fertilize and apply chemicals to crops and by water commissioners and ditch riders to inspect and repair irrigation systems.
They are also used extensively by the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) as work horses, and by sportsmen. ATVs are also used as a practical substitute for pickup trucks and other large equipment to move dirt, rocks, tools, building supplies and other equipment to the various work sites.
And while ATV manufacturers are quick to hype their products as the ultimate recreational vehicle designed to provide thrills for the extreme rider, ATV's also provide a great way to spend quality time outdoors with family and friends, making the great outdoors accessible and enjoyable to everyone, including those with physical disabilities.
And, thanks to the members of the Thunder Mountain Wheelers (TMW) ATV Club, there are many wonderfully groomed and well maintained trails for use in and around Delta County, and no shortage of things to see. And, unlike Edward Abbey's notorious "Monkey Wrench Gang," TMW club members enjoy an outstanding reputation among the federal land management agencies and private property owners, as being responsible users of both public and private lands; for their cooperation with other groups; and their willingness to work on a variety of worthwhile projects.
"These guys are awesome," said Paonia District Ranger, Levi Broyles. "They have adopted so many trails and lakes and are the primary movers and shakers for trail maintenance on the Grand Mesa, doing the lion's share of the work. We appreciate all the work they do for the Forest Service and for the benefit of all the other users of public lands."
A family oriented club, TMW is Delta County's premier ATV club, organized by people who love the outdoors and have a sense of adventure. Through the promotion of safe riding practices, trail etiquette and ethics, environmental awareness and stewardship, the club offers guided trail rides for those who want to go out and observe wildlife, enjoy the scenery or just go for a pleasant and "environmentally correct" ride on their ATVs with their families and other ATV enthusiasts.
Simply stated on the club's website, "We support the concept of preserving our National Forests and BLM lands through a balanced multiple use approach. Our policy is to take care of them so our children and grandchildren will be able to see them in any matter they choose. We actively oppose any restrictions of access on our public lands when restrictions are implemented without compelling evidence and logical reasons."
A "diverse group of individuals, families and businesses who enjoy motorized access to the great outdoors," the club's mission is "to promote, foster and provide an attitude of public service, volunteerism, safe riding practices, rational and environmentally responsible techniques of riding off highway vehicles."
With more than 160 member families, TMW club members give back to the community through charitable events, sponsoring cleanup days and by partnering with the U.S. Forest Service and BLM in the construction of trails, trail maintenance and a variety of projects. Club members are invited to take part in two family-oriented club rides every month during the summer. According to club president Kim Kokesh, "All the outings involve some work."
To date, TMW members have adopted 18 reservoirs and lakes on the Grand Mesa, and 22 ATV trails consisting of 150 miles through the Forest Service's Adopt-a-Trail and Adopt-a-Lake programs. Members pick up trash and litter from around the shores of the lakes and reservoirs and along the ATV trails, resulting in a more enjoyable experience for everyone visiting the Grand Mesa.
Since the inception of Colorado's OHV registration/grant program the club has received more than $800,000 in grants to assist the Forest Service and the BLM with new trail construction, trail maintenance, restoration, equipment replacement and the installation of informational signs. The club's popularity with federal land management agencies can also be attributed to their work on restoring and maintaining hundreds of miles of roads and trails on federally managed lands in and around Delta County. Through their efforts, club members have made a significant contribution to enhancing everyone's enjoyment while visiting the Gunnison, Grand Mesa and Uncompahgre National Forest and BLM managed lands.
Loren Paulson, recreation manager for the Grand Valley Ranger District, said, "The club is a great group of people providing hundreds of volunteer hours cleaning and picking up trash around the lakes they've adopted, building new trails and repairing and maintaining existing roads and trails on the GMUG. We wouldn't get much done without their help."
GMUG transportation engineer and forest trails co-ordinator Doug Marah agrees. "The TMW is one of the best groups that we have to work with," he said. "They have stepped up to the plate time and time again and are consistently pro-active in cleaning up and maintaining trails everywhere they ride; in raising grant monies for various projects; picking up the trash and cleaning around the lakes they have adopted." Those efforts "enhance everybody's experience on the GMUG," said Marah, "and the club provides a positive role model for ATV riders and other users of federal lands."
Kokesh opined that the club is more of an "active" environmental organization than many of the well known national environmental advocacy groups.
And as members of organizations that promote and educate members on ethical and responsible use and conservation of public lands and natural resources (such as the Colorado Off Highway Vehicle Coalition, the Blue Ribbon Coalition and Tread Lightly), TMW members are active in promoting the responsible use of off-highway vehicles, and are committed to keeping public lands open to the public.
Ouray District Ranger Tammy Randall-Parker, said the TMW is an outstanding group of people providing a great leadership role model for the rest of the ATV community by working in partnership with the Forest Service and by participating with other groups who want to keep access to public lands available to responsible users while protecting natural resources.
Trails and wilderness specialist for the Ouray District, Kris Wist, commented, "These guys [TMW] are wonderful. One of the most outstanding and well organized volunteer groups ever to work with. They are pro-active and extremely successful in getting state OHV grants for trail maintenance in our area." According to Wist, the TMW is a highly respected group of people, responsible and committed to multiple use. "Their volunteer efforts are felt throughout the GMUG."
According to Parker, the club is extremely successful in raising funding for various projects through grants, and club members are supportive in resolving problems that lead to positive changes on the ground. Parker said TMW helped in raising the NEPA funding (via grants) and provided the volunteer labor needed to build the new 15-mile Parallel Trail on the Uncompahgre Plateau. She also noted that the group was awarded a Colorado OHV grant to produce a detailed trail map of the Uncompahgre National Forest, to be distributed free to the public.
And with high praise for the club's past president and current government liaison officer, Walt Blackburn, Parker said, "They're a good team. Walt has worked hard to promote responsible motorized recreational use on national forest lands."
Blackburn commented "We support other user groups. We don't want anyone to be shut out from responsible use of our public lands." Blackburn said club members "don't expend energy opposing other forms of recreation or user groups, or try to undermine other activities on public lands. We recognize the diverse interests of all users and applaud them, rather than oppose them."
Monthly meetings (including a potluck meal) are typically held at the Delta Trap Club on the last Monday of every month from April through October. This month's meeting is April 30, beginning at 6:30 p.m. Everyone is invited.
For more information call Kim Kokesh at 835-3477.blog comments powered by Disqus