For years locals knew the area as a trash-infested hangout for hoodlums and ne’er-do-wells that was best left alone. No one really paid much attention to this BLM-owned land 30 minutes south of Birmingham, the oversight of which was ceded to Chilton County, until a group of Alabama OHV enthusiasts teamed up with Chilton County commissioners and proposed an idea for this abandoned property.
“We saw the future of off-road recreation being threatened,” said Glenn Myers, president of the Cheaha Trail Riders, a club formed in 1988 to explore ways to protect and expand riding opportunities in northern Alabama. “National forests were being closed to motorized recreation, so we set out to do something about it.”
The Cheaha Trail Riders initially galvanized their efforts around the creation of a local riding area that eventually became the centerpiece for an OHV trail system called the Kentuck ORV Area in the Talladega National Forest in northeastern Alabama. The undertaking required thousands of hours of volunteer time from the club, and it also received funding from a new federal trails funding program, which had just begun in the early ’90s and is now known as the Recreational Trails Program (RTP).
Recognizing that grassroots volunteers such as the Cheaha Trail Riders would accomplish even more success by working together, Honda stepped forward in 1990 to underwrite the start of a national network of OHV clubs. In 1991, with dedicated startup and operating funds from Honda, the National Off-Highway Vehicle Conservation Council (NOHVCC) was formed.
The efforts of the Cheaha Trail Riders multiplied immediately. “Without Honda’s assistance in those first years, our job would have been much harder and taken more time and effort,” said Myers. “We were some of the first e-mail users in the country and we swapped success stories and challenges with other riding clubs. We tapped into resources and knowledge in a big way.”
Eventually, with the help of the NOHVCC, American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) and the Blue Ribbon Coalition, Alabama’s various OHV groups formed under one state organization, The Alabama State Off-Highway Vehicle Association (ALOHVA), and became even more politically potent.
“We’ve got more than 300,000 ATVs and dirt bikes in the state,” Myers said. “When we learned that Chilton County was interested in developing 159 acres for an OHV park, with the help of the NOHVCC we made a presentation to show them that a recreational park was possible for both motorized and non-motorized users, and that it would be viable both environmentally and economically.”
With the backing of the Cheaha Trail Riders , Chilton County wrote a grant proposal for RTP funds and received $874,000 in 2003, with the county and the club providing an additional $218,500 in funds, supplies and volunteer man-hours.
Now, three years later, the Minooka OHV Park project is nearly complete with dozens of multi-use ATV, single-track and equestrian trails meandering through lush forest surrounding a revitalized lake. Minooka OHV Park is slated to open to the public in June.
A beginning-rider training area is included, along with camping and restrooms.
One of the more exciting concepts in the park’s future will be an environmental learning center, modeled after American Honda’s OHV Environmental Learning Centers in Colton, Calif., and Alpharetta, Ga. psb
Copyright 2006 Powersports Business