The ATV Association of Manitoba (ATVMB) is looking forward to an exciting year. With a strategic plan and a strong group of volunteers, the group is working hard to set up a trial area for a trail and change some negative perspectives about the sport.
Donald Eidse, who sits on the board of directors for ATVMB, said Manitoba currently has just one designated trail for ATVers. That trail, called the ITP, is maintained by the South Interlake ATV Club and it runs about 110 kilometres. It is a seasonal trail and a multi-use trail used by snowmobile clubs in the winter.
But that's it—the only official trail in the province. So Eidse and the rest of ATVMB are working hard to change that. The association's goals for 2013 are to develop a trial area for a trail, to work hard to start up the CASI ATV RiderCourse program and to work with rural municipalities; the association would also like to encourage the development of more clubs.
"We finally have a strategic plan and we feel we're achieving success with it," said Eidse. "It feels really good working with ATVMB now that it has its priorities, strategies and indicators in place to measure ourselves and our success. It is still a work in progress and will take us time to complete, but we are moving along."
Defining trail etiquette
Eidse is also working to complete a Trail Etiquette Program, which is quite a lengthy document with his first draft done. The key components of it, according to Eidse, deal with private land access: make sure you have permission from the landowner—whether that's the Province, a private individual or corporation—to ride there. The document also has sections on environmental awareness and safety, and includes a code of ethics.
"The key is (that) motorized trail users and non-motorized trail users have to work together," Eidse said. "We don't want the two sides against each other. If we're talking about a multi-use trail, that means if an ATVer sees someone coming up the trail on a horse, pull over to the side, take your helmet off and say hello. This way we can work to understand each other's concerns."
Instead of making different trails for walkers, cyclists, horseback riders and ATVers, Eidse hopes that multi-use trails can become commonplace in Manitoba.
Spreading a positive message
Eidse said working with rural municipalities (RMs) is also a huge issue. Eidse and ATVMB have been going to the annual municipal show for the last three years working to build a relationship with RMs. ATVMB wants to help change people's attitudes that ATVs should be banned. He hopes that eventually clubs can approach RMs, let them know they are insured and get permission to ride in these rural areas.
"We are tired of talking to certain groups that say they can't do anything about the issue," said Eidse. "We propose people make a plan. Come up with a strategic plan to incorporate ATVs in your community that has a sustainable aspect to it. If you make a small trail with posted speeds and other requirements, most people want to see that. They also want to see you respecting the environment, and in this way you allow tourism into your town. ATVers will come in (and) get gas and food."
Safety will be a key goal
The association already has five ATV clubs in its membership. The CASI ATV RiderCourse, a safety program developed by the Canadian AQCC Safety Institute (CASI), a division of the All-Terrain Quad Council of Canada (AQCC), is a priority as ATVMB grows.
"Because we don't have a trail system yet, we are just getting everything lined up for now," said Eidse. "At first, we are going to focus on getting one trainer and that way the program can be up and running when we do get a trial area for a trail. As soon as we have a trail system or more need for trainers, we will upgrade as the demands are there."
Doing good things
Another exciting initiative for ATVMB is holding the first annual ATV Ride for Dad in September. The motorcycle community holds a similar event in spring and it is about four or five years old in Manitoba. The ride raises awareness and funds for prostate cancer. Eidse is excited for the ATV community to show the general public that ATVing is a wonderful thing while supporting a good cause.
"We want to change the general public's perspective so they are not against ATVing," said Eidse. "I think a charity event is a great way to do so. I think clubs need to get away from poker derbies and do more fundraisers. It shows the community their willingness to work together. We want to build common ground, and what better way to do that than a charity event. It will bring attention to the ATV community while serving an extremely good cause."
ATVMB is hopeful that its goals can be reached. Eidse is confident in the goals of the association, and the hard work of the association's volunteers is extremely evident. Riding in Manitoba on a trail system is a dream they share and will hopefully become a reality in the near future.
"I love the freedom of ATVing, going into unknown areas and unknown terrain," said Eidse. "My second favourite part of ATVing is group riding. It's really where my heart lies in ATVing. You see people out for the first time with huge smiles and the shock and awe on their faces . . . it's absolutely priceless."