q In winter of 2009, ATV enthusiasts in Bluff City, Tennessee, were about to be faced with a harsh reality: the Cherokee National Forest was going to permanently ban off-highway vehicles (OHV). That’s when the Mountain Trail Riders Association (MTNTR) was formed. Working closely with U.S. Forest officials, members of the state and local government, and the overall community, these ATV enthusiasts saved one of their only places to legally ride.
Since then, this nonprofit organization has grown to over 400 members, ranging in ages from 2 to 86. They strive to preserve, maintain and create new OHV-accessible trails while sustaining principles of environmental conservation. This month we sat down with Sam White, vice president of Mountain Trail Riders Association. White tells us about the fun they have riding ATVs on the trails of Tennessee. He also talks about negative public opinions of the OHV community and how his club aims to correct them.
Dirt Wheels: How did you get Yamaha to help save the Cherokee National Forest trails?
Mountain Trail Riders Association: A club member, who subscribes to Dirt Wheels, came across an ad that featured Yamaha OHV Access Initiative; at the next club meeting it was presented. At that time, Buffalo Mountain was scheduled to be closed due to a lack of perceived interest and maintenance. Through the Yamaha OHV Access Initiative website, we were able to submit our project’s purpose, timeline and expenses. Within a few short weeks, a representative from Yamaha had contacted Mountain Trail Riders of the good news that we had received over $7000 to help save our Buffalo Mountain OHV riding area from closure.
DW: What does MTN Trails Riders do to promote OHV access? How can others do the same?
MTNTR: Our club has been active in the state, local government and instrumental in helping write OHV legislation and a bill that will help Tennessee become more OHV friendly. There are a reported 900,000-plus OHVs in Tennessee, and when that number is turned into dollar signs, the officials take notice. This has helped our state see that there is a great need for opening up new OHV riding areas. We have helped them realize the potential revenue that they are not capturing and that is simply going out of the local economy due to the lack of these riding areas. We encourage all OHV clubs to get involved with their state and local government by making phone calls, sending e-mails or just by good ol’ word of mouth to stay informed on the issues that face the OHV community.
DW: Tell us more about your club’s ATV trails?
MTNTR: Within a 50-mile radius we have four riding areas available. Buffalo Mountain in Cherokee National Forest is a 12-mile multi-use trail available to quads, side-by-sides and motorcycles. This is a moderate trail consisting of rocks, off-camber climbs, mud and various degrees of difficulty. Callalantee ATV and Campground is a popular attraction among ATV riders because of its varying degrees of difficulty and the beautiful scenery of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Tennessee. This trailing system features over 130 miles of trails on 5000 acres of land. Brown Mountain Off-Highway Vehicle (OHV) Area, on the Grandfather Ranger District of the Pisgah National Forest, offers 34 miles of rugged, mountainous trails with lots of challenges. I-81 Motorsports Park offers 400 acres of OHV-accessible trails and a motocross track.
DW: Are there regular club meetings?
MTNTR: MTN Trail Riders Association meets at 7 pm on the first Thursday of every month at Pardner’s BBQ banquet hall.
DW: What goes on at the meetings?
MTNTR: In our meetings, we make plans for fun rides, have an open forum to discuss OHV community issues, schedule workdays and community outreach projects. Oh yes, and we eat!
DW: What are the regular yearly events that your club attends or puts on as a group?
MTNTR: The club hosts several events throughout the year, from charity rides for the American Cancer Society, overnight trips to HMT in West Virginia, our annual Brown Mountain ride in November, Christmas dinner, coat drives, fun rides, poker runs, trail maintenance work days (always followed by a cookout), and an in-house safety course provided by one of our own who is accredited by the ATV Safety Institute. We strive to provide every member with a safe and exciting riding experiences.
DW: Are there any dues or fees associated with being in the club?