Thunder Mountain Wheelers has been awarded a grant for maintenance and construction of trails on U.S. Forest Service lands that are not only enjoyed by four-wheelers, but also hikers, bikers, equestrians, snowshoers and cross-country skiers.
The grant of $195,746 was awarded through the Colorado Parks and Wildlife. A total of $6.18 million in grants are slated for distribution in 2015 and 2016.
Mike LeMaster, president of the Thunder Mountain Wheelers, explains the grants are the direct result of off-highway vehicle registration fees. The Colorado OHV registration program provides critical funds for trail maintenance, construction, trailheads, parking areas, trail signs, maps and land acquisition. It also enables law enforcement personnel to identify and return stolen vehicles, encourages safe and responsible OHV use and promotes respect for public lands.
LeMaster said there are just over 160,000 registered off-highway vehicles in Colorado. Registration fees generate over $4.2 million each year, most of which goes back on the ground. Over 85 percent of the fees collected by the state are targeted for trails construction and maintenance, LeMaster said.
Since 1993, when Thunder Mountain Wheelers obtained non-profit status, the club has received over $1.3 million for trails. To the extent possible, the equipment and supplies used for trail maintenance have been purchased locally. "We try our best to keep business within the county or on the Western Slope," LeMaster said.
Grant funds have purchased an equipment trailer and three power dump trailers so ATVs can be used to haul dirt and rocks. Last year, the club purchased a trail-legal Kubota backhoe loader. ATV manufacturers Yamaha and Polaris also provide grant opportunities.
Projects are coordinated with the U.S. Forest Service Ouray, Grand Valley, Paonia, Gunnison and San Juan Ranger Districts, as well as the supervisor's office in Delta. They're often designed to improve safety conditions or mitigate resource damage to slopes or wetlands. The club's 300-plus members provide the labor, to the extent of their physical capabilities.
"Over 175 miles of public trails are maintained by our members every year," LeMaster said.
In addition to trail maintenance, TMW members have "adopted" several lakes, which means they regularly walk the banks and collect trash and debris.
As an advocate for open trails, TMW monitors USFS/BLM travel management proposals, actively opposing any restriction of access on public lands without compelling evidence.
For fun, group rides are scheduled throughout the summer. Check out www.tmwatv.org for membership information.
Two fatal accidents occurred in Delta County within a two-day span last week.
Casey Gillenwater, 25, of Delta was killed the afternoon of Wednesday, Sept. 13, in a single-vehicle rollover on Highway 133 outside of Hotchkiss.