Doug Morris is an avid off-road rider. As director of the Pickerington-based All-Terrain Vehicle Association, he promotes opportunities for motorized play across the United States.
But the ATV advocate also knows that public-land managers are struggling to keep up with the skyrocketing use of these trails. So Morris spends some of his free time riding his Suzuki LTZ 400 over the rugged hills of the Wayne National Forest, helping to keep the trails “open, safe and fun” as part of Wayne’s new Volunteer Trail Patrol.
“In my opinion, the Wayne National Forest is the number one, two and three destination in Ohio for trail riding,” Morris says. “But the Forest Service doesn’t have the money or manpower to meet the demand.”
The numbers tell the story: 120 miles of ATV trails, 21,000 permits issued annually to riders from 42 states, and four full-time national-forest law enforcement officers trying to cover 240,000 acres spread across a dozen counties in southeast Ohio.
With growing demand, few staff and a stagnant budget, “We thought, ‘Why not help the riders help themselves?’” explains Chad Wilberger, who coordinates the volunteer program for the U.S. Forest Service.
Since last year, the program has trained 28 volunteers. Carrying two-way radios, first-aid kits and equipment for light maintenance (a bow saw, shovel, caution tape), they spread across the trails, clearing hazards, helping folks who are lost and encouraging riders to stay on the trails.
“If a dead tree limb falls across the trail, most people will just ride around it,” Morris says. “But if you move it, you’d be surprised how many people stop and thank you.”
For information about volunteering, call the Ironton District office of the Wayne National Forest at 740/534-6500 or visit www.fs.fed.us/r9/wayne/