ATV Enthusiasts bring a new "playground" to the area ...

ATV enthusiasts create new playground above Scotts Mills

Appeal Tribune
April 18, 2007

What do you get when you give a group of ATV and motorcycle enthusiasts 400 acres of forestland?

For the Scotts Mills Riders Association, it means you get a playground and like any young boy or girl with new monkey bars, they are going to have a good time.

The group of all-terrain vehicle and motorcycle riders were recently given a 400-acre plot of land about 12-miles up Crooked Finger Road by the Oregon Department of Forestry to create a legal and reasonably safe place to ride. On Saturday, the group had their first trail building day and despite a light rain, attracted a large number of riders who hauled up their quads on trucks, trailers and behind RVs.

While some worked to clear tree debris from a chosen perimeter trail, a low rumble began to edge its way closer to the work site. Just after 9 a.m. a full size construction backhoe and bulldozer arrived, the drivers ready to move some earth.

The CFRA has about 25 members, said president John Winslow. He said there are an additional 75 volunteers who all want to create a space where they can have fun and promote their sport.

“We want to provide a place that is safe for families to ride,” he said. “We want to do it in a way that can be managed long term.” He said the trails will only be open to smaller ATVs, not four-wheel drive trucks or other large off-road vehicles such as dune buggies.

The path to a local riding area took them to Jon Mayer at the ODF who let them know the area was set aside for off-road use, according to the Santiam Forest Recreation Management Plan. Mayer said the area had been used for years by off-road riders, but never had a management plan.

Mayer, the recreation manager for the Santiam State Forest, said having a group of people passionate about their sport and having sustainable land use in mind made it easy for him.

“For the longest time there's been ATV and motorcycle use here but it was really unmanaged,” he said. “The motorcycles and ATVs would go in places that we didn't want them to.” He said he tried for several years to get people involved with creating a designated riding area. That is when he said he met Winslow.

“He said this was something he wanted to be involved in,” Mayer said. He said he helped Winslow form the Crooked Finger Riders Association, a necessary component of the management plan, and helped the newly formed group come up with a plan for trails and uses.

After staking out where trails would go, the entrance and exit points and other management details, Mayer gave Winslow approval to begin trail building.

Mayer said the ODF is becoming more involved with helping state land users find places to participate in their sports. He said there are currently seven areas with specifically designated uses in the Santiam State Forest. Winslow said he feels this creates a public/private partnership that is good for everybody.

“The Department of Forestry has cooperated with us,” he said. “They wanted to have a club take over this area. They want to have a managed area with lots of volunteers.”

Winslow said his group will work to keep the area easy to ride with well-marked trails that describe not only the path, but also the difficulty level. They will also have a campground near the trailhead where they plan to have a camp host stationed during the busiest times of year.

They are hoping this will also eliminate another problem common to the area — parties.

Just up the road, beer can boxes, broken bottles and spent shells from shotguns, rifles and pistols littered the ground where just days before, volunteers had cleaned. Winslow said this is a regular occurrence but hopes regular patrols by riders and retired Oregon State Police troopers will keep these events from happening.

“We hope to come up with additional funds for law enforcement,” Winslow said. He said he hopes to apply for several grants to help with the costs of extra patrols.

Much like the Shellburg Mountain Biking area, also created with help from the ODF, the trails will be single use, meaning no mountain bikers, equestrians or hikers will be allowed on the trails.

“We don't want to have the mixed uses,” he said. “Nobody wants to ride their horse on a trail and have an ATV come around the corner and we don't want that either.”

While he recognizes there are always going to be those who disagree with allowing off-road vehicles on to state forest lands, he said the riding site will allow the area to be used in a way that is maintained and sustained and hopefully take riders out of illegal areas.

“I think its appropriate use if done in a managed fashion,” he said. “It's a great way for people to come out and have some fun with their families.”

Wearing a raincoat and muddied jeans, Jessie Furrow from Salem spent part of his Saturday morning using a chainsaw to cut away stumps from a recent clear cut.

“We need a place to have the four wheelers and a safe place to ride,” he said. He said he has been riding ATVs for about 12 years. A.J. Hudgik from Tualatin said she is new to the sport, but spent her Saturday raking away debris from the perimeter trail.

“I just think it's a lot of fun,” she said. “There has been a lot of ATV use around here so we might as well make it legal.” She said she isn't the “crazy type” and appreciates that newer riders will easily navigate most of the trails. She said she knows some riders won't care about the hours she spent helping, but hopes they won't come to the area and destroy the progress the group has made. Winslow said he believes the group can keep the area maintained and fun for years to come.

“I think what we can do is manage an area right the first time and not have the long-term problems,” Winslow said. Mayer agreed.

“This is something that can work for everyone,” he said. “It's up to everyone to do their part but from my experience these types of partnerships work well and help educate everyone.”

President:  John Winslow (503) 873 7432
Membership:  $12 per year, not required to ride the trails

To trails:  Follow Crooked Finger Road about 10 miles from downtown Scotts Mills.  Cross steel cattle grate and continue to follow dirt road approximately 2 miles.  Turn left at CFRA sign and follow road approximately 1 mile to the trailhead. 
MISSION:  To promote, construct and maintain a series of OHV trails on Santiam State Forest Land.  To partnership with local government and ATV affiliates promoting stewardship of public trails and to provide safety training to ATV users