Editor's Note - The staff at 4WD&SU can't think of a four-wheel-drive club these days that isn't in some form or another involved in land rights and usage issues. It wasn't that long ago that a person didn't have to think about losing their rights to enjoy and explore our public forests and wildlands. Today, however, it's an uphill struggle for us to maintain our rights as American citizens to use these lands for recreation. There is absolutely nothing wrong with conservation and trying to protect the environment and wildlife, but the line has to be drawn when it comes to complete and unreasonable closures. This is why so many clubs, organizations, and individuals are getting involved and proving that we are responsible and that working together can help keep our public lands open and fee-free. Clubs such as the Western Slope 4-Wheelers are making great strides in relations with government agencies and working to maintain trails and forest lands for all of us to enjoy.
The Western Slope 4-Wheelers 4WD club was formed in February 1998. It started out as most clubs do, with a few friends getting together and running trails. Like any organization, a few of the members have come and gone, but the club still holds true to the goal of promoting a fun, family-oriented club that works to save our public lands for responsible usage for years to come.
WS4W are active members of the Colorado Association of 4 Wheel Drive Clubs. The last few years the group has made great strides in building a good working relationship with the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in their area. They were an important part of the project to eliminate the fee area in Yankee Boy Basin in 2002. The fee for area usage was implemented because federal land managers didn't have the funds to maintain the area as recreational use was on the rise. The club's stance against the "pay areas" wasn't so much about the fee itself but the commercialization of public lands and turning them into a money-making venture. Now, they volunteer and help the Yankee Boy Coalition maintain and clean the campsites, install road signs, and help visitors. They also have volunteers to serve in conjunction with the Yankee Boy Coalition, as alpine hosts, to visit with people and provide information about the area and promote responsible land use.
The year 2006 was by far the busiest and most productive year yet for the WS4W. Not only have they maintained their dedication to fun off-roading trips such as Canyonlands in Utah, the Jeep Safari in Moab, the annual Fourth of July parade and trail ride in Ouray, and a Western Slope rendezvous, they made the time necessary to go out with the Forest Service and BLM to work on projects to maintain and clean the trails. These workdays involved installing elevation and warning signs on Black Bear, Ophir, and Imogene passes.
The WS4W also assisted the Forest Service in repairing the bridge in Yankee Boy Basin that leads up to Governor Basin, and also by installing interpretive signs along the route. The last major project for the year was a tire cleanup and removal in the Dry Creek area west of Montrose, Colorado. This area is home to some of the club's most frequented hardcore trails such as Die Trying and Cactus Ridge.
Members joined forces with the BLM and the local ATV club and set up a system for effectively and efficiently removing the tires from the remote location. Additionally, the WS4W has adopted the Poughkeepsie Gulch Trail and also Black Bear Road from the top down into Telluride; the Creeper Jeeper Gang has adopted Black Bear from the Red Mountain side to the top. The WS4W is also active in community services by helping and providing entertainment for children and retirees. The club also helps out at Christmas time - whether it's a toy run for Cops for Kids or sponsoring a needy family with a Christmas dinner and gifts for the children. The club also participates in the annual Parade of Lights in Montrose.
If you're an avid off-road enthusiast or even if you're just considering getting into 'wheeling, think about joining a four-wheel-drive club. You'll meet people who share the same interests as you, and you can help preserve our public lands for future generations to enjoy. Together, we can all make a difference, forge friendships that last a lifetime, and create a stronger voice to be heard by all. For more information on the Western Slope 4-Wheelers, visit the club's website at www.ws4w.com.