In the minds of many four-wheelers, the battle over continued access to public lands typically takes the form of lawyers in courtrooms, enthusiasts marching on the capitol, and "off-limits" signs signaling the closure of favorite trails. The struggle to keep public land open to the public, however, takes many different forms, and each one contributes to advancing the rights of four-wheelers. Perhaps the most important aspect of this ongoing battle, though, lies in education - not only of the general public or influential politicians but of children.
Those of us with children might take this for granted. After all, four-wheeling is, by and large, a family-oriented activity. Our children are frequently with us on the trail, so they receive a real grassroots education about this pastime from a very early age. Beyond that, they are at home with the concept of traveling off the asphalt and away from cities to enjoy nature. However, they are in the minority. Millions of children grow up never having been outside their city limits, and as adults they will certainly have no common ground to share with those whose free access to America's backcountry stands threatened. This is not only a problem politically but a real travesty for the children who will one day inherit this country with no real appreciation of how vastly diverse and beautiful America truly is.
This is what prompted Rick Russell and a handful of others to establish a program called Kids on Public Lands nearly six years ago in Southern California. Basically, the idea was that a group of volunteer four-wheelers would take inner city kids on a one-day excursion into local national forests to expose them not only to nature but to the whole idea of four-wheeling. The program has been hugely successful, with the YMCA, local police departments, and a variety of local businesses now fully committed to this annual event.
It would be impossible to praise the efforts of all of these volunteers too highly. Not only have they made four-wheeling a positive force in the local community, but they have provided these children with an experience many of them will never forget. And who knows? Maybe some of them will be drawn into four-wheeling as they grow up. There are undoubtedly many others across the country who are just as involved in their communities, working to promote this sport and ensure that later generations can still enjoy it. And to all of you, we say, well done.
To read more about this program and find out how you can volunteer or start a similar event, you'll find the complete story on page 22.