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Public 4Wheeling Spots - Limited Articulation

Posted in Features on May 1, 2007
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As I write this-early in February-my Inbox has been inundated with messages from 'wheelers across the U.S. bemoaning the plight of Paragon Adventure Park in Pennsylvania. Paragon, as many of you know, has been one of the most popular 'wheeling spots in the Northeast and home to dozens of organized trail events throughout the year. Unfortunately, as you may have heard, Paragon is located on rental property, and after a lengthy legal dispute, the property owners have decided to evict the tenants and sell the land to a local developer.

As the old saying goes, "Possession is nine-tenths of the law," and in the case of Paragon, the landowner's right to do what he wishes with his property outweighs our wishes to 'wheel on it. In a case like this, we are, after all, only squatters, and hence at the mercy of others-who may or may not share our particular enjoyment of the outdoors. And as it currently stands, Paragon's future appears dim.

The solution? For those of you in the eastern U.S., where public lands are scarce, an increasingly popular option is to pool your resources, purchase some undeveloped real estate, carve out a network of trails, and start up your own OHV park. We're currently working on a story for an upcoming issue that'll tell you how you can do it too, and what you need to know to do it all legally.

For those of us out West, however, the fight over public lands has its own difficulties, due to the byzantine minefield of government jurisdictions (and regulations) we need to navigate to ensure access. A case in point is Truckhaven Hills, site of the annual Tierra Del Sol Desert Safari. It's one of the most popular springtime destinations for 'wheelers, and one which, until recently, had been relatively free of controversy despite being a hodgepodge of state, federal, and private lands. It's a somewhat confusing story, but the problem began when a 4,000-acre private parcel at Truckhaven was purchased by the division of the state parks department that administers OHV areas-the same folks who work to keep places like Hollister Hills open for our enjoyment year 'round. The California Off Road Vehicle Association (CORVA), working in cooperation with park personnel, began mapping out routes on the new parcel for a January trail event when a local eco-watchdog group went to court for a temporary restraining order to ban vehicular access on the tract, citing concerns over desert bighorn habitat-this despite the fact that 'wheelers have used the property for over 40 years without incident. The legal battle that ensued involved no fewer than three state agencies, but in the end, a state court ruled in CORVA's favor. And while the battle isn't over yet-TDS had to be relocated this year, and Truckhaven is still in legal limbo, pending appeals-a legal precedent has been set, and it's a promising one for us. For the full story, check out www.corva.org. For now, at least, it's got a happy ending.

The lesson? First and foremost, if we do our homework, the legal system can, and will, work for us. In the case of Truckhaven, a lot of sweat equity from dedicated volunteers, working in conjunction with biologists and archaeologists-as well as some sharp and farsighted legal counsel-combined to make a difference. But as you might guess, that kind of help doesn't come cheaply. What can you do? Well, you can volunteer your time, or your expertise (if you're an attorney, for instance), or at the very least, you can get out your checkbook and make a contribution. I'm taking out a life membership in CORVA-and shame on me for not doing it sooner.

So what's your excuse? Contact your local state 4WD association, or log onto United 4 Wheel Drive Associations' Web site (ufwda.org) and see what you can do-and who you can contact-to help keep our local 'wheeling spots open. Like they say, money talks and somethin' else walks, so now's the time to stand up and be counted.
-Douglas McColloch

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