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Mississippi's Rattlesnake Bay ATV trails to reopen after 11-year closure

February 28, 2014

PICKERINGTON, Ohio -- Mississippi's all-terrain vehicle riders will have 31 miles of additional trails available this summer when the U.S. Forest Service reopens the Rattlesnake Bay ATV Trails in DeSoto National Forest.

The American Motorcyclist Association joined the ongoing efforts several off-highway vehicle groups and organized them into the Friends of Rattlesnake Bay, which then served as a strong and unified voice for the trail users.

Together, the Friends of Rattlesnake Bay and the AMA pushed through the reopening and a fee structure that provides for the continued maintenance and operation of the trails.

Mississippi Tourism, a division of the Mississippi Development Authority, also supported the reopening of the trails.

The Forest Service's Southern Region Recreation Resource Advisory Committee unanimously approved the proposal on Feb. 27, and officials hope to open the trails to the public in May.

Alison Koopman, regional landscape architect for the Forest Service, said the regional forester will render a final decision.

"Local riders worked for years to try to get the trails reopened, but met with frustration," said Steve Salisbury, AMA's government affairs manager for off-highway issues. "When an AMA member in Mississippi contacted us about the issue, we were happy to get involved. And we are elated at the results."

The Rattlesnake Bay trail system is in the special use permit area for the Camp Shelby Military Training Site near Hattiesburg, Miss.

Riders can expect a curving trail that follows the contours of the region, avoiding steep slopes, wet drainages and other sensitive areas.

Dale Tallman, Jr., is a member of the Friends of Rattlesnake Bay and the AMA member who contacted the organization to ask for assistance.

"I am as giddy as a school kid. The news gave me chills," Tallman said. "The opportunities for recreation here are limited, so when something new opens up, we take advantage of it.

"We couldn't have done this without the AMA's help."

Jack Terrell -- an AMA life member, chairman of the Recreation Resource Advisory Committee and NOHVCC senior project manager -- said, "The committee appreciates what the AMA did to get support from users because we need to consider those affected."

The fee structure approved by the committee includes a $10-a-day fee for trail use and a $60-a-year annual operator fee.

Trails covered by the fees include Rattlesnake Bay, the Little Tiger ATV Trail System, the Chickasaw ATV Trail System and the Bethel Motorized Trail System (which includes a motorcycle loop and ATV trail). 

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