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ATV Adventure Seekers Ride Growing Boom, Add to Economy

January 31, 2014

The Phillips family is a bit scattered. Like many households, the kids grew up and moved out to start families of their own, leaving the comforts of Clackamas, Ore., for homes in California and Washington.

“We love our kids and grandkids so much, but with everyone all over the place it can be a bit tough to connect beyond phone calls and emails,” says family patriarch Jody Phillips. “That’s why we’ve made the commitment to take a collective vacation together every year.”

The Phillips’ don’t take a cruise or go to the beach when they get together. They love the sand, but they prefer to ride on it with their ATVs.

“We’re all avid fans of off-roading, and have found that riding together is an exciting and fun way to spend some time with each other,” Phillips says.

“Kids spend way too much time in front of a TV or with an iPhone,” he adds. “When we get together, all that goes away, and we spend 100 percent quality time together. We teach them not only how to have a great time, but how to love and respect the land.”

It seems they’re not alone in that sentiment either, as the off-roading community continues to show growth despite the lackluster state of the economy. Studies by Southwick Associates, on behalf of the Outdoor Industry Association, estimate that enthusiasts spent close to $66.5 billion on recreational activity last year, which supports nearly 700,000 jobs and generates $8.5 billion in federal, state and local taxes.

“A lot of people used to think that off-road recreation was a luxury activity that required a certain level of income to do,” says Greg Mumm, executive director of The BlueRibbon Coalition, a national group of organizations, businesses and individuals working to protect and expand outdoor recreation opportunities.

“That’s not really the case anymore, as equipment has become more affordable and individuals are able to determine their level of involvement based on how much they want to spend,” he says.

The most basic forms of off-roading can be done with ATVs, pickup trucks or Jeeps, where a spare tire, a winch and a couple of other small safety tools are the only things needed to venture down dirt, gravel or sandy trails in designated parks around the country.

When the Phillips family gets together each July, they not only ride the dunes but also often end up sitting around a bonfire and doing some crabbing in the ocean.

Mumm says that “one of the best things about off-roading [is] there’s such a wide variety of things to do and see.”

But it’s also important to stay safe. Besides riding with a buddy, it’s important to wear proper safety gear and, if there’s a possibility you could get stuck, consider having a winch.

Brendan Anderson, vice president of marketing for Warn Industries, a winch maker, notes that a winch is an essential tool for extracting a vehicle from any situation in which it might get stuck, he says. That’s called self-recovery.

Besides having along safety equipment, it’s important for riders to ride responsibly and protect the land.

The environment and ecosystem on all public and private lands is very fragile, and enthusiasts are encouraged to stay on all marked trails, keep an eye out for wildlife and repair damage done to land.

“The more irresponsible and careless people are when it comes to nature, the more difficult it becomes to justify why land access for off-roading is so important,” Mumm says. “If we’re proactive with trail maintenance and restoration programs, it ensures a better riding experience for everyone involved and goes a long way towards keeping those areas open for future use.”

Those sentiments are shared by the ATVA and its parent organization, the American Motorcyclist Association, which has freedom fighters hard at work every day to protect the rights of ATV riders.

“The enemies of ATV riding have one goal in mind—to stop ATV enthusiasts from riding,” says Wayne Allard, AMA vice president for government relations. “They want to close the public land that ATV enthusiasts ride on, the tracks ATV racers race on and even stop ATV riders from riding in their own back yards.

“We must remain responsible riders and not only respect the land when we are riding but we need to go above and beyond the call of duty. I’m proud to say that ATVA and AMA clubs do go above and beyond by helping maintain trails and working with public land managers to create new ones.”

As off-road recreation continues to increase in popularity, advocates active in their local communities are pushing to expand the amount of land open to riding. At the same time, anti-access groups seek tighter restrictions, fearing land will be damaged by off-roading.

“There’s got to be a meeting of the minds at some point,” says Jody Phillips. “My family and a lot of others need to have lands available to them to enjoy this lifestyle. But we understand that carries the responsibility of making sure the land is protected. I think both sides in this want the same thing, but have trouble looking at it in the same way.”

The ATVA encourages all riders to get actively involved in protecting ATV riders’ right to ride and race. The easiest way to do that is to go to the ATVA’s official website at www.atvaonline.com and then click on “Rights.”

There you’ll find out about the latest threats facing riders, have access to simple tools the let lawmakers and others know how you feel on the issues, and you can even register to vote. Act now to protect the future of ATV riding and racing not just for you and your family, but for future generations.

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