University Study Shows Even Small OHV Parks Have Positive Impact

March 2013 Powersport News Dave Halsey, NOHVCC contributing writer

The Appleton Area Recreational OHV Park is the only designated riding area in southwest Minnesota. That, and the fact that it's open year-round to all types of off-highway vehicles, helps it draw families from hundreds of miles around. It also brings the small town of Appleton, MN, much welcomed tourism activity.

Part of the appeal of the 330-acre park, which opened 10 years ago, is its diversity of trails accommodating all skill levels. Past gravel mining activity created rolling terrain that is enjoyed by owners of ATVs, off-highway motorcycles (OHM) and off-road vehicles (ORV or 4WD vehicles). The park has 15 miles of ATV/OHM trails, 10 miles of ORV trails, a 1.5-mile OHM practice track, three Enduro tracks, youth ATV and OHM training tracks, sand dunes, hill climbs, rock crawls and a water hole. There is also a hiking path, youth playground area and picnic area with shelter.

Last year, at the request of a regional development commission, a user survey was conducted by the Center for Small Towns, a department of the University of Minnesota, Morris. The survey questions were developed in collaboration with a group of area citizens to collect data from park users related to the amount of money being spent in the nearby town of Appleton, the number of riders staying overnight in the area and overall satisfaction with the park. A university student conducted the survey over a series of nine trips to the OHV park during the summer of 2012.

"Appleton is a small community, and they do view the OHV park as an asset," said Kelly Asche, program coordinator at the Center for Small Towns. "The overall satisfaction level of the park was really high." Users are able to ride into Appleton on a designated route, and the city has adopted ordinances so park users can drive on city streets.

Information was documented from 201 park users, totaling 140 completed surveys. The study showed that:

  • A majority of park users come from within a 100-mile radius, with some driving up to 250 miles.
  • Most park users came for the day, but about 17 percent stayed one or more nights at a local motel or campground.
  • Groups of two or more spent an average of $188.56 per visit in the area, for food, beverages, fuel, lodging and local shopping and attractions.
  • When asked to rate their overall experience, 95 percent of users surveyed said their satisfaction level was "Excellent" (73 responses) or "Good" (60 responses). 

Comments about the park were also recorded, with the vast majority being positive, including: "I love this facility. Really appreciate that someone went through the effort to plan and build the trails and track. Excellent."

While its economic impact is small by comparison to larger OHV trail systems,such as the Hatfield-McCoy Trails, the Appleton OHV Park demonstrates that even a small trail system can bring positive benefits to both OHV enthusiasts and local communities. The study will be added to the NOHVCC Library, with contains over 1,000 OHV-related documents. 

The Appleton Area Recreation OHV Park is located two miles northeast of Appleton, MN, on Highway 69. Admission is free. Hours of operation are sunrise to sunset, seven days a week. All OHVs must be registered with the Minnesota DNR. The park is funded by the Minnesota DNR through the Minnesota Trails Assistance Program and is a designated Grant-In-Aid Trail. 

Click here for more information on the Appleton OHV Park

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