Colorado BSA Council Adds Public Trails, Conservation Projects To ATV Program

Published in the September 2013 Issue September 2013 Powersport News Dave Halsey, NOHVCC contributing writer

Two years ago, ATVs parked in front of a Boy Scouts of America (BSA) office would have been frowned upon. Riding ATVs was not an approved activity. Today, not only are ATV programs approved, they are rapidly growing in popularity, as BSA councils across the country ramp up to have their Scouts ride ATVs on camp properties and public trails.

The Western Colorado Council (WCC) of BSA recently reported on its website, “Fantastic news! Our new ATVs have arrived and we are now ready to roll out the new ATV Program.” After going through the process to add ATVs to the WCC activity list, Scout executive Mark Switzer had an opportunity to get some ATVs. They are loaned to Boy Scout Councils by Honda USA through the national BSA office.

Instead of starting with mid- or adult-size ATVs, the WCC decided to go with youth models. “We had to ask ourselves, 'What size do we want?'” said Switzer. “'Are we going for an introduction to ATVs to get the new Scouts excited, or are we going to go with a program to keep those 16- to 18-year-olds engaged in Scouting?' We decided to get our new Scouts excited about being Scouts. We asked for and received six 90cc Honda ATVs.”

While some BSA councils are using ATVs on their camp properties, WCC designed its program to allow Scouts to ride on public trails. “Our camp property is about four hours away from the center of our population, so that wasn’t a great option for us,” Switzer explained. “What better place to use ATVs than in western Colorado, with great access to the outdoors? We are using them on public trails, off our property, so that’s a little unique. We talked with the Western Colorado ATV Association. They have a family program, a network of instructors and trails that they utilize for their program. We researched their program and had a volunteer from our council attend a national training program in Tucson, who came back with the certification to be our lead instructor and instruct other volunteers. Then we put the word out that we have ATVs for use.”

The WCC serves 15 counties on Colorado’s western slope. It has 217 Scouting units, just less than 4,000 youth and 1,500 registered adult volunteers. Wanting to do more than just offer a riding experience, the council added a public-service component to its ATV program.

“We want a conservation program centered on the use of the ATVs,” said Switzer. “After the leaders are trained and the Scouts are trained, we ask that the group log a trail cleanup or some sort of conservation project while they are in the woods. It’s a neat opportunity for a conservation project, using ATVs to get into the backcountry a little farther than you could on foot.”

Because the program is so new, the WCC is offering safety training for Scouts and Scout leaders every two weeks. Once they’re trained, the leaders can call for ATV availability and schedule their weekend. The council requires that Scout units have the proper insurance to use its enclosed trailer to transfer the vehicles. Troops are asked to rent all six ATVs, but the cost is minimal.

“We charge $50 per ATV, so for $300 you have the use of the six ATVs for the weekend. Pick them up on Friday, drop them off on Sunday,” said Switzer. “Relative to a lot of the ATV vendors in our area, it’s a great deal.” The rental fees are used to offset the costs of ATV registrations, insurance, maintenance and repairs, plus safety gear and the trailer.

Switzer, who grew up riding street motorcycles and dirt bikes, is excited about the new ATV program at the WCC and hopes to expand it to include smaller and larger ATVs in the future. 

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