Everywhere I went, everyone kept telling me that when I get to Alabama, I need to be sure to look up the Cheaha Trail Riders and be sure to meet with them. Little did all those people know that I knew their president so I already had them on my radar and had no intention of leaving the southeast without meeting with them. I did and I am glad for having done so. These guys have it going on. In fact, with the kind of enthusiasm they are working with to get trails on the ground, I can only describe them as a bright spot on the map.
I met with the current president of the organization, Glenn Myers, and their director of public relations, Danny Hubbard, for breakfast early Monday morning (Oct 1) in Oxford, AL. When you meet with these two guys, it doesn't take very long to figure out why everyone on the planet was telling me I needed to meet with them. To start with, how about an all volunteer organization with a director for public relations? Now that is organization.
I would likely hack the list of all the projects they have their hands in, but I would be wrong to not at least mention a few. For example, their involvement in the Top Trails park project. While they are quick to tell you this is the product of a lot of cooperation, they nonetheless are deeply involved. This park includes cooperation by two cities in Alabama, Lincoln and Talladega, has state Park Authority management led by a 5 person board. The ten year plan includes single track trails, atv trails, equestrian trails, and even some full size trails. They are going to have some sport shooting areas and even a zip line. Pretty impressive.
Equally impressive is everything else they are working on including involvement in the Minooka Park in Alabama, efforts to assemble a comprehensive volunteer training program, partnering with the Arkansas Children's Hospital on a CD project, ongoing involvement with the Alabama Trail Conference, charities and more. You need to check them out at http://www.cheahatrailriders.com/
Still, with all the hope and enthusiasm, they did share some concerns that included: Ensuring retention of RTP funding as critical to success into the future, concerns with the FS requirements in their region that make it all but impossible to be a volunteer (in fact, all but delete OHV Volunteer Programs), and that generally in their region the FS doesn't show OHV Trails on their website in most areas. Almost all efforts for trails are now in private or local park settings.
They also shared in some common concerns that I have heard all along the way such as: dealing with the bad rap that some riders and bad spin from extremists have brought on us all, the need to get more people involved in organized recreation, and needing more volunteer resource. They also shared the desire to see a more cooperative effort across the recreating community as key to success.
They are to me a shining example of what can get done in the face of adversity. I can't say enough about their enthusiasm as an organization. It is infectious.