The Rocket City Rock Crawlers is a long standing member of the BlueRibbon Coalition. I appreciated spending time with some of their leadership while I have been here in Alabama. This full size four wheel drive group has been around for nearly as long as the BRC, having formed in 1992 and been busy since. They are a very family oriented club that is involved with charities like CASA and were very involved in helping during the recovery process when the whole area was hit with all those tornados recently. Visit them at http://www.rocketcityrockcrawlers.com/
We met at a BBQ joint in Madison, AL (just outside of Huntsville) for dinner and discussion on Monday evening (Oct 1). Among a host of subjects, we talked about the broad loss of access to public lands, which has created a significant shift to private parks. This has presented a whole new set of challenges for park management related to the high cost of insurance for parks to operate.
We had a considerable amount of dialogue about the concern that the RTP program is not as effectively utilized as it should be. The conclusion was that the key to success for recreational access is getting state and local government to participate in the funding available.
One other point of conversation for the night were the differences between state to state focus on OHV activities. Citing that each state has a slightly different set of laws governing land use, and that each state also has a slightly different focus from a conservation standpoint, they shared that making an effort to address OHV issues regionally would be almost prohibitive. The focus needs to be at the state level.
Like so many groups I have met with, again the fighting off the stereotypes is an issue for them as well. They talked about how much work they have had to put into reversing the misconceived notions of landowners on who they are and what they do. They have had some measured success in this and have even garnered the appreciation of some landowners, but still a few bad apples that are not part of organized recreation can create a lot of problem.
It is their belief that a lot of the disparity among enthusiasts is directly related to the individualistic nature and that much could be solved through improved communication efforts and that BRC can play a role in that improved communication. They also felt that a greater degree of attention needs to be focused on efforts in the east. Tied back to our earlier discussion, their focus is more at a state level to create opportunity for access because there is little federal land, unlike in the west.
I felt very comfortable with the candor of the discussion, even when we talked about some tough subjects. I am out here for honesty, especially on the hard issues and I found it here. I like the people we work for and the Rocket City Rock Crawlers are counted among them. I would be remiss if I didn't thank you for dinner as well. Jake White, you did a good job coordinating this meeting on some fairly short notice and I very much appreciate your effort. It was very worthwhile.