Riding out of DC pointed south on Friday (Sept 15), I really did look over my shoulder and say in my best Arnold voice, "I'll be back." That is because I will be back when this ride is over. That is part of the point, to gather the concerns of the grassroots and take their concerns back to the leaders in DC who can do something about it.
Earlier in the week, I had called Jesse Schneirla, President of the Virginia 4 Wheel Drive Association (VA4WDA, http://www.va4wda.org) to arrange a meeting with them as I was riding through Virginia. As it turned out, VA4WDA just happened to be having their annual fall event for the weekend near Arrington, VA. Bonus! I was going to be able to have some time with leadership of the organization, plus time to talk with several of the several hundred participants in the event, and ride shotgun on some trails to boot. I am all about that.
The Virginia country side is arguably some of the most beautiful I have ever seen. I was equally stunned by the property they were having the event on. You should check it out on the web at http://www.oakridgeestate.com and then come back and tell me that is not a cool place and that you can't manage land for a variety of uses effectively. The more I see that, the more I scratch my head at the current trends with public land management. We are talking a long history of sound management too. Jeep Camp was held there for years, and it isn't just Jeeps. Just a week or so earlier, they hosted an OHM event. It is pretty impressive.
I was surprised at how many people attended and from where they came. It is a big event and, I was impressed by how well managed it was and the care the VA4WDA folks take. They know how to do it and they have fun while they are doing it. They also have a raffle that is second to none.
The discussions I had could be summarized in the statement that you don't need to be part of an association or club to go wheeling with your buddies. You need that association or club to make sure you and your buddies have a place to go. That is the point of the event, to raise funds they then use as an association to help support land use efforts. Among others, they even donate to support the effort that the Outer Banks Preservation Association is fighting for the beach access on Hatteras, which by the way, was where I was headed next. Both Jesse and his wife Sandy were adamant that we have got to look to work together because the fight of one group for access affects the fight for access that another group is working on. That was a consistent message I heard from most everyone I talked to at the event, we all need to do better at working together.
There are some opportunities on the Washington National Forest and even in nearby Jefferson National Forest. Fortunately, there are some land managers who are willing to work. But, that comes from having the kind of reputation and ethic it has taken the VA4WDA years to develop. Although those opportunities are there, still much of it still goes back to private property, a common theme in the eastern US so far. I even had one guy comment on the Turn the Tide Facebook page that it was sad this event couldn't be held on public land.
I have to thank everyone at the event, especially Jesse and his wife. They laid out the red carpet for me. Although it was dry camping and I was limited on what I could bring for my table, I ate like a king. Yogi Bear strikes again... I was welcomed and well cared for.