I've been riding dirt bikes since I was six or seven. My first ATV was a brand new Honda—a big, red three-wheeler back in 1984. It was an ATC200ES with reverse. That was the Cadillac of the Honda in those days. I graduated to four wheels when I hit my late teens and haven’t looked back. ATVing feeds my passion for being out in the woods and seeing the things that you can’t see otherwise.
In the past, I'd run into Dave Baker (Nation Valley ATV) a couple of times at outdoor shows. We'd discussed the benefits of my becoming an OFATV member. I was tired of trying to find a place to ride. I got thinking that maybe other people might have the same problem as I was having. So, I put an ad in the local newspaper to have a general meeting to see if there were others that shared my thoughts.
I invited Mr. Baker to come and present in May of 2013. To my surprise, 55 people showed up and the meeting was a success. The Nation Valley ATV Club sponsored our first meeting in June and helped us get the proper paperwork and funds to get our own club up and running. Our first meeting consisted of about 40 people, and by the end of the night 14 of them had signed up. This was the start of our club. We became incorporated within two weeks. We had our name. We had some funds from memberships. In July we broke away from Nation Valley and became our own club: The Thousand Islands ATV Club.
We have created about 50 km of trails and look forward to making about 150 km more by next year. Our membership grew a little every month, and by the end of October we had 31 members. We are in the process of building bridges and trails.
We have had numerous meetings with the county, township and local town to gain access to land and road allowances. We have received a great response from land owners. Over 90% of landowners asked have been on-board. The Township of Leeds and the Thousand Islands has been extremely supportive with the use of land. The Counties of Leeds and Grenville have given us permission to travel on roads to connect to trails. The town of Gananoque is working with us on making a trail through town.
We have had donations from lumber suppliers for bridges, steel, telephone poles, and some money for signs. We have a local establishment that donates a meeting room every month. What's more, our club recently won the bid to host the OFATV Annual General Meeting in June of 2014. We are gaining exposure in the community by having participated in two Christmas parades, and our club has been asked to host the ATV Pulls in the 150th Lansdowne Fair in July 2014.
Before the first meeting, I thought this might be a waste of time. However, it has become one of the biggest projects that I have been a part of. I am proud of our community for the support that they have given us. All of this and more in a few short months has been overwhelming at times, but the wish of having safe and legal trails close to home has made it all worth it.
I suggest to anyone who has nowhere to ride to contact the Ontario Federation of All Terrain Vehicles, whether you just want a place to ride or you think you can create your own club. They are there to help.