Journal Sentinal Article
3/24/2013 –Milwaukee, WI
Wisconsin Off Road Vehicle Park Incorporated recently was featured in an article by Rick Barrett of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Several of the Board of Directors from WORVPI were sited showing their enthusiasm and dedication to the project. WORVPI is an all-volunteer organization working pro-actively to plan and develop a motorized multi-use recreation facility in Forest County to meet the needs and requests of recreationalists all over the State of Wisconsin and the Midwest.
A park for off-road vehicles, with thousands of acres of trails for motorcycles and pickup trucks, has been proposed for Forest County as a national tourism destination.
Covering 10,000 acres, it would be the largest park of its kind in the Midwest, according to the park's proponents, a mix of off-road-vehicle enthusiasts and public officials seeking economic development.
Land would be acquired in various ways including purchases, leases, easements and land swaps.
It's an enormous task, but advocates hired Ripon College to do a market research report that says the number of off-road vehicles in Wisconsin has increased dramatically, while the number of places to use them hasn't kept pace.
The park proposal has support from Forest County officials and business groups. They have spent several years working on it and say more of their plans will be made public soon.
"It's not just a small committee trying to ram something through the system. We believe we have a good, solid plan," said Mike Gruett, president of the Forest County Chamber of Commerce.
Environmentalists say they have a lot of questions about the plan and damage to the ecosystem that could come from hundreds of off-road vehicles.
"It would be a shame to see pristine habitat used for something like this," said Shahla Werner, director of Wisconsin's John Muir Chapter of the Sierra Club.
A nonprofit group, Wisconsin Off-Road Vehicle Park Inc., was formed to develop the plan. It says Forest County is a good location for the trails because it's a lightly populated area and the recreational use would not conflict with logging or farming.
There are huge tracts of undeveloped land, according to the county's economic development officials.
Forest County also is home to one of the state's largest all-terrain vehicle clubs and an ATV race that attracts tens of thousands of people a year. A sprawling playground for off-road vehicles, including motorcycles and trucks, could attract users from a 300-mile radius, said John Schnorr, president of Wisconsin Off-Road Vehicle Park Inc.
There's nothing else like it in the Midwest, said Schnorr, an off-road-vehicle enthusiast and retired business executive.
"We would like to make this a national vacation destination," he said.
Access obstacle course
One of the biggest hurdles will be getting access to thousands of acres for the trail system. The park's backers say they have identified eight suitable sites that would include a mix of public and private property.
The U.S. Forest Service manages much of the land in Forest County, so it would be crucial to have its cooperation, said Jim Schuessler, president of the Forest County Economic Development Partnership that promotes the area's economic interests.
It would cost about $18 million to start the park that local officials estimate would pump millions of tourism dollars into one of the poorest counties in the state.
The initial funding for the nonprofit venture could come from a combination of grants and loans.
Land prices in the area start at about $900 an acre, and there could be ample opportunity to lease forested property, get easements or make land swaps.
"I don't think you could afford to do this in southern Wisconsin," Schuessler said.
The Department of Natural Resources would have to be involved, for environmental reasons and if the trails crossed state-owned properties.
The agency has been evaluating the need for an off-road-vehicle park since at least 2006. Since then, it has looked at other parks in the Midwest and discussed options with user groups.
"We got tired of waiting," Schnorr said about the Forest County plan.
Running into opposition
Motorized vehicle trails have been controversial, largely over environmental and noise issues.
"I think there's a place for these things, but it depends on how pristine the habitat is. And all of a sudden your peaceful getaway from an urban area becomes pretty loud. That's annoying," said Werner with the Sierra Club.
Land-use conflicts and noise could be addressed in a variety of ways, said Steve Nelson, a University of Wisconsin Extension community development educator in Forest County.
"We realize the 'silent sports' such as hiking and skiing are important, too. But the idea of a motorized recreational vehicle area fits very well within the culture of our communities," Nelson said.
The Ripon College study looked at off-road-vehicle parks in Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Tennessee and West Virginia. It noted that northern Michigan has 3,200 miles of trails that include 960 miles for off-road motorcycles, 1,600 miles for ATVs and 640 miles for other off-road vehicles.
Minnesota has an off-highway-vehicle park, near Gilbert, that has about 36 miles of trails.
Tennessee and West Virginia have hundreds of thousands of acres of trails in areas where the coal mining industry fell on hard times. Federal grant money was used to construct the Hatfield-McCoy Trails, in West Virginia, which attract users from across the nation.
The West Virginia system operates in six counties and has more than 30,000 visitors annually, mostly from out of state.
It's been a "game changer" for many communities, said Bill Robinson, West Virginia's trails coordinator.
"We are just tickled to death with it," he said.
No need to throttle back
The next steps in the Forest County plan include seeking funding and finding the best park site.
County officials have said they support the plan, and American Indian tribes have expressed interest in it. The park could be scaled down to something smaller, although proponents say then it wouldn't be as big of an attraction.
"There's no reason why we can't stay with the original plan for a larger park. The business plan supports it," said Schnorr with Wisconsin Off-Road Vehicle Park Inc.
"We want a park where people would come and spend a week, not just a weekend," he added.
This summer, the organization plans to reveal more details about the proposed park. The property would be large enough to accommodate non motorized uses such as mountain bikes, according to Schnorr. It also could accommodate uses such as forestry and maple-syrup harvests.
"If we have a 10,000-acre playground, we aren't going to have to worry about anyone stumbling across someone's private property because this would be such a huge place to play with your recreational toys," Schnorr said.
2nd Annual Membership Meeting
2nd Annual Membership Meeting
May 18th, 2013
The Wisconsin Off-Road Vehicle Park, Inc. (WORVPI) has scheduled our 2nd Annual Membership Meeting. The meeting will be held on Saturday, May 18th at the Potawatomi Carter Casino & Hotel. The meeting will begin at 11:00am and will be followed by a lunch at 12:30pm.
In addition to the election of directors, WORVPI will be presenting an update on the state of the corporation and our progress in establishing Forest County as a nationally recognized motorized trail recreation vacation destination.
There is no cost to attend the meeting, but advanced registration is required. Those attending the buffet lunch are required to forward a nominal fee ($10) to cover the cost of the lunch. Registration deadline is May 3rd and lunch fee is non-refundable.
For more information on WORVPI (including membership) visit our web site at: http://www.worvpi.org.
Please make check or money order payable to WORVPI Luncheon and mail to: WORVPI, 116 South Lake Avenue, Crandon, WI 54520