Preserving our recreational opportunitiesVolunteers maintain Wambaw Cycle Trails

  • Monday, June 17, 2013

Paul Stewart enjoys the newly constructed beginners loop.

Photos

The Wambaw Cycle Trail in the Francis Marion Forest is utilized by many dirt bike and four wheel enthusiasts. But those trails take a beating during the peak season. And with no federal funding to maintain them properly, they become impassable.

But a new non-proft volunteer group was formed in 2011 to ensure the trails are maintained year-long for safe travel.

Nick Wagner and Hal Gooding are co-founders of the OHV club in Charleston called the Coastal Off-Road Riders Association (CORRA).

They knew the 40 miles of trails in the forest must be maintained or it would lead to trail closures.

A former volunteer group that maintained the trails for the forest service no longer offered those services and for several years nothing was done.

Wagner and Gooding saw the trails becoming harder and harder to traverse. The children learning to ride could not make it through the sandy ruts and often quit out of frustration.

They decided they would fill the void and charter their own volunteer group.

“Our intent was to preserve our recreation opportunities and promote the fact that OHV riders are good stewards of the forest,” said Gooding.

“We had no agenda,” added Wagner. “We just wanted to help maintain and keep the trails a safe place to ride.”

Gooding explained that there is a perception that motorized vehicles do damage to the resources of the forest. “A lot of people don’t want us on federal land,” he said.

But members of CORRA adhere to all guidelines required of trail users, he said.

Gooding said their volunteers maintain (from the trail head and throughout) the entire 40 miles. There is a south loop and a north loop and they would like to add a third loop but there are obstacles to that. In the meantime, they’ve created a beginners loop with stadium seating for observation.

“The trails are sandy and smaller bikes don’t handle well in that type of sand. It is like riding a bike through the sand dunes,” he said.

They secured money for the construction cost through a Recreational Trails Program grant. The project took 15 days to complete with the help of only 12 volunteers and a total of 262 man hours.

They moved 42 truck loads of dirt, replacing it with clay while working three skidsteers and installed 200 feet of cedar fencing. They did all this with a budget of only $23,000.

Both Wagner and Gooding belonged to other OHV organizations, but had never started a club. They talked to Randy Kornegay, a newly hired recreation technician at Francis Marion National Forest. They discovered that Kornegay was as enthused about improving the trail system as they were. He told them to look into the National Off-Highway Vehicle Conservation Council (NOHVCC).

The NOHVCC offers a new club a start-up kit because their are volunteer groups like CORRA all over the country.

In January of 2011, they held their first meeting at Charleston Powersports in North Charleston. It was standing-room only as 75 people showed up, many joining the club that day.

CORRA contributed thousands of volunteer hours to trail maintenance in its first year. That’s because the club’s focus is on OHV trail management from a public land management point of view and not just a rider-user point of view.

CORRA and the Forest Service signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) and set up quarterly meetings to talk about ideas.

Knowing that the Forest Service has no federal dollars to put into trail maintenance, CORRA relies on RTP grant funds. CORRA has applied for additional grant funding to buy equipment and step up their trail grooming.

They were the recipients of a YAMHA grant used towards the purchase of signs for the trail system.

Also, using equipment provided by the forests service they took an estimated $45,000 project and built up the South Power Line section, installing proper drainage and safe covering of the underground gas lines. Using only volunteers instead of a contractor, CORRA trimmed the cost down to $17,000.

In addition, CORRA created a new rescue map for the Wambaw Trail System, including mile makers along the trail. Using another YAMAHA grant, CORRA purchased a tractor and other equipment to handle all future trail grooming.

Dirt bike riding is for all ages and genders. It is a strenuous sport and many take it very seriously, training continuously for racing and competition.

Wagner has been riding since he was eight years old. Gooding started riding as a way to spend time with his sons.

The men met out on the trails and became fast friends. Wagner explained that enthusiasts quickly get to know each other and are united by the pastime.

Enthusiasts in the sport are encouraged to become a member of CORRA. There are currently 56 members. The group’s interest is simple - “to take care of the environment while still being able to enjoy what it provides us,” Gooding said. All members are encouraged to be safe, responsible riders and follow all rules of the trails.

CORRA does not sponsor any races of riding events. It relies solely on the volunteer efforts of members and grant money. However, members do participate in trips to other riding areas.

Memberships are considered family memberships.

There are no other public trails within two hours of Charleston. Private trails are located in Swansea and Winnsboro and a public trail is located in the Manchester State Forest.

Nick Wagner is president of CORRA, Hal Gooding is past president and treasurer, Todd Fetterhoff is vice president and Tracy Fetterhoff is secretary and Richard McMahon is head of construction and equipment specialist for the group.

For more information on the Wambaw Cycle Trail, which is open to dirt bikes and ATVs under 50 inches, go to: http://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/scnfs/recarea/?recid=47319. To learn more about CORRA, visit: www.corrasc.com.

To become a member email corrasc@gmail.com.

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