|By TIM THORNBERRY
HINDMAN, Ky. — Last year the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) released a report that said Kentucky had recorded the nation’s fastest-growing death rate for all-terrain vehicle (ATV) users from 2002-04; this year a new tourism park initiative hopes to change some of that with the introduction of a new ATV trail and training facility.
The Adventure Tourism Park System will be a part of a twelve county initiative called the sKYward Trails and will be home to a variety of outdoor trails for hiking, horses, elk watching as well as ATV and dirt bike use. The park will also contain an environmental education center to ensure all the activities will coincide with nature.
ATV and off-road vehicle riders will have the opportunity to ride on trails specifically made for their vehicles while having the opportunity to participate in training activities in order to become more competent operators.
Kentucky is ranked 15 in the nation in sales of ATVs according to Economic Research Associates of Washington with more than 20,000 purchased last year with nationwide sales going from 436,000 to 797,000 units during a five-year period from 1998 to 2002.
Debby Spencer, director of Business/ Tourism Development for the development firm We Make Thing Happen (WMTH) is spearheading the team that is researching, marketing and planning the series of trails and the facilities that will be a part of the park, said one of the main purposes for the facility is to bring different kinds of activities together to co-exist with the natural environment that surrounds the area.
“We want to build a facility that has a built-in component for children to learn safety and responsibility for the environment,” she said. “State officials including those from the Department of Fish and Wildlife are supportive of this and realize that ATVs are a part of Eastern Kentucky culture and this facility will be a place people with different interests can all can co-exist.”
The park has already hosted a horse trail riding event last week with hundreds of participants from all over the region and other states coming to camp and ride. Kentucky Gov. Ernie Fletcher rode in on horseback to greet the crowd and show his support along with many state and local officials.
A groundbreaking for the ATV training center will take place on Oct. 16. The facility will provide operators of off-road vehicles a chance to enhance their abilities and receive industry certification on their respective vehicles.
“This portion of the park will have a skills-test area to learn maneuvers on different kinds of terrain and experience life-like situations before riders go out into the field,” said Spencer. “It will also be the only facility with a training facility, a field test area and real riding trails that will connect with others that are a part system of trails in 14 different counties.”
Honda, a top motorcycle and ATV manufacturer has offered assistance as well, providing the training vehicles for the program and offering $100 gift certificates to all those who purchase a Honda product and go through the training and receive their certification. The training facility is expected to be completed by the spring of 2007.
While the park will be an economic development engine for the area, an increased focus by the state has been placed on the safety of off-road vehicles in particular ATVs after the release of the CPSC findings that includes a provision requiring all operators of ATVs must wear proper protective headgear while riding on public land and persons under the age of 16 cannot operate an all-terrain vehicle except under direct parental supervision.
ATVs used for agricultural, mining, logging, business, commercial or industrial activities, as well as those used on private property were exempt from the new regulations.
Last month the CPSC launched a campaign to help decrease the number of deaths and injuries sustained in ATV accidents each year.
At a press conference, CPSC Acting Chairman Nancy Nord along with National 4-H Council CEO and President Donald Floyd and NASCAR Racing Legend Richard Petty gathered together to announce the program and discuss some of it objectives.
“ATVs are not toys, especially adult ATVs, which can travel at 60 miles per hour and weigh up to 800 pounds,’” said Nord. “Children should only ride youth model ATVs – there have been too many children killed while driving or riding as a passenger on adult ATVs.”
The CPSC campaign will include television and radio public service announcements, the creation of a new website for riders, parents, trainers, local and state officials, and the media and partnerships with organizations and officials dedicated to promoting ATV safety among others.
For more information about ATV safety, visit www.ATVSafety.gov
For more information about the Adventure Tourism Park System or sKYward Trails, visit www.trailsrus.com
This farm news was published in the Oct. 11, 2006 issue of Farm World, serving Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee.