Did you hear an engine revving Saturday night? That wasn't an all-terrain vehicle. That was the sound of organization.
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Frustrated by the scarcity of trails for off-the-highway vehicles, the Juneau Rough Riders are changing gears. They met this weekend to raise community support, find out who's interested and to share information about trails for ATVs, dirt bikes, snowmachines and more.
"We know there are a lot of people out there," said James Tipps, the group's chief executive officer. "We just don't know how many are interested in getting this accomplished in the right way."
What do the off-roaders want to accomplish? Finding room where they can ride responsibly, they say.
Currently, they have less than seven miles of trails to ride in the Juneau area, according to Tipps. Many riders squeeze onto the beach at Echo Cove, but it gets crowded.
Many of the local machine-lovers, such as the approximately 20 members of Rough Riders, just want a safe place for their children to cruise.
Critics may say the OHVs are dangerous, but Tipps said they can be family-oriented and safe for anybody with the proper training. His group was created about eight months ago after several families became friends over the years while camping and riding at Echo Cove. Now they want to see if they can join forces and open more trails.
"OHV-users get looked at as outlaws, riding over the edge with no rhyme or reason about damage to the environment," Tipps said. "But we're a big supporter of doing things the right way, keeping the natural lands natural and not destroying things."
Enthusiasts are responding.
Jerry Allison wanted to attend the meeting and learn more about the group because he goes riding with his 5- and 7-year-old sons. An ATV-rider since his youth, the 33-year-old said he has seen several locations closed down over the years.
"It would be nice to have a place where we could teach our kids the freedom of off-road riding and ATV use," Allison said.
He said Southeast towns such as Skagway and Hoonah have more areas for OHV-use than Juneau. Hoonah has logging roads. But Juneau's longest trail is Montana Creek Trail, 1.8 miles long, he said.
"Almost every town has a place that one can ride for more than two miles," he said.
One of the Rough Riders' goals is to explore how to open up a 20-acre property on Eaglecrest Road. Tipps described the area as a city-owned rock quarry with a clear cut behind it.
More immediately, he wants riders to get together and create "one voice."
"We decided that there was a lot that needs to be done around here," Tipps said.
Ken Lewis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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