Archive | November, 2012

Letter regarding Sportsmen’s Heritage Act of 2012


December 5, 2012

Senator Mark Udall                    
Att: Jill Ozarski                       
via email only

Senator Michael Bennet
Att: John Whitney

Re:  Sportsmen’s Heritage Act of 2012

Dear Ms. Ozarski and Mr. Whitney;

Both of you are very familiar with the history of the above Organizations, so we are avoiding a discussion of our history and missions of the Organizations.  While our Organizations are primarily targeting motorized access to public lands, a significant portion of our members are also active hunters and fisherman. The Organizations believe Sportsmen’s Heritage Act of 2012 (S. 3525) is a benefit to outdoor recreational users, but also has inadvertently created threats to public access.  The Organizations believe these impacts must be mitigated prior to adoption of this legislation. As such we ask you to review and amend §201, 204, 207, as these provisions are overly broad and will divert resources away from actual management of issues and towards limiting access to lands instead. Many of these management issues simply have no relationship to the issue that is sought to be addressed.

The Sportsmen’s  Heritage Act is very broad legislation that is the result of combining numerous other smaller pieces of legislation.   The Heritage Act provides significant benefits to Sportsmen, such as funding for shooting ranges from Pittman Roberts money and Land and Water Conservation Funds and allowing regulation of ammunition and fishing tackle manufacture at the state level.  As you are both aware, there functionally are no public  shooting range opportunities on Federal lands in Colorado.  This results  in significant safety and resource concerns from unmanaged shooting on public lands, which should be addressed.  While there are significant benefits from this legislation, the union of so many individual bills has resulted in the inclusion of several provisions that could significantly negatively impact public access to public lands or direct federal monies away from issues that really are negatively impacting a resource issue.

Our first concern involves Title II Section 201 which would  effectively create a new definition for “aquatic habitat.” The term is defined broadly and includes “any areas on which an aquatic organism  depends, directly or indirectly, to carry out the life processes of the organism, including an area used by the organism for spawning, incubation,  nursery, rearing, growth to maturity, food supply, or migration.”  Additionally, the term includes areas adjacent to an aquatic environment that “serves as a buffer” or “protects the quality and quantity of water  resources.” One could argue that all of the land our members ride on falls under this definition.  This definition must be tailored so that the analysis area for planning has a direct relationship to the benefit conferred. Changing management of all watersheds to address some rather minimal concerns regarding fishing tackle makes little sense. 

As I am sure you are aware, the USGS and Forest Service have routinely determined that  most water quality  issues in Colorado result from old mines that were abandoned and that remain open.  This results in water entering the mine or tailings become toxic to adjacent waterways.  We have to question if this is an issue that can be managed or included in a Sportsmen’s bill. Forest Service research and regulations have also concluded that the single largest threat to public watersheds and water supplies is poor forest health from the mountain pine beetle epidemic.  Again, the Organizations must question if this impact can be resolved  by a Sportsmen’s bill  creating buffer zones.  The Organizations believe this type of analysis will only lead to limited resources being used to reanalyze issues that we are already aware do not have impacts on water quality.
Moreover, the Organizations  oppose Sec. 204 and Sec. 207 because the bill mandates that  the federal Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Forest Service cooperate to “conserve” “aquatic habitat” as broadly defined in Sec. 201. This will impose broad restrictions on all BLM/USFS activities and be a priority over the Federal Land Policy and Management Act’s multiple-use requirements.

These provisions create significant concern for our Organizations. Cutthroat trout management provides a good example of why our Organizations are concerned about the long term implications of this standard. The Fish and Wildlife Service has clearly concluded the main reasons for the cutthroats decline were hybridization, competition with nonnative salmonids, and overharvest from the introduction of 750 million threats to the cutthroat under previous management policies.  The Organizations have to question if further analysis of these types of issues really are necessary for management of these waters.  The Organizations believe that further analysis will merely cloud management of these activities.
Additionally, Sec. 204 allows projects to be automatically “approved” should the secretaries fail to respond to recommendations within 180 days. Besides allowing for automatic approvals, the bill delegates authority to the secretary to “promulgate such regulations” as “determine[d] to be necessary to carry out this subtitle” (Sec. 210).
If S. 3525 becomes law, as written, anti-access advocates and the administration could usurp congressional authority by administrative fiat  concerning the disposition of public lands. This bill has far-reaching implications because the BLM/USFS manages millions of acres of public land  nationwide.

Scott Jones
CO-Chairman COHVCO
Vice President – Colorado Snowmobile Assoc.







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Update to the Bear Creek issue in Colorado Springs


November 26, 2012


I am writing to address the significant interest regarding recent announcements of a “ban” on motorcycle use of the popular trail along Bear Creek outside Colorado Springs.  There is more to the story than was unfortunately reported inaccurately by the Colorado Springs Gazette in its story posted online at 8:54 p.m. on November 21. (see  The Gazette story jumped the gun and misstated some key facts.

First, the story fails to explain the “settlement” is PROPOSED and has not been approved by the Court.  In fact, by order issued at 9:36 a.m. on Monday, November 26, the Court DENIED the settlement as presented..  The reference in the article to the Forest Service having “10 days to ban the vehicles” fails to note that the 10 days runs from Court approval of the settlement.  Obviously that has not yet occurred and will not occur until the USFS and Plaintiff Center for Biological Diversity address the Court’s concerns.

Second, the CMTRA, TPA and COHVCO are interveners in this lawsuit.  This means several things.  We have formal party status in the case, and can provide input to the Court on the settlement.  The settlement comes as no surprise and we have been monitoring the negotiations between the USFS and CBD through our counsel, who has decades of experience in dozens of public lands recreation lawsuits and similar situations.

Third, the story conspicuously omits mention of the fact that in the proposed settlement the Forest Service admits none of CBD’s allegations or claims, and agrees only to “temporary closures” of specified trails on Forest Service land near Bear Creek.  The settlement refers to completion of a Forest Service “watershed assessment” which was planned before CBD filed its suit and “consultation” with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at the outcome of that assessment.  A possible outcome(s) following conclusion of these agency activities may include the  resumption of motorcycle use on one or more of the trails mentioned in the settlement.

Fourth, the practical significance of the “ban” cannot be evaluated until the agency assessment is completed.  The primary trail of interest, Trail 667, lies deep in a canyon on primarily north-aspect slopes and is effectively closed from at least December through March most years by weather.  In other words, no one meaningfully rides 667 during the winter regardless of the settlement.  A nonmotorized route, Trail 666, is traveled daily by many users, yet reflects unimproved crossings and sedimentation issues at least as great as those of the motorized route 667 conveniently ignored by CBD.   It is at least conceivable that the agency activities required by the settlement might be completed prior to resumption of the 2013 “season” for motorcycle use of Trail 667.  We believe the timing and specific language of the settlement agreement reflect awareness of these factors and the relative procedural ease with which the CBD case can be side-stepped by the agencies.

CMTRA, TPA and COHVCO have been participating in a “roundtable” process at Bear Creek  alongside many other groups including nonmotorized recreationists, Trout Unlimited, and the City of Colorado Springs.  This roundtable predates the CBD suit and has resulted in numerous improvements to the motorized and nonmotorized trails along Bear Creek and will continue to seek long-term management solutions.  We appreciate your awareness of the complete story in forming an opinion about the Bear Creek trails and any support you can provide for the ongoing efforts of the CMTRA, TPA and COHVCO.







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Bangs Canyon Preliminary EA


November 13, 2012


November 13, 2012
BLM Grand  Junction Field Office
Attention:  Chris Pipkin
2815 H Road
Grand Junction, CO  81506

RE: Bangs Canyon Preliminary EA

Dear Mr. Pipkin;

Please accept this correspondence as the comments of the above Organizations in vigorous support of the multiple use trail proposal (“The Proposal”) in the Bangs Canyon area of the Grand Junction BLM Office.  The Organizations believe a brief description of each Organization will assist in understanding of these comments. COHVCO is a grassroots advocacy organization of approximately 2,500 members seeking to represent, assist, educate, and empower all OHV recreationists in the protection and promotion of off-highway motorized recreation throughout Colorado. COHVCO is an environmental organization that advocates and promotes the responsible use and conservation of our public lands and natural resources to preserve their aesthetic and recreational qualities for future generations.

TPA is a 100 percent volunteer organization whose intention is to be a viable partner, working with the United States Forest Service (USFS) and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to preserve the sport of trail riding.  The TPA acts as an advocate for the sport and takes the necessary action to ensure that the USFS and BLM allocate a fair and equitable percentage of public land access to trail riding.

Collectively, COHVCO and TPA are referred to as “the Organizations” for purposes of these comments. The Organizations believe the proposal is a significant benefit for multiple use trail users.  Maintaining multiple use opportunities on the entire trail network is a significant benefit to all users seeking to enjoy the trail network and access to other resources that this network will provide.

The predominate trail type to be developed under the Bangs Canyon proposal is single track multiple use trails, a trail type of which there is currently a critical shortage in the state of Colorado. While the largest shortages of routes has been found in the single track motorized trail networks, there have been large scale closures of motorized routes on other planning offices, which has heightened the importance of any new trails that are opened for all motorized users. The White River National Forest is currently implementing a travel plan that closes over 30% of their routes, the GMUG National Forest is implementing closures of 35% of their motorized routes, the Colorado River Valley BLM Office proposes closure of over 40% of their routes. These closures are being undertaken as the population of Colorado continues to increase at rates far above the national average and the demand for multiple use access continues to increase.  Obviously these closures will not be absorbed completely by the Bangs Canyon area, but the Organizations believe these closures  will clearly heighten the value of any new trails to all multiple use users of public lands.

2.  The Proposal will generate a significant positive economic impact

Given the closures of routes on adjacent public lands, the Organizations beleive that any calculations regarding the economic  impact of the Proposal at this point  are probably low. The Organizations vigorously believe that the proposed trail network will be a significant economic benefit to the Colorado economy and the communities adjacent to the Bangs Canyon area.  COHVCO’s 2009 OHV Economic Impact Study concluded that registered OHV recreation provides over $1 billion dollars a year to the Colorado economy and the communites in and around Bangs Canyon experience an annual economic benefit of over $40 million dollars and directly create over 500 jobs annually in these counties.   A copy of the COHVCO  economic impact study  is enclosed with these comments for your reference.

Other sources have identified multiple use trails as a significant economic contributor to rural economies.  Forest Service research indicates that a multiple usage trail network is an effective tool for the development of local economies.  This research specifically concluded:

“Recreation and tourism economies are the mainstay for rural counties with high percentages of public land. Actions by public agencies to reduce or limit access to for recreation have a direct impact on local pocket books. Limiting access by closing roads, campgrounds, RV parking, and trails for all or one special interests group will impact surrounding communities. Visitors to public lands utilize nearby communities for food, lodging and support facilities.”1

The Forest service targeting of trail networks as an effective tool for local economic development is based on the long track record of success that surrounds these types of projects.  The Hatfield McCoy trail network in West Virginia added over 10 million dollars of spending a year to one of the poorest counties in the US.2   The Paiute Trail System in southern Utah, which has become a destination for Colorado riders seeking single track trail experiences contributes, contributes similar amounts to the communities the trail network travels through.

The Organizations believe the Proposal will be a benefit to the local economy. While the scale of this benefit is unclear, the Organizations believe that the clear benefit of the Proposal weighs in favor of moving forward with the  Proposal.

3.  The minimal impacts to various resources outlined in the preliminary EA are consistent with research which indicates OHV users are a highly law abiding user group on public lands.

There are numerous sections of the preliminary EA regarding various resource concerns, which must be more completely addressed in the development of the Bangs Canyon trail network.  The Organizations believe protection of these resources is a critical component of any multiple use area.  The Organizations believe that the proposed trail network will effectively minimize resource impacts both through trail layout and notice of restrictions to the users of the trail networks to the public. The Proposal and multiple use trail network are entirely consistent with Bangs Canyon SRMA designation and requirements, which have been made to locate trail networks in the proper locations in the Grand Junction BLM office.

The Organizations now can provide concrete information regarding the high compliance with posted restrictions that is exhibited by the OHV community as preliminary findings have been released relative to the Colorado OHV law enforcement pilot project.  The law enforcement pilot program developed by Colorado Parks and Wildlife to analyze alleged law enforcement concerns with OHV recreation with the use of professionally trained law enforcement officers.  This Pilot was developed in partnership with the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management and is providing some of the first concrete information regarding law enforcement concerns involving OHV recreation. A copy of the preliminary findings of the report are enclosed with these comments to allow for a more complete understanding of the pilot methodology and veracity of its findings.

The OHV law enforcement pilot program was created to address assertions of a compelling need to stop resource damage from OHV misuse at locations identified as violation “hotspots” by those seeking to limit public access to public lands.  While the Bangs Canyon  area was not identified as a hotspot for targeted enforcement, the Organizations believe these findings remain highly relevant to this discussion.  The law enforcement pilot program deployed additional trained professional law enforcement officers, funded by monies from the OHV registration funds, at  these “hotspots” during heavy usage times to supplement existing law enforcement resources in these areas.  As part of the pilot, the additional officers we required to keep logs of their contacts for reporting purposes.

The findings of this pilot clearly identify that these “hotspots” for OHV violations were anything but “hotspots”.  Over last summer, officers involved in the pilot program contacted over 10,000 people.  This is an astoundingly large sampling as there are only 160,000 registered OHVs in Colorado.  This pilot program found that less than 5% of riders committed any violations.   The overwhelming percentage of these violations were people not registering their OHV.  Only 1.5% of contacts involved activities, other than failing to register OHVs, where the officer found the activity serious enough to warrant the issuance of a citation.

Additional research from the BLM’s Alpine Ranger program outside of Durango also indicates that OHV users are highly compliant with posted restrictions.   These reports found similar exceptionally low levels of violations from OHV activity, even when an area is targeted for law enforcement activity.   A copy of those reports are enclosed with these comments for your review.

The Organizations believe the conclusions of this groundbreaking research are highly relevant here and will provide a high degree of comfort to those with concerns about law enforcement or resource concerns and the Proposal.

4.  Wildlife Concerns

The possible impact of recreation on wildlife is  addressed in the Proposal, and is an issue that has been extensively researched by the Forest Service’s Rocky Mountain Research Station.  While the Research Station has centered on winter motorized recreation, these findings are completely relevant to addressing management of summer recreation as researchers agree that any negative impacts to wildlife would be more easily recognized during winter periods when stress is greater on the animals.  This research has uniformly concluded usage of OHV’s has little to no impact on wildlife and Forest Service studies repeatedly and specifically stating:

“Based on these population-level results, we suggest that the debate regarding effects of human winter recreation on wildlife in Yellowstone is largely a social issue as opposed to a wildlife management issue. ”3

The Organizations are very aware that often closures to motorized recreational access are based on a desire to “do something” to address public outcry on a perceived wildlife issue rather than a clear scientific basis tying  recreation to a particular management issue or species. The Organizations believe these “do something” decisions often results in limited agency resources being directed to management of issues that simply will never actually address the concern or issue with the species.   While we are not aware of significant public opposition to the Proposal, “do something” management for species must be avoided and management decisions must be based on good science to allow the decision to remedy the true issues that may be impacting a species in the area.

5.  Conclusion

The Organizations are vigorous supporters of the Proposal and vigorously believe the trail network must remain a multiple use trail network to allow for the largest benefit to the largest user group.  The Proposal would provide a significant economic benefit to the adjacent communities and would have minimal resource risks as newly released research specifically concludes that the OHV community is a highly law abiding community when they are notified of the restrictions.

If you would like a copy of any of the reports relied on in these comments or have questions please feel free to contact  Scott Jones at 508 Ashford Drive, Longmont CO 80504.  His phone is (518)281-5810.


John Bonngiovanni
Chairman and President
Colorado OHV Coalition

Don.E. Riggle
Director of Operations
Trails Preservation Alliance

Scott Jones, Esq.
COHVCO CO-Chairman



1 Humston et al; USFS Office of Rural Development; Jobs, Economic Development and Sustainable Communities
Strategizing Policy Needs and Program Delivery for Rural California; February 2010 at pgs 51-52

2 Marshall University Center for Business and Economic Research; Final Report; The Economic Impact of the Hatfield~McCoy Trail System in West Virginia; October 31, 2006 at pg 3.

3PJ White & Troy Davis.  Wildlife responses to motorized winter recreation in Yellowstone.   USFS 2005 Annual Report  at Pg 1







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AMA article on the 2012 Trail Awareness Symposium


November 13, 2012


Worth Fighting For
Colorado 600 Trails Awareness Symposium Showcases Off-Road Paradise
by James Holter

American Motorcyclist
December 2012

(download PDF to see photos)

At 12,500 feet above sea level, a KTM 300 XCW doesn’t feel like a 300cc dirtbike. It feels more like a 200cc dirtbike— one with a rag stuffed in the airbox. Elevation is absolute. Power, it seems, is relative.

But a lack of torque isn’t stopping the 10 riders in this group, on a range of two- and four-stroke machines of multiple brands and displacements. A handful of the 80 or so participants in the 2012 Colorado 600 Trails Awareness Symposium, they are clutching, throttling, dabbing and, occasionally, pushing their way a few hundred feet higher toward the 13,200-foot summit of the highest point in Colorado’s Rio Grande County. It’s a struggle for some. Not so much for others. One rider, eight-time AMA National Enduro Champion and Husaberg factory rider Mike Lafferty, makes the climb effortlessly. Unlike horsepower, talent apparently is the same at any elevation. Eventually, all riders conquer the loose, rocky climb without much drama—although everyone’s lungs get a tremendous workout. That’s a good thing because the view at the top is breathtaking. The summit provides a 360-degree vista of Colorado’s San Luis Valley. To the northeast are the San Francisco Lakes— pockets of blue in the shadows of rocky cliffs and green-speckled mountainsides reaching toward a deep blue sky and puffy white clouds. To the southwest is more of the Rio Grande National Forest and, even better, miles of single-track trail, just below the tree line, that a few in this group will experience on the final day of this four-day trail ride. It’s an amazing place—one made all the more reachable because of off-highway motorcycle access.

One reason these trails remain open is Don Riggle. The AMA Life Member could spend his afternoons in a rowboat somewhere, fishing and floating away his retirement. Instead, he prefers to clear trail, map routes, write letters, make phone calls, coordinate professional consultants, attend U.S. Forest Service meetings and 40 do whatever else it takes to keep public land open for responsible off-highway motorcyclists in the state of Colorado. Riggle’s organizational vehicle for this effort is the Colorado Trails Preservation Alliance, or TPA. The TPA ( is a volunteer organization that works to protect the right to ride public trails. The Colorado 600 Trails Awareness Symposium is part of that effort. “People come to Colorado from out of state to ride here—from California, Arizona, Kentucky, Kansas, Texas, Oklahoma,” Riggle says. “They come here and use the trails, have a good time and spend a little bit of money and leave. The local clubs are left with [the responsibility] of keeping the trails open. If you’re coming to Colorado to ride, you need to help because if you don’t help, the riding is not going to last.” The Colorado 600 contributes in two ways. First, riders pay a fee that includes a donation to the TPA. The donation funds efforts to protect access. Second, the ride shows off the amazing trails and backcountry that make Colorado one of the world’s most amazing places to ride a dirtbike. After experiencing the incredible riding, participants are persuaded to do even more. The trails sell themselves. It works with Lafferty. “I love riding dirtbikes, and having Brandi enjoy this with me and showing her what we do is important,” says Lafferty, whose girlfriend, Brandi Hermanson, joined him. “The state of Colorado is epic. It has some of the best trails, and we’ve got to keep them open. We’ve got to fight for it. We’ve got to tell people that these trails are out here and that it’s a great place to ride and keep open.”

The Colorado 600 is not just a ride. It’s an educational symposium that features representatives from off-highway vehicle rights organizations. Each morning before the group embarks on another perfect day of riding, they are treated not just to an impressive breakfast spread that includes all the calories they can eat, but comments from those directly involved in the fight to keep trails open. This year, the speaker list included Riggle from the TPA; John Bongiovanni from the Colorado Off-Highway Vehicle Coalition; AMA Board of Directors Chairman Stan Simpson, who also represented the Texas Sidewinders MC, which provided organization support for the ride; AMA Vice President for Government Relations Wayne Allard; and AMA Vice President for Industry Relations Jim Williams, who spoke about the need for individuals and businesses with a common interest in off-road recreation to protect the sport. Allard’s comments reflected Colorado’s position as one of the country’s most contested areas in terms of access. “Colorado and its off-highway motorcycle trails are one of the world’s treasures, and it’s important that we work together to protect and promote access to this region,” said Allard, who served as a U.S. senator from Colorado before he came to work for the AMA. “Wilderness designations remain one of the most active threats against responsible off-highway vehicle access, and Colorado is on the front lines of this fight.” Bongiovanni spoke about the need for the off-highway vehicle community to make itself heard. He said that most agencies do not see off-roaders as enemies but sometimes see closing down Don Riggle The AMA’s Wayne Allard addresses riders on the Colorado 600. December 2012 41 trails amid a vocal anti-access push as the path of least resistance. “Many people at the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management have said to me, ‘You guys need to speak up,’ Bongiovanni said during his talk. “There has to be a more vocal group on the promotorized side. We’ve got to get involved. That’s what I’d like you guys to go out and preach.”

The Colorado 600 stages out of a small inn in Southern Colorado. The community welcomes the riders with open arms. Locals smile and wave. Drivers are courteous. Signs in front of gas stations acknowledge the event and thank participants for coming. But although the riders stay and eat (for the most part) locally, the ride also sees them patronizing several other small towns in the area. One favorite loop includes a small convenience story/restaurant/gas station. The hamburgers are excellent, the fuel is combustible, and the service is Herculean—particularly when multiple groups of hungry dirtbikers arrive over the course of a few hours on a Tuesday afternoon. This route, followed by nine riders on the second day of the Colorado 600, includes a trip over a 12,000-foot pass and back down several thousand feet to a rocky valley of two-track and challenging single-track trail. One tight section, complete with hair-turn switchbacks, parallels a postcard-perfect mountain stream. It’s an unforgettable reminder that you’re not in the Midwest anymore. “Starting out from one central location each morning and, depending on how you feel that day, being able to take a different route is really neat,” says Jon Eide, who works for Bell Helmets and is on his second Colorado 600. “The guides, who are local, can take you out and give you a beating or take you into some of the most beautiful country you can see anywhere.” Base camp is around 8,200 feet above sea level. Routes can go lower, but most extend as much as 5,000 feet higher, above the tree line and into the oxygenthin, horsepower-sapping atmosphere that defines the region. “What can riders expect who have never ridden here? Rocks, and rocks and a couple more rocks,” says Jason Elliot, a TPA board member and one of the Colorado 600 trail guides. “But we also have some excellent single-track, some good two-track and some fun forest roads. I love this ride.”

Riggle says he knows exactly who will save off-highway motorcycle trail riding. “Everything revolves around money,” Riggle says. “You can’t expect a 25-yearold kid or a family man with kids in college and a house payment to give a lot of money. But there are a lot of 50-, 60-, 70-year-old guys who want to protect the future for their grandkids. They want their grandkids to enjoy riding motorcycles on public land, and they are willing to put some money out. I saw the 600 as an opportunity to bring these guys together and use their resources to help the TPA.” The next step, he says, is evolving the TPA from a reactionary organization into a proactive one. To do that, he says, there must be a top-to-bottom network of organizations, with each level having a clear role in the fight to keep trails open. “You need local clubs in the area to work with the district ranger. You need regional clubs like the TPA or Colorado Off-Highway Vehicle Coalition to work at a state level, and then you need organizations like the AMA to work in Washington, D.C.,” he says. Riggle’s rationale for getting involved is simple. It’s how he wants to use his time. “I’ve been putting rides on in this state for 32 years,” Riggle says. “I’ve done industry rides. I’ve done charity rides, and now I’m doing rides that will save the sport of off-road motorcycle riding.” Ride The Colorado 600

Want to be a part of the Colorado 600 in 2013? There may be a spot for you. However, don’t wait to the last minute and try to sign up. Rob Watt, who helps organize the event, says currently the Colorado 600 can only accommodate 75 to 90 men or women riders due to constraints of the host hotel and the permit issued by the Forest Service. But anyone can apply to participate, he says. Selection is not necessarily on a first-come, firstserved basis, however. Riders must be properly insured and licensed, and motorcycles must be registered and meet the state of Colorado’s street legality laws. Those who meet the requirements move to the head of the line. One thing is true, though. The sooner you get in your application, the better chance you’ll have to get accepted for the ride. “If you want to get involved in this ride, just go to our website—www.—and fill out an application,” Watt says. “Applications will usually be available Feb. 1 the year of the ride.”







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