BFG Outstanding Trails program. Click image to enlarge
Article and photos by Russell Purcell
Princeton, British Columbia – Last year, the BF Goodrich Tire Company established its Outstanding Trails program as a way to honour some of the best off-road trails in the United States as well as the people and organizations that work to maintain them and protect the surrounding environment. For 2007, the program was expanded to include Canada, as the BF Goodrich brand has long been a dominant player in the all-terrain segment of the Canadian light truck tire market. After a little research the Whipsaw Trail and its loyal keepers, members of the Rover-Landers of British Columbia (a registered non-profit society for Land Rover owners and enthusiasts in and around British Columbia) were selected as the recipients for the inaugural $4,000 grant.
“We selected five trails last year, which was the inaugural year for the program, “said Joe Mazur, light truck brand manager for BF Goodrich Tires. “This year we expanded the program by selecting six, with Whipsaw being the first one outside the United States. So far the program has been very well received.”
The Whipsaw Trail
Just outside scenic Princeton in southern British Columbia lies the famed Whipsaw Trail. This historic route cuts through some of the most beautiful backcountry in the province and features a variety of topography that includes everything from evergreen forests and rocky vistas, to alpine meadows and crystal clear lakes.
BFGoodrich�s Joe Mazur awards Dave Blair of the Rover Landers of BC a plaque to commemorate the club�s efforts in establishing the Whipsaw Trail as one of the tire company�s �Outstanding Trails.” Click image to enlarge
The trail itself traces its foundations to the early 1900’s when it was constructed to allow minerals from Lodestone Lake to be transported to nearby settlements, but its true roots go back even further to the days of the northwest fur trade.
The Whipsaw Trail has long been a favourite for off-road enthusiasts as it offers enough of a challenge to keep technical drivers entertained and the journey interesting, but at the same time, is gentle enough to keep your vehicle in one piece. This makes it a great place for a family adventure, or as is the case with the Rover-Landers of B.C., a club outing with close friends.
“The Whipsaw Trail offers something for every skill level and combines off-road adventure with unbelievable views,” continued Mazur. “We’re honoured to team up with groups like the Rover-Landers of British Columbia to help with conservation and ensure this area will continue to stay intact and safe for all future visitors.”
What’s the big deal?
In short, the big deal is that although we live in a country that seemingly offers vast expanses of wilderness for us to explore and enjoy at our leisure, the reality is that very few public areas remain that permit access to motorized vehicles. Parks, reserves and private holdings gobble up a large chunk of these lands each year, while tightening government regulations aimed at protecting the environment close off many kilometres of trails at the mere stroke of a pen.
Signs along the trail remind users that the wilderness is a fragile place and to keep vehicles from venturing off the trail. Click image to enlarge
Recreational off-roaders who choose to stray from established trails and tear up sensitive ecosystems are giving everyone a black-eye, as are the individuals who litter the trails with garbage and other debris.
Tireless volunteers, like the members of the Rover-Landers, work hard to restore sensitive areas and educate other trail users about the need to leave a small footprint behind. They represent our last hope in an effort to protect what remains of these vital access points. With the additional recognition and funding provided by BF Goodrich, the Outstanding Trails program allows clubs like the Rover-Landers to purchase signage to erect trailside in sensitive areas, as well as the tools required to extract abandoned vehicles or obvious road hazards.
“The Rover-Landers are doing a great job, whereas there are people out there that don’t act responsibly and are ruining it for others. Supporting the people that keep trails like the Whipsaw alive is important to BF Goodrich. Sure we are promoting responsibility and maintaining the trails, but we are also helping out something that allows us to sell tires,” added Mr. Mazur. “It would be great if other people (companies) would jump on the same bandwagon.”
BFG Outstanding Trails program. Click image to enlarge
That would be good news as inclusion in the Outstanding Trails program is not enough to ensure a trail’s future as a viable recreational area. One of last year’s selections is currently under legal threat of permanent closure as a handful of environmental groups, several layers of government, off-roaders and the U.S. Forest Service prepare to face off in court over some water quality and erosion issues that have cropped up along the trails of the Upper Tellico Off-Road Vehicle (ORV) Area in Tennessee. Much like the Rover-Landers with their stewardship of the Whipsaw, the Southern Four-Wheel Drive Association has invested thousands of dollars and countless hours of volunteer labour to restore trails and the surrounding environment, with a dedicated focus on protecting and preserving stream quality in the region. Unfortunately, their efforts appear to be getting overlooked due to the number of parties involved, and good corporate citizens like BF Goodrich can only do so much.
BF Goodrich Outstanding Trails program. Click image to enlarge
“One of our trails last year was Tellico, in Tennessee. The off-road community in that region was involved in several big battles. In fact, we just filmed a segment for one of our television ads that initially was going to be shot on that trail. We were planning on going up there with one of our rock crawler guys to shoot some scenes, but it was all shut down by a government injunction. We had to go somewhere else.”
When asked about future plans for Canada, Mr. Mazur said that they (BFG) are always willing to look at proposals. “The big thing is to find a trail and a group like the Rover-Landers that we can partner up with. We worked with the United Four-Wheel Drive Association (UFWDA) and Tread Lightly! because these two organizations know which people and clubs are doing their part to maintain trails for everyone to enjoy.”
Club members air down their tires at the entrance to the trail to widen the footprint and maximize traction.. Click image to enlarge
“Whenever we nominate a trail we are obviously looking for a trail that is unique, picturesque, and well-known, but we are also looking for a group that has a proven history of trail maintenance as well. Each of the clubs will get an annual grant to help them with their efforts. When you think about it, we sell a lot of tires, especially to off-roaders. Part of the attraction for BFG is that many of our customers grew up learning to off-road on trails like these, in trucks wearing our tires. That is quite a legacy. As long as the trails are open we will be able to sell more tires.”
“The Rover Landers are a great example for other clubs interested in the program. They have been around for over two decades so are well established and involved in the community. Their commitment to the preservation of the wilderness area around the Whipsaw Trail is so strong that virtually every week of the year someone is up maintaining the trail. We definitely want to expand the Outstanding Trails program further, but need to make the right contacts to find the best trails and people to allow us to move forward.”
The Outstanding Trails
1) Black Bear Pass, Durango, Colorado
2) Naches Pass, Naches, Washington
3) Pyeatt Draw, Payson, Arizona
4) Hell’s Revenge, Moab, Utah
5) Upper Tellico, Natahala National Forest, Tennessee
1) Redbird State Riding Area, Indiana
2) Tillamook State Forest, Oregon
3) Rubicon Trail, Lake Tahoe, California
4) Poughkeepsie Gulch, Colorado
5) Whipsaw Trail, Princeton, B.C.
6) Flat Nasty, Jadwin, Missouri