Posted: October 26, 2010
The Iowa Department of Natural Resources will open three designated Off Highway Vehicle parks for use by Off-Road Utility Vehicles (ORVs) beginning at sunrise on October 30. The parks are Nicholson Ford in Marshall County, Lakeview OHV park in Johnson County, and Tama OHV park in Tama County.
“We worked with the clubs, dealers, manufactures and looked at what other states have done to create a survey we could use in the parks to make sure that adding these vehicles would not conflict with other users and would not damage the areas,” said David Downing, coordinator for the Iowa DNR’s Off Highway Vehicle program.
He said some of the criteria they used to survey the park included a visual component to determine if a rider could see other users coming and a physical component, to examine if the trails were proper width to accommodate the wider vehicles. They also looked at what, if any, modifications would be necessary for the park to handle the vehicles and the impact on the park maintenance.
“We operated different machines of different sizes to see how the park would respond and what the park had to offer,” Downing said. “These three parks passed the survey and will be opened on October 30. We will also look at our remaining parks to see if any others would be suitable for ORVs.”
The designation that will allow ORVs in the parks began two years ago as consumers and the manufacturing industry shifted toward these vehicles with bench seats that allowed two or more passengers to ride. The vehicles, equipped with roll cages, were increasingly popular with hunters and with ice anglers, farmers and acreage owners. But other than during the winter on frozen lakes, the owners had no legal place to ride on public land.
Downing said it was common for him to be on the phone with someone who just bought an ORV and was looking for advice.
“They would call and say ‘I just bought this, I got it registered, now where can I ride it?’” he said. “This is a big deal because there has not been a legal place for these vehicles before. Now they have that place.”
The three parks that will allow ORVs beginning Saturday are part of eight OHV parks in Iowa. The parks currently attract OHV and ATV riders from other states due to their unique features of trails in a contained park and trail maintenance. Other states usually only offer linear trails.
There are no fees to ride in the park, but riders are required to have and display a current DNR vehicle registration decal. The registration fees are used to support the program, which helps to fund the parks.
“The ORV owners would have to go out of state to ride legally. With the three parks allowing these vehicles, they can stay here and ride much closer to home,” Downing said.
The DNR has a list of parks and rules on its website at http://www.iowadnr.gov/law/atv/parks.html.
What is an Off-Road Utility Vehicle?
According to the DNR, Off-Road Utility Vehicle means a motorized flotation-tire vehicle with not less than four and not more than eight low-pressure tires that is limited in engine displacement to less than 1,500 cubic centimeters and in total dry weight to not more than 1,800 pounds and that has a seat that is of bucket or bench design, not intended to be straddled by the operator, and a steering wheel or control levers for control.
ORVs are also known as side-by-sides, or common brand/model names Razor, Rhino, Ranger or Mule.