Texas Off Highway Vehicle Program (OHV)

Program Videos: Community Issues

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One of the best ways to discover the beauty of Texas... is to get off of the highway, beyond the skyscrapers and complex highway systems... and see it for yourself.

The lone star state is stretched over 200 million acres. It's one of the largest states in the nation; but despite over 600 miles of coast line, numerous rivers and parks, it's mostly private property.

There's not much land for people to enjoy. Texas parks and wildlife is blazing new trails that will allow families and outdoor enthusiasts a chance to experience Texas off the beaten path...

[Bobby Beamer, National OHV Conservation Council]
Texas is 97% private property and because of that we don't have a lot of state and federal land available like there is out in the west.

Texas also has the 2nd highest number of sales of off-road vehicles, ATVs, and dirt bikes, dual sport bikes, that sort of thing.

We have about a half million ATVs in Texas right now and there's no state park system or system of private parks that's organized well enough to give these people the venues they need and to give the families the recreation they need.

The demand for more safe; managed park area designed for families to enjoy off-road recreational vehicles has led to the development of the new "off-highway vehicle" or "OHV" program.

The OHV program creates new off road trails and improves existing paths for ATV's, non-street legal motorcycles and 4 wheel drive vehicles.

Most sites offer hiking and camping facilities, so families can enjoy the trails and other park activities during the day -- and the big Texas stars around the campfire at night.

[Bobby Beamer, National OHV Conservation Council]
Families is what it is all about, and it was when my son got involved I realized that my dad, I realized my dad had taught me and I had had to stay and find places to ride when I was a kid,

and now my son was coming in and he was going through the same thing. And that's when I realized that we had to do something in Texas to develop off-road recreation areas.

There are 15 OHV parks scattered across Texas. The first park was built near the east Texas town of Gilmer.

[Steve Thompson, Texas Parks & Wildlife, OHV Program Manager]
Parks and Wildlife helped create the Barnwell mountain recreational facility. This facility is 1800 acres.

It consists of about 131 miles of trail and has safe legal and sustainable trails that can be used by full sized vehicles, ATV'S and motorcycles.

Improvements to the trails in the Sam Houston National Forest are underway and a new off road site in the Escondido Draw Recreational Area will be a welcome addition in Crocket County.

Before the OHV parks are constructed, meetings are held to address common questions, like, is the addition of the park a good thing for our community?

talked to some folks living in Gilmer, near the Barnwell Mountain Recreational Facility. They say the park has impacted their community in a positive way.

[Judge Dean Fowler - Upshur County]
Yes. I think that the creation of these type areas for public use by Texas Parks and Wildlife is a benefit to everyone.

I think it's an appropriate use of public funds and federal grant moneys that are directed through the Texas Parks and Wildlife. My experience here in Upshur County has been such a positive thing that I would encourage any other county judge that calls me, any commissioner, any other city official that calls me,

I would encourage them to participate, to try to bring this type of venue to their community, because it certainly has been a benefit here. I have not been able to think of one negative thing about what goes on out there at the mountain and the recreation that we have out there.

Landowners living near a newly proposed park sometimes wonder how the off highway vehicles will affect their daily life.

[Lawrence and Deedee Skinner -Gilmer Residents]
We have owned this farm and lived here approximately 50 years. When I heard that they bought it and what it was gonna be I was against it because I could visualize problems.

I could see fences being torn down, ATVs riding up and down our little branch that goes on this, but that didn't come to pass. The reason being I believe is that the people that are running that thing up there have set some rules and done a good job.

I think it's good for the community, good for Gilmer. It's a good economic thing, and it's not bothersome to us.

[David Dickerson, Lieutenant Upshur County Sheriff's Dept.]
I haven't heard any complaints. I've heard nothing but positive things about the park.

You know that families can go there, have a nice weekend or whatever -- ride their jeeps or four-wheelers or motorcycles or anything like that.

So, how can the creation of an OHV park be good for your communities' economy?

[Joan Small, Executive Director, Gilmer Area Chamber of Commerce]
I would highly recommend it because with people coming in to town our sales tax has shot up because they have to buy gas, they have to wash their cars, they buy food and it's just -- been a great improvement for Gilmer.

[Bridgett Fowler, Director, Gilmer Civic Center]
We operate a great deal on hotel occupancy tax. - when I see them at the hotel, I grin, it just makes me so happy because I think that's supplementing our upkeep with our maintenance here.

You know it's a great thing because not only are they staying at the hotel, they're going eat in a restaurant, they're goin' buy gas, chances are they're going go up here to the grocery store or next door to Wal-Mart.

They're going buy something. That's tax money it just rolls down. There are a lot of people who don't realize how that affects our economy here.

[Joan Small, Executive Director, Gilmer Area Chamber of Commerce]
Well they bring their families -- the time that I was out there I saw a lady watching her husband ride holding a baby and you know

-- just you know -- they bring their families. People want to do things where they can bring their families along, you know, to have a good time.

[Mike Melton, Fire Chief, Gilmer Fire Department]
I have been down at some of the local restaurants when they'll be having a big weekend out here and uh -- the businesses around town, the hardware stores, the restaurants,

they're all busy with different things as far as -- for camping supplies, coming in to eat. Some of them will come in and stay at the different hotels. When they have a weekend out here both of the local hotels are completely full you can't find nowhere to park.

[Lawrence and Deedee Skinner -Gilmer Residents]
It impresses me because it's a family thing, and I am pretty strong on family.

[Leslie and Victor Ramirez, Texas Motorized Trails Coalition]
We have two girls and they do not like fishing or hunting. So this was an outdoor activity that was semi-safe and allowed us to be together.

It was the safest way to get an adrenaline rush with your family, because you walk faster than we four wheel most of the time. So that's basically what we do for fun with the family on occasions.

I love seeing the view out here. We have beautiful resources; we should actually be able to use them.

[Kevin Samples, OHV Rider]
And it's also something that anybody can do male or female, from 8 to ten years old to 70 years old.

[Bobby Beamer, National OHV Conservation Council]
They're the farmers, they're the regular worker, they're people who just go out on the weekends with the kids, they hop in the truck load up a couple of ATVs or dirt bikes and they just go out and have some fun together.

They're not looking to compete, and even when they are looking to compete, most of them aren't at that caliber, they're just an average Joe and they just want to have some fun and experience of going around that corner

and passing through the threshold going into the windows and passing out of the that threshold out of the woods into a new pasture or a new experience. That's what it's all about.

The Texas OHV program promotes the responsible use of OHVs as a way to help ensure the safety of Texas riders and neighboring residents in the community.

[Ed Brando - Regional Director, East Texas EMS]
Going to a park where alcohol is prohibited and safety equipment is a must or you don't get on the trail, that's really, that's great,

it promotes fun in a better atmosphere than what people have been doing outside of parks, where the injuries seem to be more severe.

It promotes safety, it promotes proper use of the ATV it's a good family atmosphere where people can enjoy other things beside going on the trail. It's a win/win situation.

As far as responding to accidents at the park we may have been out there once or twice in the uh last 3 or 4 years that we've had the service here in the Gilmer community.

Well if you're in a controlled environment like a park, and you're getting instruction on a proper operation of a four wheeler, an ATV, three or four wheeler then yes those people are going to be a lot safer.

People often wonder how off road vehicles impact the environment. The Texas OHV program promotes the safe & ethical use of OHVs to help protect the cultural and biological resources of Texas.

[Danny Lancaster, Lake Gilmer Ranger]
It's not run all the birds away. They buzzards are still going [laughs]. No, there's -- that's the one thing about it you still have the wildlife out there.

I've heard and still see the deer and you can still see the hawks flying around, and we do have a few bald eagles around here that you'll see one fly over every once and awhile. So it's a controlled atmosphere for another type of sport for the community.

An annual permit, similar to a hunting and fishing license, will allow riders access to OHV paths located across the state.

[Steve Thompson, Texas Parks & Wildlife, OHV Program Manager]
The decal is $8 per year. The revenue generated by the decal will be used to help supplement the recreational trails program that will be used to create new off-highway vehicle areas and to improve existing areas.

Texas parks and wildlife OHV trails promote legal, safe access to public land....and allows families to see Texas from a different perspective...bringing its natural beauty within reach.

[Leslie and Victor Ramirez, Texas Motorized Trails Coalition]
People are gonna buy more of these ATVs, motorcycle, and SUVs and get out and enjoy themselves.

So let's provide them an environment that is organized, that is structured, and that is safe for family and friends to get together, and we hope the birdwatchers and the people and the equestrians and the bicycle and the hikers enjoy it too, because it's still here.

I think we can all get along and coexist together as long as we learn to respect the environment and the wildlife itself, it's there. I really believe that there is enough of Texas for us all to enjoy legally.

To purchase an OHV decal call Texas Parks and Wildlife customer service center at 512-389-8917 or log on to tpwd.state.tx.us for a list of locations OHV decal is valid from September 1 - August 31.

"From the Texas OHV program to the riders of Tejas – happy trails buckaroos"


Texas OHV Program Mission Statement:

The Texas Off-Highway Vehicle (OHV) Program was created to provide family-oriented OHV trail riding opportunities which are safer and will serve as a positive force for conservation of the natural and cultural resources of Texas.

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