[Woman behind counter]
Hi guys! How can I help you?
I need to get some of those off-hwy vehicle stickers.
Beginning this year, off-road vehicles used on public lands are required to have an Off-Highway Vehicle decal.
Much like a hunting or fishing license, the $8 decal will help raise funds to create more public areas for off-road enthusiasts like the Barnwell Mountain recreation area near Gilmer in east Texas.
[Steve Thompson – Texas Parks & Wildlife OHV Program Manager]
There are more off-highway vehicles in Texas than in any state other than California yet very little safe legal access for recreational trail riders.
[motorcycle engine fires up]
Safety and responsibility are championed by the Texas Motorized Trails Coalition, or TMTC, an organization formed by folks who want to fight the outlaw stereotype of off-road riders.
[Victor Ramirez - Texas Motorized Trails Coalition, Port Arthur]
People are there doing it illegally so let's allow them a place where they can do it legally and responsibly and teach them how to be good stewards of the land.
Texas Parks and Wildlife awarded federal grant money earmarked for motorized recreational trails to help purchase Barnwell Mountain.
So let's provide them an environment that is organized, that is, uh, structured and that is safe for family and friends to get together.
[Man driving jeep]
Like that boys?
An unexpected bonus of the program is the economic boon it has brought to the town of Gilmer, where folks initially were a little worried about the type of people the trails would attract.
[Danny Lancaster – Gilmer Lake Ranger]
The people that has come in, I just cannot say enough about them as far as being polite and just family people that love to get out into the wild and ride their ATVs or their Jeeps.
[Shannon Samples – Dallas resident]
They love it. This one was dirty from head to toe last night. She likes to get dirty and have fun and go jeepin'.
The majority are business people that make a good living that spend a lot of money on the sport, a lot of money. I mean they're out there.
You just don't hear about them and you don't see them because there's not a place to go. And unfortunately most people go out of state and that's sad. We have beautiful resources. We should be actually be able to use them.
[Jeff Ellington - Gilmer City Manager]
These people, they come into town, they stay in our motels, eat in our restaurants, shop in our stores and spend money, which is good. All that tells me is that off-roading is a big deal to a lot of folks.
Even the Skinners who live below Barnwell Mountain say they like knowing who's on top.
Every complaint we've had, they responded. They've been good neighbors.
I really don't notice much noise.
[engines revving in distance]
How about that? Did you get that?
[Man watching jeeps go up hill]
This is Tony. He's coming up the hill here. He's got a 6-inch lift with no lockers so he'll have a little more trouble getting up that the last one.
The intensity of the challenge and the sense of community support is what hooks many of these off-road riders.
[Kevin Hembree - Plano resident]
It's amazing what these things can do. You can just put it in 4-wheel low in first gear and let off the clutch and it will climb up a hill by itself.
You come out here and everything is called you know, has its own name and every time I'm like, alright, we're going to go to this one. It's called Twister. You think of Twister, it's like a roller coaster name so.
[Group cheers and claps as jeep makes it up hill]
[Man with family]
I couldn't have this much fun at Six Flags. Man, there ain’t no way.
[Large family on dirt bikes and 4-wheelers]
I like watching him crash.
I only crash into him.
Barnwell Mountain is an ideal place for 12-year-old Darla Parsons and her family to get outdoors together and practice their skills.
Oh I see a whole bunch of them.
[Darla Parsons - 12-Year Old Rider, Longview]
We go camping and it's fun. I'm all muddy right now. That's a fun part too.
Families like Darla's hope the decal program will provide more places to experience nature in a revved up way. For Texas Parks and Wildlife, this is Lydia Saldaña.
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.