In 2014, the BSA partnered with Polaris Industries to create new opportunities for Scouts to ride all-terrain vehicles, or ATVs.
Already thousands of Scouts have taken ATV safety training at Scout camps across the country. They’re using their new skills and passion for ATVs as they explore trails on ATV-riding adventures.
And they’re doing more than that. They’re also helping build their own ATV trails. That means they’re giving back to Scouting, building something future Scouts can enjoy — oh, and having a ton of fun in the process.
I wanted to know a little more about how ATVs are used for trail-building and conservation projects, so Polaris put me in touch with Tim Larson, one of its vice presidents.
Bryan: Tim, how’s the ATV program going?
Tim: It’s off to a great start. Dozens of councils now include ATV safety training and riding at their summer camps. Some Scout camps have even built their own ATV trails. And a new trail is being planned for the 2017 National Jamboree.
Bryan: What do Scouts get out of the new ATV program?
Tim: For many Scouts, it lets them try a new and really fun outdoor activity. Scouts learn about safety, responsible riding and respect for the environment.
Bryan: You might not think about science when it comes to ATVs, but there’s a lot of STEM that goes into building an ATV trail, right?
Tim: Yes! That’s a great part of the project that Scouts experience. Today’s ATV trails are carefully planned, designed and built by professional trail builders. They know how to build trails that create a fun riding experience and at the same time ensure the protection of natural resources.
The ATV program gives Scouts a great opportunity to get involved with service projects, like clearing brush before the ATV trail is built. This year, more than 600 Scouts participated in ATV trail building and conservation projects.
Bryan: That’s pretty sweet. And it speaks to the notion that ATV trails can be both fun and environmentally responsible.
Tim: Exactly. Trails that are built to be environmentally sustainable are also more fun and challenging.
They’re designed to be ridden slowly, with tight curves and obstacles to cross, like small logs. And the trails have features like side-to-side slopes and rolling dips that shed water off the trails when it rains, preventing erosion. When Scouts get involved in building the trails, it gives them a sense of ownership of the trail, and they leave the area even better than when they found it.
Bryan: That’s the Scouting way! In preparing for the interview, I read about responsible riding. What is that?
Tim: During their training, Scouts learn the right way to ride when they leave Scout Camp and ride with their families on public ATV trails. They learn many riding tips provided by an organization called Tread Lightly!, such as wearing the right gear (helmet, eye protection), staying on the trail, following the signs and respecting the rights of others who are using the trail.
Bryan: What about finding ATV trails? There might be one essentially in a Scout’s back yard, but how would he find it?
Tim: Polaris has created a free mobile app that shows the public ATV trails across the country. It’s called RiderX. Scouts and their parents can download it onto their smartphones. Just go to the app store and search for “Polaris ORV Trails.” You will see all the great places to ride and experience the outdoors.
Bryan: Thanks, Tim. It won’t be long before Scouts will be signing up for Scout camp, where they can experience an ATV program. Scouts learn to have fun, ride safe and do it all in an environmentally friendly way.