Field visits with the OHV Program

A group of people in high viz vests standing in a campsite by a river.

By Morgan Wendt, Off Highway Vehicle Specialist Individual Placement / AmeriCorps Member placed at Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Division of Parks and Trails


Another day, another field visit in the Off-Highway Vehicle (OHV) Program at the Minnesota DNR. The phrase “field visit” doesn’t exactly set off sparks for everyone, but it’s pretty exciting for me. Considering I’ve worked in outdoor recreation for years and I’m used to being outside all the time, I was itching to get out of the office during our long and dreary winter that carried over into a rainy spring. But summer has arrived and that means it’s field visit season! I’ve had at least one field visit, if not two, during every week of May and I couldn’t enjoy it more.

I’ve been super lucky that our clubs were also chomping at the bit to get DNR staff on their trails. So far, we’ve met with:

  • The Voyageur Country ATV Club on their rapidly growing Voyageur Country ATV Trail System
  • The Cuyuna Iron Range Riders on their two grant-in-aid projects, Miller Black Bear and Mississippi Northwoods, both of which are applying for major expansions and exciting projects in the next 1-2 years
  • The Minnesota 4 Wheel Drive Association at their off-road vehicle park, operated in partnership with Mille Lacs County
  • The Norseman Motorcycle Club to see the beginnings of a potential new grant-in-aid project in North Central Minnesota
  • Bonus: a visit to the Iron Range OHV State Recreation Area to plan for a data collection project in a few weeks (you’ll hear more about that soon!) and a workshop we’ll be hosting in the park at the end of June.
Three people wearing high visibility vests in an ATV
Fun was had riding with Keri and Dani, who are based out of the Brainerd office, and Russ (not pictured), who is the Trail Manager for the Cuyuna Iron Range Riders.

During all of these field visits, we meet with the club and other DNR staff, usually those who are working on these projects at a local level. It’s great to see everyone in person considering we’ve mostly met or seen each other in virtual meetings. We usually have a brief discussion with everyone at the start of the visit and talk about the plan for the day, what the club would like to show us, and what we as staff hope to gain from the visit. We then walk the site, or preferably drive if the club has enough machines for everyone to have a seat.

The clubs usually show us big highlights and super cool projects, like overlook shelters with awesome views or multi-million dollar bridges that they’ve constructed. They also tend to share the struggles they’re experiencing, like issues they’re having with the Grant-in-Aid process during development and expansion of their trail, or challenges with the bureaucracy of the DNR or of local units of government. While I’ve seen these trails a million times on maps and on my computer screen, it’s a different experience to see the project on the ground and connect the dots between what you’ve heard and seen prior to the visit, compared to what you’re seeing in front of you.

If this trend continues, I’ll be spending a lot of time in the field this summer and I couldn’t be happier about that. Stay tuned to hear more about my two week field visit to the Iron Range in mid-June!

Looking out across pine trees
Stunning views from an overlook & picnic shelter on the Voyageur Country ATV Trail.