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Grant-in-Aid Workshops

Three ATVs on a boardwalk.

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

 

As the Off-Highway Vehicle (OHV) Specialist with the Minnesota DNR, placed via the CCMI Individual Placements Program, I feel like my position is very unique to begin with. There aren’t a lot of organizations or agencies around Minnesota that deal with motorized recreation, so to be placed within the OHV Program at the DNR has been a hands-on learning experience and it’s been nothing less than awesome. Part of why it’s been so awesome has to do with my background. Since childhood, I’ve been in and around motorized recreation and it’s become a great passion of mine. I’ve always been an OHV enthusiast and have volunteered for a number of years with OHV advocacy organizations. To be placed in this program has been a great opportunity to get to know the sport even better and learn about the nuts and bolts of the OHV trail system in Minnesota.

One of the things that makes my position so unique is the engagement with the community. I think most natural resource programs don’t have stakeholders that are so actively engaged and care so deeply, like the motorized recreation groups in Minnesota do. Most of these folks are volunteers so it truly is a labor of love for them to build and maintain trails. Not only do I get to reflect that love back at them, but I get to play a small part in helping them realize their vision and achieve their goals.

One way we do that is by holding workshops so we can spread as much information and knowledge as we can. Back in March, when I felt very new in my position and within the program, we held a workshop in Brainerd for a very select audience. One specific club requested that we hold a workshop to explain the finer points of the Grant-in-Aid (GIA) program to clubs that already had experience in the GIA system. If you’re wondering what the heck the GIA program is, I would refer you back to my blog post from March. Go read, I’ll wait here!

That workshop felt pretty special because we had a great turnout despite the massive storm dumping several inches of snow over the course of the day. Everyone was really engaged, asked great questions, and gave us critical feedback and direction for the program. We took what we learned at that workshop and applied it to an even larger workshop we were planning for June.

The time in between workshops went by in the blink of an eye and before I knew it, our next workshop was upon us, serving as the end cap to my two week trail inventory trip (if you want to read more about that, you can visit my blog post from June). This workshop was two full days, with the first being a classroom and presentation day, and the second being a field and demonstration day. The workshop was filled to capacity at 30 participants and the audience was much more varied – there were GIA old-timers and people who were completely new to the system. The workshop went super well and we got a lot of great feedback from our participants, who all said they would recommend the workshop to other OHV enthusiasts and would take it again if it were offered.

So that leads us up to now. We’re planning our third workshop, to be held in early December at our office in St. Paul. This workshop will be a bit of a hybrid of the previous two. It will only be one day, like our workshop in March, but will be geared toward all participants, like our workshop in June. I look forward to each workshop and engagement opportunity we plan because the participants always provide such great insight and prompt a lot of in-depth discussions. Unlike our first workshop, I feel so much more knowledgeable and well-rounded as both an enthusiast and an administrator of the program. Once this workshop is completed, we’ll have built a robust library of workshop offerings that we can use in the future and provide these classes in a much more on-demand way, rather than taking months to plan. I’m certain this workshop will be the best one yet and I can’t wait to see who comes to learn this time around.