Building an Off Road Club
By Ken Gardner
A retrospective on the concept and development of the Great Pine Trail Riders.
Recently Brian Helliwell asked me to do an article for OFTR/OFORM on
how to start a bike club. I found this request to be a challenge,
because quite honestly, there was no plan. Instead, I thought the best
way to cover the issue was to look back on the last
2 ½ years.
In the fall of 2002 a casual discussion happened at an end of the
season Enduro that I had attended as a worker. The focus of the
discussion regarded the fact that there was no off road club in the
Ganaraska area that did not have a large competition aspect. We had all
done our racing, and just wanted to ride. We also had a goal of
improving the perception of the sport with the ideal of preserving our
right to ride in the forest. Over the winter months a number of emails
were exchanged and phone calls made to exchange ideas.
spring of 2003, Paul Mooney put up postings on the OFTR and ODSC sites,
inviting anyone that may have an interest to get in touch. A group of
11 met at Paul's home to discuss what we wanted from this new club, and
what our singular vision would be. It was a very positive meeting, one
I volunteered to chair. We decided to create the Great Pine Trail
Riders as an unofficial "loose" group of rides that would communicate
via the internet.
As the months went by we found ourselves
established with the OFTR, getting recognized by the other off road
clubs in Ontario and gaining more and more membership interest. I took
the job of being the club communicator, letting everyone know what was
happening within our little group, and in the world of Ontario Off
Road. As part of this duty, I established a relationship with the GRCA
recreation technicians. In August of 2003, with approval from the
forest, we completed a trail repair in the west forest, which
effectively saved a section of trail from being closed due to its
crossing of a wetland area. This project cemented our new relationship
with the GRCA, as they were now able to recognize us as a serious club
that was more than just a name.
In the fall of 2003, we were
being called upon by the forest to become more involved, a challenge
that our members were happy to take up. A result of this was a lot more
work for me, and it became apparent that our little club was getting
larger, with membership up to almost 20. In November we held a meeting
and appointed an executive, with yours truly be named President. We
drafted up a set of rules to operate under, and held our first meeting
in January of 2004. At that time, we were requested by our members to
incorporate as a non profit group, both for legal purposes and to give
us credibility inside and outside the sport. By May of 2004 we were a
legal entity. We decided to run a trail ride to raise funds to support
the club and to fund projects in the forest. In August we held our
ride, with an expected turnout of 60ish riders. What a surprise when
105 riders turned up!!!
The monies raised were used to cover
club startup costs, to do maintenance on the previous years trail
repair and to cover a portion of Paid Duty Police patrols within the
Another project that we have initiated is signing of
single track to notifiy ATV riders of sections closed to their
vehicles, a program that has been very popular with all users of single
track, including equestrians, hikers bicyclers etc.
over the past year? More of the same! Memebership grew this year to
over 40, due to incentives, and display booths we ran at the ODSC and
OFTR meetings. A lot of our members join just to support our mission,
and many others make it out to help with projects. Our second trail
ride was another success with over 90 riders coming out. We encourage
families to come and ride with us; We educate all forest users on
proper behavior within the forest; We preserve and enhance the off road
image within the community by being ambassadors of our sport.
it easy? Yes….and no. All volunteers have to give up something personal
to commit, as I know I did, and so did the other executive and club
members. Is it satisfying? Hell yes.
Now, to answer Brian's request;
How to start an offroad club.
- Find some riders that have a common interest
- Get them communicating in some fashion (Internet is easiest)
- Get a consensus on what your goals are and just how much you want to develop your new club
(or appoint) an executive to operate the club. If you want it to last
more than one season, your going to need help.
financial support from an umbrella group to help get you going. We got
help from OFTR to fund our first trail repair, which helped set us up
as contenders within the Ganaraska Forest.
- Delegate. Try and do it all on your own and you will burn out.
your club; get out to bike shows, swap meets, etc and setup a table to
show off your club, so you can build membership.
- Talk to other clubs and let them know who you are, and what your about
- Never, never, never forget what your goals; Stay focused
- Lastly, ride lots and have fun!
had the great honor of helping to found the GPTR, and am proud to have
handed over the lead to Kellee Irwin as the 2006 President. I know our
club will prosper under her leadership. Best wishes to all of the
GPTR's 2006 executive.
GPTR President – May 2003 to November 2005