Memorial Day… A weekend filled with fun, family, friends, and responsible recreation! Stay The Trail was invited by the Kremmling BLM Field Office to stage our education trailer, along with Colorado Powersports, at the North Sand Hills near Walden. As a kick-off to the summer recreation season, Memorial Day is a very busy day throughout our public lands, and the North Sand Hills were certainly no different. The Bureau of Land Management estimated around four thousand people up for the weekend, coming in from local areas such as Fort Collins, to all over Colorado, and many from other states. This area provides a unique recreation experience, as they are the only sand dunes in Colorado that are open to motorized traffic (Sand Dunes National Park does not permit motorized vehicles on the dunes, and Medano Pass is open to unlicensed vehicles only to the summit of the pass coming from Walsenburg). The North Sand Hills also connects to the State Forest State Park OHV trail system, allowing for a change of scenery for those wanting to get off the sand and into the hills.
Stay The Trail Intern Adam Pitchford and I arrived on Thursday and set up the education trailer alongside representatives from Colorado Powersports Boulder, who were there to sell Colorado OHV Registrations and Out-of-State Permits and host demo rides on the newest sport quads and side-by-sides. This cooperative effort allowed enthusiasts to not only purchase their registrations and permits if they hadn’t already, but also to get local information and guidelines pertaining to recreation on and around the dunes.
One of the focus points for the weekend was getting the word out about the new sound law that goes into effect July 1st, 2009 and begins enforcement on July 1st, 2010. This law limits Off-Highway Vehicles made after January 1st, 1998 to 96dB(A), and machines built before that date to 99dB(A) as tested with the SAE J-1287 Stationary 20″ Pipe Test. Now many have had questions about why this law went into place, and why it pertains to a relatively-dedicated OHV area such as the North Sand Hills. The answer is very simple. Many OHV’s were just too loud, and that is a negative influence on the future of motorized recreation on public lands. The law came as a compromise that involved motorized and non-motorized enthusiast groups, and while it could be seen as unfortunate to restrict all OHV sound emissions with one broad stroke, the logistics of having specific exclusions for areas like the sand dunes create a nightmare for enforcement and will stretch resources further than they already are.
Much of the weekend was spent doing sound testing, with 156 individual machines tested. We divided the results into three seperate categories: Pass, Not Pass, and “Wow, that’s loud”. That last category covered machines that were over 113dB(A), which falls inbetween the 110dB(A) sound rating for a rock concert or chainsaw, and the 120dB(A) rating for an ambulance siren. Simply said, exhaust emissions that high are not needed, nor appreciated by most, on our multi-use public lands. Sorry guys… We were pointed in the direction of the Oregon Sand Racing community for information on how to get that power that the sand drag guys look for, while still maintaining a decent sound emission level. Quiet does not mean slow, and loud definitely does not mean fast. So onto the results… Of the 156 machines tested 44 passed, 95 did not, and 17 qualified for the WOW designation. That’s a 28% passing rate. Please folks, if we tested your machine either here, or at another location and you did not pass, look into the proper fix. The FMF Q pipes have been doing well, and you might be suprised how much of a difference re-packing that exhaust can help. The other big thing about exhaust systems was approved spark arrestors. These are required whenever you are riding on public lands, so if you’ve taken it out for any reason, put it back in before hitting the trail or dunes again.
One last thing of interest… The BLM is hosting North Sand Hill Cleanup Days about once a month during the riding season. Pay attention to our website for announcements on specific days and times. Your help with keeping this area clean and maintained helps the entire community maintain access to this incredible recreation opportunity.
All-in-all, I would say that this weekend was a great official start to the riding season and we greatly appreciate the support of the Bureau of Land Management and the hospitality of the folks from Colorado Powersports. Thanks again!
For more information on the North Sand Hills – http://staythetrail.org/maps/displaytrail.php?trail=19
OHV Registrations and Out-of-State Permits – http://parks.state.co.us/OHVsandSnowmobiles/OHVProgram/
Spark Arrestors – http://www.fs.fed.us/r5/sanbernardino/recreation/ohv/sparkarrester.shtml
Colorado Powersports – http://www.copowersports.com/