- Associated Press - Sunday, May 29, 2016

WATERLOO, Iowa (AP) - The Riverview Recreation Area is a jewel among the state’s all-terrain vehicle parks.

But it was still a diamond in the rough when Lorne Lee and other volunteers with the Trailblazers Off Road Club showed up in the late 1990s ready to transform the area once dubbed “the pits,” The Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier (https://bit.ly/22nZj2t ) reported.

“When we first took that on and started cleaning it up we filled up three 30-foot roll-off Dumpsters, and we had piles and piles of tires stacked next to them,” Lee said. Somebody even found a loaded handgun.

Lee now serves as president of the Independence-based Trailblazers, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year.

The 200-acre park the club built and operates in concert with Waterloo Leisure Services and Iowa Department of Natural Resources was the first of its kind in Iowa and is still considered the gold standard for an urban off-highway vehicle park.

Mike Bonser, a DNR conservation officer, wasn’t initially thrilled when the Trailblazers formed in 1996 and started pushing to develop riding trails in the sand pits.

“A lot of bad things had happened out there over the years, and I really didn’t want that in my area,” Bonser said. “But they converted it into a well-organized, well-maintained place that was family-oriented.

“After that park got developed it eliminated a lot of my issues in the game management areas and other parks,” he added. “People (with off-road vehicles) have a place to go now and it makes all the rest of the public areas that much nicer.”

While some volunteer efforts wane over the years, the Trailblazers continue to maintain the area so the taxpayers don’t foot the bills.

“The Trailblazers have been great partners at Riverview,” said Leisure Services Director Paul Huting. “They do virtually all of the maintenance and management of the OHV Park, and they have done a good job of accessing grants and donations to fund improvements and expansions at the park.”

The Trailblazers have about 50 memberships now, including individuals and families from all over the Midwest, Lee said. While the Riverview park may be the club’s focus, members also go on rides elsewhere, work with local governments to help set up ordinances for off-road vehicles, raise money for charitable causes and hold other events.

Lee noted the club has an annual ride on Buchanan County roads through Amish country each year.

“We go on spring rides,” he said. “It’s a great way to spend time with the family and you can put in 60 miles in one day.”

While the 20th anniversary allowed the club to reflect on its accomplishments and thank those people and numerous community organizations that have offered support over the years, Lee noted the club also is anxious to welcome the next generation of volunteers.

More information about the club and membership opportunities can be found on the organization’s website at www.trailblazersoffroadclub.com or on Facebook.

“Being a member of our club means that you have the opportunity to meet new people that enjoy the sport, go on club rides, do other club events and help make a positive impact in a very rapidly growing sport,” Lee said.


Information from: Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier, https://www.wcfcourier.com

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