Across the country, clubs of all kinds that involve outdoor activities -- OHV riding, hunting, fishing, snowmobiling, hiking, camping -- are faced with a similar challenge: how to get more youth involved. OHV clubs that invest in youth programs are more apt to have that younger base of support when it’s needed.
We’d like to hear what your club is doing to develop and mentor the OHV leaders and volunteers of tomorrow who will be needed to carry on your work. Send us a note on the projects, programs and unique ideas your club uses to get kids, teens and young adults involved in your OHV club or organization. We’ll share them in this newsletter. Email them to firstname.lastname@example.org
Scouts Riding ATVs At Camp This Summer
The Boy Scouts of America, one of the country’s premier youth leadership organizations, now includes a safe and responsible ATV program as an approved activity for Boy Scouts.
Following a successful 3-year pilot project in which 200 Scouts participated, ATV riding as an official program for Boy Scout councils begins with their 2012 camping season. “We have 20 councils that have applied and are doing this in 2012, and we anticipate more each year thereafter,” said Pat Wellen, Director of Innovation and Research with the Boys Scouts of America (BSA).
Like many youth organizations, BSA is looking for new ways to retain current members and recruit new ones. In a survey of nearly 1,400 Boy Scouts, a high percentage said they “like or would like to do” a program involving ATVs. In fact, riding ATVs ranked fourth among many options, behind only swimming, laser tag and camping. BSA saw ATV riding as having the potential to meet its goals of providing fun and safe programs and fulfill the aims of Scouting: character, citizenship and fitness.
BSA developed its ATV pilot program in cooperation with the All Terrain Vehicle Safety Institute (ASI). Initial pilot programs were conducted at traditional BSA summer camps and weekend programs. The partnership with ASI was a win-win. “They’ve been great, very supportive of the program. Their goals matched up perfectly with our goals, which are training youth how to be safe on these vehicles,” said Wellen.
BSA updated their camp standards to allow for ATV use at approved camps only. It adopted the ASI RiderCourse curriculum as the official training course for leader/instructors and Scouts. And it applied state-by-state requirements for age of operator and other applicable laws. Over 200 Boy Scouts participated in the pilot program. American Honda Motor Co., Inc. provided the ATVs -- including 150 vehicles for the 2012 camping season -- through its Rider Training Loan Program. Individual councils pay for helmets and safety gear.
BSA Councils with ATV programs up and running are in 11 states: Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Ohio, Michigan, Mississippi, New Jersey, North Carolina, Texas, Virginia and Washington. Councils in another 5 states -- Arkansas, California, Oregon, Maryland, and West Virginia -- are in the process of creating a program.
At the approved summer camps, ASI-trained adult volunteers lead the ATV program. Scouts who choose to participate pay an extra $30 in their camp fee to include the week-long ATV activity. They attend the rider course for a few hours each day, completing the curriculum and ending the week with a trail ride or combination riding/camping experience. “The councils that were most successful had trails, but they also took them out on a campout,” said Wellen. “They had them put their tents and gear on their ATVs, and they got to ride to a part of the property that nobody else got to camp in.”
“Another council that was very successful added a camp service project. So while the participants were out on the trails, they did some trail improvements or camp improvements. That is something we always try to do, to leave someplace better than the way they found it.”
Tom Yager, Vice President of ASI, worked with Wellen to set up the pilot program for the BSA. “It’s a big success story, for the Boy Scouts as well as the ATV industry in general,” Yager said. “Over 60% of the participants had no prior exposure to ATVs. Some of the Scouts said they’re coming back to camp next year because of the ATV program. So the good news for us is that new people are being exposed to ATVs and being exposed in a responsible way, ensuring that they’re wearing the safety gear and getting training. It couldn’t be a more perfect partnership from our standpoint.”
Other statistics from the BSA’s follow-up survey are equally impressive, reaching their initial goals of offering fun, new programs that encourage youth retention and recruitment:
98% of Scouts in the pilot are somewhat or very satisfied with the ATV program.
98% are likely to recommend the ATV program to their friends.
80% indicate it exceeded their expectations.
73% of non-pilot campers and 92% of pilot participants will return to camp to participate in ATVs.
58% say the ATV program increases their likelihood of staying in Scouting.
61% had no experience on an ATV.
100% are confident in their ability to drive an ATV.
Incorporated in 1910, Boy Scouts of America has 296 councils throughout the U.S., with over 500 summer camps, 2.8 million active youth members and 1.1 million active adult volunteer members. In addition, there are over 50 million former youth members.
There is no merit badge for the new ATV Program...not yet anyway.