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New OHV park opens on Vandenberg

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Col. Steve Tanous, 30th Space Wing commander, rides on an all-terrain vehicle during the grand opening of the off-highway vehicle park Feb. 8. The initial course is approximately five miles long, but future additions will open more than 30 miles of trails. Individuals interested in utilizing the course must take a safety class and meet vehicle requirements. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Christian Thomas)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Col. Steve Tanous, 30th Space Wing commander, rides on an all-terrain vehicle during the grand opening of the off-highway vehicle park Feb. 8. The initial course is approximately five miles long, but future additions will open more than 30 miles of trails. Individuals interested in utilizing the course must take a safety class and meet vehicle requirements. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Christian Thomas)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Col. Steve Tanous, 30th Space Wing commander, cuts a ribbon held by Master Sgt. Russell Hanson to declare the grand opening of the off-highway vehicle course Feb. 8. The initial course is approximately five miles long, but future additions will open more 30 miles of trails. Individuals interested in utilizing the course must take a safety class and meet vehicle requirements. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Christian Thomas)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Col. Steve Tanous, 30th Space Wing commander, cuts a ribbon held by Master Sgt. Russell Hanson to declare the grand opening of the off-highway vehicle course Feb. 8. The initial course is approximately five miles long, but future additions will open more 30 miles of trails. Individuals interested in utilizing the course must take a safety class and meet vehicle requirements. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Christian Thomas)

VANDENBERG AFB, Calif. -- A brand-new off-highway vehicle trail opened here today with an inaugural ribbon cutting and all-terrain vehicle ride by Col. Steve Tanous, 30th Space Wing commander. 

The 5-mile trail, located adjacent to the North Star training area here, is just the first part of a two-phase project that will give OHV enthusiasts more than 30 miles of trails to enjoy. 

"We're working hard to have Phase 2 done by the end of this year," said Master Sgt. Russell Hanson, the project lead and Vandenberg OHV Club president. "But as new trails are finished, we'll be opening them individually." 

It was through the determination of Sergeant Hanson that the project began a year ago. During a briefing on the future of OHV use on base, Sergeant Hanson, who works in the 4th Space Launch Squadron, raised his hand to volunteer as project lead on the creation of a new park. That was the beginning of a lengthy process in which he worked with wing leadership, civil engineering, explosive ordnance disposal and myriad other organizations to make sure the right area was selected. 

"We needed a place that we could combine training and recreation, but that would have less impact on our natural resources," said Jim Mercier, the chief of conservation law enforcement with the 30th Security Forces Squadron. "There was an old trail open before, but there was no organization ... people made new trails that were unauthorized."

The creation of the OHV Club and the decision to use Vandenberg's North Star training area solved those issues - the club will self-police the trails and North Star is a place with established roads and trails that are already being used for military training. 

"The only way we can keep this park is if we self-police and maintain it," Sergeant Hanson said. "If we don't abide by the rules and take care of the park, we'll lose it." 

With the established trails running the full spectrum of extremes, from easy roads to extreme hill climbs, there shouldn't be any reason to break the rules, he said. Riders at every level using vehicles from dirt bikes to Jeeps and trucks will be able to enjoy the new park; children will even have a play area for smaller bikes. 

No matter what the skill level, however, everyone must be mindful of safety rules. OHV Club rules state that park users must not travel alone on any trails, proper safety equipment must be worn and users must have proper training certificates and licenses in order to join the club. All of the club rules are not meant to hamper anyone's fun while using the park; they are there to protect both the riders and the environment. 

"Our natural resources are there to enjoy," Mr. Mercier said. "But that doesn't mean we destroy what we have." 

For more information on joining the Off-Highway Vehicle Club, as well as park hours and rules, contact Sergeant Hanson at 605-1109 or by e-mail at Russell.hanson@vandenberg.af.mil.