842 views • posted 07/11/2022 • updated 09/15/2023
TRĀL’s mission is to recruit, train, and coordinate a volunteer workforce to help the Tonto National Forest manage OHV recreation in the forest.
by Sue Crowe, Database Coordinator
Covering nearly three million acres, the Tonto National Forest is the fifth largest forest in the country. It is also one of the most heavily used for motorized recreation. The forest provides over 3,000 miles of low-maintenance, level roads and motorized trails with tremendous recreation opportunities for Off-Highway Vehicles (OHV). However, the U.S. Forest Service has an insufficient budget and staffing to monitor, sign, and maintain this amount of routes.
The Tonto Recreation Alliance (TRĀL) has been a non-profit partner of the Tonto National Forest since 2009. TRĀL’s mission is to recruit, train, and coordinate a volunteer workforce to help the Tonto manage OHV recreation in the forest. TRĀL applied for and received a grant from the Arizona State Parks Off-Highway Vehicle Program in 2014 for developing an Adopt-a-trail (ADAT) program.
The Adopt-a-trail/OHV route monitoring program uses staff and volunteers to inspect OHV trails for issues such as erosion or trail blockages. Volunteers also install route markers and conduct light brushing and trash pickup. Funding extended this program for two additional years and allowed the completion of a first-time inspection of all of the OHV trails in the forest.
This grant extended and expanded the volunteer-based OHV trail maintenance program for two years. This included a more systematic approach to volunteer-based trail repair using data collected from the ADAT program, allowing the program to be extended into remote districts of the Tonto National Forest.
Funding was also used to expand TRĀL’s educational efforts by creating and installing OHV user maps on existing trailhead kiosks and You-Are-Here-style user maps throughout the forest. Funding also allowed TRĀL to pilot interpretive and trail etiquette signage installed in higher use areas of the forest, and to restart their OHV Host program, a traditional ambassador-style approach to meeting and helping OHV users in the field.