Illinois Off Road Riding Area Project - Sahara Woods

Discussion in 'Central – From Da Nort Woods to the Plane States' started by Gerken, Feb 18, 2021.

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Sahara, Sa Where A Da Woods?

  1. I have lived in Illinois all my life and this is the first I've heard about the project

    10 vote(s)
    90.9%
  2. Geez Gerken, get out of the tractor cab more often. We've known but kept the secret.

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  3. I am reminded of The First Rule of Holes. When you are in one.... stop digging.

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  4. I have a Sicilian Uncle in the city that owes me a favor. Name it.

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  5. Nominating a friend, let me know when volunteer opportunity arrives

    1 vote(s)
    9.1%
Multiple votes are allowed.
  1. Gerken

    Gerken If you think adventures are dangerous, try routine Supporter

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    I’m kind of late to the party but reaching out to the community for feedback, guidance and assistance concerning the ongoing DNR owned OHV riding project near Harrisburg Illinois. In 2017 the Illinois Department of Natural Resources was successful in obtaining a $1.2 million grant to begin construction on a 26 mile trail system within the Sahara Woods State Recreation Area. The 4000 acre former coal producing strip mine is currently managed for hunting and fishing. The site boasts 2300 acres of open land, 1500 acres of timber and 275 acres of lakes, ponds and wetlands. This project has made progress since the grant completion but as with any State endeavor things have been slow, really slow. Obviously the Covid pandemic has been no help putting the brakes on many plans and efforts as well. I have attended a meeting with the Illinois Greenways and Trail Council to learn more about what the OHV community can expect and how to help things along. The Greenways Council is a DNR arm organization comprised of multiple user groups and DNR staff that help to shape and guide projects throughout the State as well as handle grants from Federal and State sources, particularly the Recreational Trails Program. I have also been in contact with the site supervisor at Sahara Woods who handles other State sites in the immediate area of the Shawnee National Forest. Between his helpful insight, gleanings from the Greenways meeting and a few sources within the off road community who have been involved with this from inception here is what I know; The Phase 1 bid goes out next month for construction of access roads, parking areas, restrooms, security, fencing, campground, staff service buildings needed to register guests, office needs and house equipment plus the related utilities to this infrastructure. I was told the campground will feature 10 – 50 amp service sites and 20 electric service combination sites that will accommodate tents and/or RV units. The good news from the site supervisor is the trail itself is 90% complete with only cleanup work to be done and a very loose estimated date of knobbies on the ground is summer 2022. I was exceptionally refreshed to hear from him that he is extremely open to volunteer organizations pitching in to assist operations once the facility is complete, an approved volunteer group formed, solid plans in place and Covid protocol allowance. This is where we all come into play. As a member of two AMA Recreation Commissions (Off Road/Trail and Dual Sport/Adventure) I feel it is important to show the State DNR support from the Adv Rider community. I get it. We all know quads and side by sides will make up a majority of the guests and it is 400 miles from my driveway but more importantly this endeavor can be the blueprint and catalyst for more DNR operated off road opportunities for motorcyclists down the road. Grab a State plat map sometime and you will notice the Illinois DNR owns a whole lot of property. Some of which are large tracks serving no purpose right now. The Sahara Woods site supervisor seems very motivated to see this through, let’s keep him stoked with our support. Let Google teach more about the history of Sahara Woods if you so desire. I need to give mention to some people who have helped me with all this. John Harris from Illinois A.B.A.T.E. has a few favorable relationships with State legislature and for years has been keeping this project on the DNR radar. Next is a man who AMA President Dingman himself more or less appointed to the position of Illinois off road motorcycle advocate years ago. A humble individual who likes to keep a low profile while managing the Team USA - I.S.D.E. Parc Ferme, serving on the Illinois OHV Advisory group, being the District 17 Hare Scramble Director , AMA Congress duty and in his spare time operating a little motorcycle dealership in Springfield, Jay Hall. Finally a big shout beyond the Cheddar Curtain to a certain Army Colonel retired whom everyone knows that has been an immense crutch and inspiration for how to handle this endeavor. Do realize Mr. Shot that my pestering you has only just begun. I will do my best to stay informed and pass developments along the journey.
    #1
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  2. Old 179

    Old 179 Been here awhile

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    Will this be similar to Little Egypt Off Road club? Been 10 plus years since being there and I believe the DNR was involved there as well. Seems more ground had been acquired and the club (?) was bulldozing in some new trails.
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  3. Gerken

    Gerken If you think adventures are dangerous, try routine Supporter

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    Having never been to the Little Egypt property I cannot say for certain but my guess is yes, operations should be very similar. The DNR involvement you speak of there is actually grant money awarded from the State Treasury OHV Trail Fund which includes funds from the State OHV Usage Stamps. Privately owned facilities that operate a commercial riding venue such as Little Egypt, nearby Williams Hill and other properties around the State can apply for grant money. These funds can be used for trail construction, maintenance and land acquisition. There are numerous rules to follow to continue eligibility, most notably the facility must be open to the public (no private membership style operations) and unless the funds are forfeited and returned it must remain an off road riding area despite any property ownership changes. What's this State OHV Usage Stamp I mentioned you ask? I feel it is a little known fact but Illinois does have their version of an off road sticker program. The exceptions to the program are so broad and lengthy that most every off road vehicle can somehow find a clause in the verbiage to justify non requirement. I once asked our local Sheriff's Office about enforcement and the response was they had no idea this program existed and were way too busy with meth-heads anyway. Not saying every county is that way, just sayin'. Where the stamp does come into play is when you visit these privately owned facilities that have made use of the grant money. In addition to the daily use fee you are required to purchase the yearly OHV stamp and most places sell them at their sign in process. My assumption is Sahara Woods will follow suit as I recall hearing the "pay to play" catch phrase in the Greenways Zoom meeting this week. I know what Old 179 has in mind and yes, because of the proposed campground and most likely at first, moderate trail difficulty levels, Sahara Woods might make a great addition to all his GPS tracks in the area. Hope this answers your questions.
    #3
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  4. ShawneeElder

    ShawneeElder Better than I was before I got like I am now

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    My reading and comprehension skills are not what they once were - are you an AMA staff member coordinating volunteer enthusiast involvement in the Sahara Woods development? I’m an earned AMA life member (25 years straight membership) and I never knew the AMA had Recreation Commisions - learn something new every day.
    I grew up in this immediate area. Grandads and uncles worked at Sahara and we used to sneak onto Sahara back in the seventies and ride when the mines were still running. It was a great place to ride back then. Reclamation of the spoil banks and gob pile in my opinion has greatly reduced the riding potential here unfortunately.
    I stopped at the site a couple of years ago and went into the current office which had several people in it. I asked a state uniformed fellow as to when we would be able to ride and he replied they were still in process of building campsites and access roads and had just started the planning of grading and applying gravel to trails. I offered up that this is not the kind of trail action that dirt bike enthusiasts were interested in and suggested they let us local dirt bikers cut trails for them and it would be done in short order. He didn’t have much interest in continuing the conversation along those lines just mentioning that it was a state run project.
    There is currently a nice paved driving loop that leaves out from the old prep plant site, goes West up the old haul road to Sahara 5, then North to Sahara Lake (supposedly huge bass here years ago), East to the overland conveyor route coming from Mine 20, 21 and 7, circling back by Graveyard 7 (great grandparents buried there), then back to the haul road. Nice for part of a Sunday drive.
    #4
  5. Gerken

    Gerken If you think adventures are dangerous, try routine Supporter

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    Don't feel bad about knowledge lack concerning AMA Recreation Commission's, they are kind of new. A few years back AMA Congress meeting protocol was altered to more of a committee structure. The success of said move can be debated from some Congress delegates but the AMA felt they received more production this way. These commissions are an extension of that thought process to better involve members at a grass roots level. https://americanmotorcyclist.com/recreational-riding-commissions/ At least that is how it was explained in our first commission meet. There are 4 commissions; Trail/Off Road, Adventure/Dual Sport, Road and Special Interest that include members from around the country.
    Because of your proximity, experience and previous history with Sahara Woods you sound like the perfect candidate for our man on the scene. It would be helpful to have an individual checking in with the site supervisor from the motorcycle side from time to time just to assure the staff that we wish to see the project through and help if needed.
    Concerning the trail itself, let's be clear and realistic about this. It's not going to be 26 miles of single track nirvana, particularly at first. Ask any motorsport dealership where the growth is and the answer will be always be side by sides. One can only assume trails will lean on the wide and easy side during the first phase. I have been corresponding with a brother in agriculture who has a lengthy relationship with the site supervisor and the bug has been put in the supervisors ear about single track in the future. His response was very favorable but one step at a time. I was also told that trail that is in place was created with a bulldozer so do the math. Being a State agency one can assume they would be utilizing NOHVCC sustainable trail construction guidelines which would include the "grade not slope" mantra so roosting up that 200 feet tall near vertical tailings pile (if indeed there are any left after reclamation efforts) I would think is not going to happen. But, that doesn't mean you still can't have fun there on some level and as I mentioned in the first post, this can be a template for future projects.
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  6. ShawneeElder

    ShawneeElder Better than I was before I got like I am now

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    You are apparently an AMA volunteer or paid staffer and I’m an earned AMA life member and , as such, I respectfully request the following from you and our AMA;
    1) encourage the ILDNR to direct their allocated OHV park budget toward the various existing and/or new private party or non-profit organization ran OHV parks of which are many in the state. The ILDNR staff currently allocated to this endeavor could be redirected toward the re-establishment of the Illinois upland game population. This would be great in that we all could once again enjoy good rabbit and quail hunting and there would not be any taxpayer money spent on homogenized and over-regulated quasi-riding areas.
    2) Increase AMA lobbying efforts to expand motorized recreation in all our National Forests. Many years ago one could do 100 miles riding in the Shawnee in a day and never ride the same trail twice.
    Site Supervisor MclClusky is a fine local fellow to my understanding ( his dad was a long time Saline County politico and held elected office in Saline County Government many times) and would know or could quickly find out who the local off-road enthusiasts are and would have reached out by now if help or advice was needed. If he has it’s an unknown to me.
    The SxS enthusiasts can get permitted in Saline enabling them to ride on the county backroads and I think the there may be an effort underway to get this extended into then being able to legally ride these same SxSs on Forest Service roads. Good for them in obtaining riding opportunity through this tactic.
    #6
  7. Critic

    Critic More or less!

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    Gerken,
    Thanks for your efforts! But not sure, we will see great results. Jay has worked long and hard for our cause, as has Bryan for WI. Actually, I have tried to get them together; just think, what might come of that!
    #7
  8. 1stgenfarmboy

    1stgenfarmboy The Sherpa Man

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    I live about 4 miles from Little Egypt ( Crab Orchard ) and 6 from Sahara Woods ( Carrier Mills ) it's supposed to be opened this winter, but covid-19 probably postponed it, they are still working on it, last fall they had the campsites close to ready and a lot of trails cut, but that's all I know, I haven't heard anything about it this winter.
    #8
  9. Gerken

    Gerken If you think adventures are dangerous, try routine Supporter

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    I can certainly bring your thoughts to the next (all volunteer members) AMA commission round table. That is one of the things we discussed focus of, respond to member input. The verbiage in your requests have placed just the ramp I was looking for to the soapbox though. The following applies to any organization that one is a card holding member of whether it is the local Conservation Club, NRA or Red Hat Society. I have heard this before most notably from the floor of a District 17 meeting. Where is the AMA on this? Just a reminder, YOU are the AMA. Efforts of a member focused group such as AMA relies on, well, its members. One step is complete by responding to this thread and your thoughts will be shared by an AMA commission. Beyond that it is up to the member or members to make a personal involvement to the issue of desire. I am still learning about the Sahara Woods project myself so do keep that in mind. My goal is to bring more exposure to the project as positive input can only help the process. I am confident of the site supervisor assessment you mentioned. I have heard nothing but good so far but then again, I have no issue with any DNR staff I have dealt with. Particularly in this Sahara Woods project I see the DNR as allies. The department appears to really want to see this through but remember you are dealing with Illinois procurement principles. Every step involves 60 – 90 days of this, another 60 - 90 days of that and it is frustrating and time consuming for everyone. The Illinois DNR does not have a lot of money, they are simply allowed access to some for the Sahara Woods area. How do they say it in the urban areas? “Hate the game, not the player” Looks to me the DNR is the player in this instance. Volunteer efforts to start projects such as this seem to work so smooth in other States but if a volunteer so much as starts a chainsaw on an Illinois project, fingers are pointed, a grievance is filed and we are off to Hupy and Abraham for legal guidance. Not cool. A point of reference concerning forest roads in the Shawnee. Last I checked this is America and while it is best to have the proper map as I find discrepancies in local MVUM maps, Garmin screens and Forest Service road publications, if your motorcycle is registered and street legal you are free to ride any public roads. No worries about what county sticker to have or equipment interpretation. If the ATV/UTV crowd can swing a different deal within a county then good on them, I am happy for the effort and wish to learn from it. A final point of reference. We all have interests outside of motorcycling and I am guessing for many people on this forum one of those interests is hunting. As an effort to keep this thread on track, let us not forget ADV Rider (and this thread in particular) is a motorcycle forum. Nuff’ said.
    #9
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  10. ShawneeElder

    ShawneeElder Better than I was before I got like I am now

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    Let me further clarify the points I was trying to make with my clumsy poor writing skills;
    1) I believe ILDNR are more efficient in game management than building off road parks. Undoubtedly due in large part to being hampered by the state government contrivances you noted. Private parties and/or non-profits are far more efficient.
    2) The Forest Service roads are a drop in the bucket in regards to riding in the Shawnee. Quality trails were available in large quantity but are now illegal to ride on. This is true to various degrees in all NF but is acute in the SNF. Increased access to trails is what I was requesting of AMA lobbying efforts. I as well as you receive requests from the AMA for lobbying effort contributions.
    3) The S x S enthusiasts have more riding opportunities locally than dirt bikers. Emphasis should be placed on increasing dirt bike riding opportunity.
    I’m thinking I may be more aligned with non-street legal dirt bike riding opportunity than what your direction is in regards to a place like the Sahara Woods. ADV bikes I reckon are street legal bikes most of which aren’t appropriate for technical single track.
    I have little AMA district working experience. District 18 organization ( SNF and Sahara Woods both being in District 18) as far as I know is pretty well non-operating and has been for years.
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  11. Critic

    Critic More or less!

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    Writing skills aside, mine, the two of you have done quite well to paint a overall picture of issues, problems, causes, effects, and what is restricting progress. One has to read between your lines for clarity. Deer followed by dirt bikes may have started single track; in doing so created paths for other OHV to follow on. Yet, seem to be the last one in the food chain. Pretty much from the 1970’s on land closures, restrictions, and liabilities narrowed access to first single track and ORV uses. More red flags resulted as off roaders looked for places to ride or drive. This created somewhat of a competition not only within the OHV family, but also other groups like hunters, bicyclists, hikers, and horse trail riders. During these happenings, another group was formed, environmentalists. Now the table is full!
    I have for some time viewed the issues that way. One thing stood out to me; dirt bikers and OHV people are also part of those other groups. So, not only are we fighting group to group, but also each other! Looking at the overall picture, each of those individual groups also has been facing restrictions like we have.
    We need to form alliances or understanding between these groups and work to a common cause. I feel the AMA should be working to this end, as well!

    Another related point is, I have seen reports and statements from State of Illinois; that we have a problem with abandoned strip mines all over Illinois and they do not know what to do with them! Hummm.....
    #11
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  12. ShawneeElder

    ShawneeElder Better than I was before I got like I am now

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    You are a very insightful and thinking contributor.
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  13. Critic

    Critic More or less!

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    Ha ha ha! Thanks, I got a kick out of that! It is easy to say things, but getting it done is a real job. I really admire my friend Canonshot. He has that statesmen like ability combined with his military structural officers training; which added to his steadfast drive, has been and is a successful package getting the work done. All of which, I have none of.
    #13
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  14. Critic

    Critic More or less!

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    "Alliance" is a word that to me means power. Joining of OHV groups and clubs into an alliance can yield more!

    This caught my eye on the front page of advrider news (There is a possible free KTM, but slim):

    What does the Trail Preservation Alliance do?
    The TPA works to promote trail access for dirt bikes and other powersports vehicles. As per the group’s website: “The Trails Preservation Alliance (TPA) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization with its principal goal focused on preserving the sport of motorized single-track trail riding. The TPA regularly supports all forms of Off-Highway Vehicle (OHV) recreation.” It’s active in the Colorado, and partners with the Colorado Off Highway Vehicle Coalition on preserving access to singletrack, although it partners with national organizations when needed. There’s a list of some of the TPA’s projects here; with large organizations opposing trailriders’ access to singletrack in Colorado’s national forests, the TPA has tough battles ahead, but it has been seeing positive results.

    The Alliance works out its advocacy through a few different channels. The TPA deals with federal organizations (the US Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management) to make sure the feds allow “a fair and equitable percentage of access to trail riding on public lands.” The TPA also works at educating offroaders on trail etiquette, and helps establish and operate localized offroad motorcycle clubs.
    #14
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  15. Fro

    Fro Generator Boy!

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  16. Fro

    Fro Generator Boy!

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    Thanks Mr. Gerken.
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  17. BigDogAdventures

    BigDogAdventures Fart Letter Supporter

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    Had a great day yesterday riding all over the Sahara Woods area-----not sure I've ever been there.
    It is so beautiful in there and I left no road untouched---------which pretty much always led to a keep out locked gate---hit probably 20 of those.
    A super nice place for the fisherman.
    Was amazed at all the cemeteries.
    Not sure what I'd find---but found no Campground construction and nobody to talk to.
    I'm unclear if anything has been started reading this thread.

    Anyway----hope it comes together for offroad riders.
    I have zero interest in closed in offroad riding areas but hope it works out for those that do.
    Never been into riding around in small areas riding around in circles.
    I'm more of an adventure rider and traveler.

    Super nice day it was.
    And thanks Mr. Gerken !!!
    SaharaWoods (1024x768).jpg
    #17
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  18. Gerken

    Gerken If you think adventures are dangerous, try routine Supporter

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    Good to see that the area has the Big Dog approval seal. Yes indeed, it is a beautiful property. I took a tour as well last week as I was returning from an off road excursion in Tennessee. Figured I best get a research and reconnaissance maneuver in if I started a thread about the place. The reclamation efforts are top notch and I agree, the fish enthusiasts have a sweet facility to enjoy. The larger lake is a very picturesque scene. Beyond the closed gate because of construction signs are where the trail and facilities are to be located. The far southwest lot that is currently closed off appears to be where day parking will take place. If you walked into it and looked beyond the north closed gate, that is a completed trail. As I was told (and it was evident) that trail was completed a while ago and side approaching nature is beginning to reclaim it. It should be noted that the path has a layer of gravel on top. If you familiar with the soil types in that part of the State it makes sense. There is a reason all the equestrian trails as well as hiking paths have a layer. Anyone who has ridden off road at Little Egypt knows all to well how slippery it gets after moisture and it takes a while to dry out. The farmer in me is constantly viewing the SoilWeb app because I just got to know what the quality of the dirt under me is. A quick check of Sahara Woods that day tells me moisture holding capacity is deep. Obviously the effort to buffer noise and OHV activity from lake use will dictate trail placement but my guess is it will be concentrated on that west end triangulation, beyond the closed gates that offer no view of what might be. The site supervisor has three other properties under his guidance and beyond the occasional Conservation Officer or DNR maintenance staff chances of speaking with anyone of authority on site are slim. This project will take time but everyone I have been in contact with is confident that it will happen. On a side note, while I was in the area I had to ride some Loose Nut tracks that I know Mr. Big Dog had a hand in creating. Hats off to him and Steve for some excellent riding opportunities. If only they had warned me not to tackle Bill Hill Hollow Road alone in a raging thunderstorm.
    #18
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  19. sieg

    sieg Wearing out tires......2 at a time, day after day. Supporter

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    :lurk Interested.
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  20. 1stgenfarmboy

    1stgenfarmboy The Sherpa Man

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    The soil types you see in Little Egypt and Sarah woods are not what I call typical soil from the area, most if not every single inch has been strip mined and reclamation has taken place or not, as a rule there's no shale on the top of the ground, I live 4 miles from Little Egypt and have only rode there once with my boy, not my thing but it is usually packed every weekend, and is surly an asset to the area.
    #20