Despite being written into the Master Plan for the St Helen Motor Sport Area a decade ago, the Rock Crawl and Challenge Area has never made it to the top of the priority list for the MI Department of Natural Resources and Environment (DNRE) ORV Program until this year. Great Lakes Four Wheel Drive Association was asked to provide comments and course design specification changes on behalf of the 4x4 community in Michigan, and based on the sneak peak we saw yesterday they have built the courses about as close to our requested specifications as could be expected for an unmonitored state-owned recreation area. Although the challenge areas will not provide competition-level rock crawl challenges, they have included challenging runs for most users by including a run with 48-72" cement tubes that when we left yesterday were being modified after one of our more experienced members was unable to make headway past the first pipe despite 40" tires and plenty of horsepower.
This project marked a new milestone in our working relationship with the DNRE - not only were we allowed to offer substantive changes to the design specifications, we also were invited to provide a "technical expert" who made a number of on-site visits to meet with the design engineers, contractors and state representatives. This unique opportunity led to a discussion about ways to improve the overall plan through the addition of several additional truckloads of rocks (St Helen MSA is located in the middle of an extremely sandy area - all the project materials were shipped in from other parts of the state), but the ORV grant money had already been allocated. Through an Internet-based fundraising effort, we were able to raise an additional $6,000 from individuals, off road businesses across the state, and from the local business community in the St Helen area that will benefit from additional tourism dollars spent in the area. The complete list of business donors can be found at: http://www.greatlakes4x4.com/showpost.php?p=2376733&postcount=251
Special Thanks to Paige Perry, our DNRE Trails Program Analyst for the Eastern Lower Peninsula, Pat Kinne from GLFWDA for serving as our technical expert, the GLFWDA Trail Ride Committee, Rowe Engineering, Pete's Contracting, and the more than 100 individual and businesses who donated private funds to enhance this project.
The site is scheduled to be available to users on October 31, 2010