This year marks the 35th Anniversary of the Minnesota 4 Wheel Drive Association.
The Minnesota 4 Wheel Drive Association was officially incorporated on May 22, 1987, to unify all clubs and create one single organization that could advocate as a whole, rather than fighting for off-roading rights individually.
Prior to 1987 a group of individuals banded together from several off-roading clubs, including: Rochester Rough Riders Club, MN Go-4 Wheelers, Mudslinging4Wheelers St Cloud, and the 4x4 Brothers, to help protect the bumper height laws that the MN State Legislation was changing. The changes to this legislation would have impacted the street legality of off-road capable vehicles, many straight from the dealership showroom floor before the modifications and upgrades. After successfully stopping this legislation from moving forward, the association was formed.
Today, the MN4WDA organization is run by an all-volunteer executive team including: President, Vice President, Treasurer, Secretary and a six-member Board of Directors. The MNWDA also has positions of Legislative Director, Land Use Director, and Membership Directory. The team also includes several appointed positions such as the Media Manager and Website Coordinator that are filled with volunteers from the community who are enthusiastic about seeing the organization thrive and grow.
The mission of the MN4WDA was clear from the start: to organize as a large group with one voice dedicated to creating new opportunities for off-road vehicles, educating the public about off-road recreation and fighting anti-ORV legislation.
For the past 35 years the MN4WDA group has had many opportunities to make sure the recreation continues by working with legislation to create new riding opportunities. Places like Appleton OHV Park, Iron Range OHV SRA and the B2B Touring Route are great examples of this. The group most recently worked to secure property in Mille Lacs County to create another place for wheeling. The MN4WDA is currently working with other locations, such as Houston, Minn to secure more places to wheel.
Over the years, the MN4WDA has worked hard to make sure those who enjoy 4x4 wheeling are able to take their vehicle off the pavement and enjoy the natural beauty of the state in a variety of ways.
Bumper Height Laws
Back before the MN4WDA was officially incorporated, a group of individuals set out to stop legislation that would negatively impact 4x4 vehicles. The legislation was the MN Statute 169.73 subdivision 4 pertaining to the current bumper height laws in effect. This meant they were trying to lower the legal bumper height for all vehicles. The group successfully lobbied to get the classification differentiation between passenger vehicles and 4x4 vehicles, vans, and pickups.
Gas Tax funds for OHVs
Each year, a portion of the Minnesota Fuel Tax goes to fund recreational opportunities such as boating, snowmobiles, ATVs, Off Highway Motorcycles and Off Highway Vehicles. A 1991 study of recreational trail use was conducted by the MNDNR Trails and Waterways unit to determine the number of Minnesotans that participate in driving or riding off-road vehicles for recreational use. The results of this study determined that each group would get a portion of the gasoline tax to use for administration, enforcement, implementation, acquisition, maintenance and development of off-road vehicle trails, Grant-in-Aid programs for trail maintenance and safety programs, and education grants for law enforcement. As of 2021, $250k of those tax dollars were used towards off-road operations of off-road vehicles.
Did you purchase your ORV sticker so that you can wheel at Appleton Recreation Area, Spider Lake or Iron Range Off-Highway Vehicle State Recreation Area? For ORVs the cost is around $38 for three years. Registering your vehicles to ride the designated trails started in 1994 with 148 vehicles. Since then, the number of Off-Road Vehicles has climbed to nearly 8,000 registered Off-Road Vehicles.
The current president, Rick Langness has been at the head of the MN4WDA for 10 years and was the first membership director of the organization. Rick has been pivotal in working with the MN DNR and Legislative Groups to make sure that the availability of off-road vehicles has a place to continue our unique form of recreation across the state.
Special thanks to Lois Campbell for all her assistance in writing this article. Lois was interim president of the MN4WDA in the 1990s