Byron Stuck: The Path to No Return
For the past decade the state of Washington has been very fortunate to have the ever-constant professional Byron “By” Stuck quietly serving the off-road community as one of our nations best volunteers. For the past eight years By has lead the Washington Off Highway Vehicle Alliance (WOHVA) as its president. This year-end 2017 By will be stepping away from his current role to pursue additional interests. The accomplishments of the organization through his leadership are very significant and what has everyone memorized is just how likeable By is.
David Hiatt, who recruited By to help kick start WOHVA, recalls first meeting the good natured ambassador. “I first met By over 20 years ago in random fashion out in Tahuya State Forest. I was out riding dirt bikes with a couple of buddies and I was always the leader of the group. Acting like a racer I had this Hare and Hound mentality all day long. So I see this guy out in the middle of nowhere riding by himself. And without introductions we decide to spend the next half an hour trying to kill each other as racers often do. But keep in mind we don’t know each other and he is riding all by himself.”
The duo of David Hiatt and Byron Stuck eventually befriended each other and would go on through the years to have many other memorable rides. David Hiatt shares the found memories, “By is extremely frugal and values a dollar. He had the same riding gear for fifteen years! And the outfit was less then fashionable, almost like an old pair of lederhosen as his riding pants were supported by suspenders. It’s only been in the last four years that he has had modern riding apparel.”
David’s favorite riding story of By happened about twelve years ago. “I get a call from By’s wife about midnight, and she shares with me that By is not home yet. Earlier that morning he had told me where he was going riding and I knew within ten miles of where he was. By had never been on this particular trail route before and there is a ravine where it’s extremely steep on both sides. While there is an escape route, a recent pacific northwest storm had come through and knocked down all the trees.”
“So the next morning I grabbed a couple of two wheel drive Rubicons and a buddy,” says David. “We ride out to the escape route and we can clearly see his efforts to get over these rain soaked fallen down trees. We had quite a few logs to cut out before we came upon a cold, wet and dreary Byron Stuck and riding partner. They had just spent a night in the woods without a campfire or any light.
By declares to David “Oh man I am glad to see you, I have been cuddled up with my buddy all night to stay warm.” And David chuckles back to him, “Why didn’t you start a fire? You got gas and spark.” And By just looks at David with this thousand yard stare and says, “I really wish I thought of that.”
David goes on to say, “By is always smiling! If you look at all his riding pictures he is smiling. The other thing I will say about By is that he is very astute, just an excellent ambassador. Even the people that hate off-road enthusiasts will sit down with By and talk with him. He creates open lines of communication with everyone that might be willing to collaborate. It is incredible how many communications lines he has with land managers, lobbyists, politicians, and he is always on the list talking to them. He does not have an enemy in the world. Everybody likes him.”
On his leadership style David shares, “By is very good at recognizing volunteers. He has never criticized and he always says thank you to all the volunteers. He finds their interest, manages the volunteer to pick what they want to do and to the tasks that need to be done. By has done a very good job representing the needs of all OHV users’. It’s an all for one and one for all with By. If any OHV user needs support we do it! The only caveat is that it’s non-detrimental to another user. By keeps the volunteers and user groups together.”
Northwest Motorcycle Association (NMA) president Rich Dahl shares, “By works well with others, he keeps lines of communication open. He just has an ease about him to reach across the road. He can work with all the different factions, even with people that might not agree with his opinion. He herds the cats, bringing people and different user groups together. By gives back to the sport completely and totally unselfishly, and can talk passionately to total strangers about what it is that we do.”
Fellow founding WOHVA board member Angie Cornia Marek shares, “By carries himself in a very professional manner. Ninety percent of his role is to put out misconstrued fires, acknowledging people and making them feel valued. I have always enjoyed working with him. I can count on him to represent all user groups. When we formed WOHVA I was the only four wheel drive representative. He told me that he would fight just as hard for our user group as for others, an equal opportunity for all. He has kept to his word, has done it for years and has done an outstanding job. He is just a good person! An all around good person!”
Angie shares that, “By was instrumental in bringing back the Thurston County ORV Park. We worked for three years to get the county to have it opened through Straddleline.” Fortunately Ryan Villopoto and others have stepped in now continuing the efforts to keep the park going, making it better then ever and rebranding effectively as Grays Harbor ORV Park.
“Byron is professionalism, and he brings it to the table pushing WOHVA forward. Others may have helped form WOHVA, but he took the reins and created the vision, direction and most importantly execution. Under his guidance and volunteerism he was the peanut butter to the whole thing. He is simply amazing. At every single event he attends he is there with his WOHVA t-shirt and smile! He is just genuine,” says Angie.
South Sound, South Bound dealership co-owner and founding WOHVA board member Vicki Gray shares, “Byron is a real professional! He has all those years in medicine, The Gates Foundation, his health care consulting business and his latest endeavors in treating early-stage breast cancer. He is not just some random Joe, he brings his professionalism and somehow his time. While the goals have been a combined effort, what’s been established has been through his directorship and consistent professionalism. And while there is a lot more to do and there is a need to grow, when the organization was so young we needed him!”
“By is very high on praise, always has an appropriate demeanor and is just a great guy! But it might just be a riding story that I call ‘The Path to No Return’ that best describes just what kind of guy By is” shares Dale Gray:
“I first met By when him and his buddy Clark Collins decided to go on a one hundred and sixty mile loop with me and my buddy Joe out by Lake Chelan, WA. We gave them the heads up that this ride was not for the faint of heart, it was not going to be easy and that keeping a consistent pace, while not racing, was going to be important. It’s long route!
They were ok with it and decided to come along. So we make it twenty-five miles into the route, and that’s when we come into the down trees that are littered across the trail one after the other. So here is Clark and By, and they want to cut the trees out of the way. But here is thing; there is not enough time for it, this is a dawn to dusk ride where we need to be riding over the fallen down trees. Obviously it’s a deal that’s going to test ones physical ability. Well, after sixty miles of riding over wet logs, roots and mossy rocks Clark Collins has put his tongue in the spokes.
At this point we are at the half way, and getting gas out in the middle of nowhere is a bit of adventure. So we find a boat dock that has a gas station, but the attendant won’t let bikes on the dock. Somehow we work it out and we get all the bikes full of gas.
Clark asked if we had to go back the same way? The answer of course was yes! That is unless you want to take the highway route. So Clark was pretty beat at this time, and he asked By if he could guide him via the alternative route. While Joe and I gave them a heads up that the highway was going to be an awfully long route on a pair of Honda XL250’s, Clark was pretty insisting.
By agreed to follow Clark back to camp via the long and agonizing highway route. Joe and I picked up the pace and made it back to the trailhead and campground by 9:30PM. Well, while we were sitting around the campfire it wasn’t till 2:00AM that we got word that they ran out of gas.
Needless to say, despite By being a loyal riding companion, it was the last time that Clark went riding with any of us. Through the years, I can’t help myself but to get a chuckle whenever I see By. I just simply look at him and say ‘The Path of No Return’.”
“By gives back to the sport completely and totally unselfishly, and can talk passionately to total strangers about what it is that we do.” - Rick Dahl
At every single event he attends he is there with his WOHVA t-shirt and smile! He is just genuine,” – Angie Cornia Marek
“By is very high on praise, always has an appropriate demeanor and is just a great guy! - Dale Gray
“Byron is a real professional! What’s been established has been through his directorship and consistent professionalism.” -Vicki Gray
WOHVA Accomplishments through Byron’s Leadership
- WOHVA members represent the interests and concerns of off-road motorcyclists by serving on the state Interagency Committee for Outdoor Recreation’s advisory committees for the Non-highway and Off-road Vehicle Account and National Recreational Trails Fund
- WOHVA participates in statewide multi-user type groups such as the Coalition of Outdoor Groups.
- WOHVA provides advice to the Forest Service as to the needs of OHV enthusiasts.
- WOHVA is working with the Washington State Commissioner of Public Lands to maximize off-road riding opportunities on public land.
- WOHVA participates in every Washington State legislative session by working closely with members of the House and Senate to promote ORV friendly legislation and stop anti-OHV legislation.
- WOHVA successfully supported legislation in 2006 that allows small communities and counties to designate their roads as open to ORV. This bill also allows ORV parks to charge a fee while giving them protection against lawsuits.
- All 6 of the anti-OHV bills in the 2006 legislative session were killed thanks to direct WOHVA involvement.
- In 2007, Senate bill SB5544 was introduced before the legislature. This was the most draconian anti-ORV noise bill ever and would have been a defacto ban on most ORV use. WOHVA was the lead organization in the successful effort to kill this bill and embarrass co-sponsor Senator Adam Kline for his hate mongering.
- During the 2008 legislative session WOHVA was instrumental in killing bills that would have increased the fine for a variety of ORV related violations as much as 3200 percent, would have added a variety of other new anti-ORV laws and would have banned all new ORV trail building on Department Natural Resources (DNR) managed land for nearly two years.
- WOHVA worked directly with the DNR during 2008 and 2009 to assure that the changes to DNR recreational access laws WAC 332-52 were written in the best interest of off-road motorcycling.
- Since 2008 WOHVA has worked directly with friends in the Legislature to introduce bills that would have lifted the current cap on ORV gas tax allocations. This would have resulted in an approximately 50 percent increase in gas tax funds going into the Nonhighway and Offroad Vehicle Activities account. Unfortunately due to the anti-OHV position of certain key Legislative committee chairmen these bills have not succeed yet.
- During the 2009 legislative session WOHVA was instrumental in killing legislation that would have allowed civil forfeiture of ORV based on probable cause of damaging vegetation, required full sized license plates, add new user fees and abolish the Nonhighway and Offroad Vehicle Activities advisory board, leaving ORV owners with no say in how their ORV funds would be spend.
- In 2009 the Legislature misappropriated all $9.5 million of the ORV gas tax and ORV license tab funds and gave the money to State Parks where there was zero benefit to ORV users. WOHVA teamed up with the NMA and filed a lawsuit to block the illegal transfer of funds. After being heard by the Superior and Appellate Court this law suit was eventually brought before the Washington State Supreme Court. Three Supreme Court justices agreed with WOHVA, two disagreed and two found the case moot. Because of the rules of the court the two moot votes were added to the two against WOHVA so the case was lost 4 to 3. Even though the case was lost, because of the way it was lost the Legislature took serious note and has not attempted to misappropriate the ORV funds again.
- During the 2010 Legislative session WOHVA once again defended OHV recreation by opposing bills that would have eliminated the NOVA advisory committee and added new anti-ORV penalties. A bill was passed restricting the materials that could be used in brake pads and the NMA successfully removed ORV’s from those restrictions.
- During the 2011 Legislative session WOHVA helped write successful legislation that now allows offroad motorcycles to be modified and licensed for street use. This was also the year that the Discover Pass was created and WOHVA was directly involved with adding legal language that excluded vehicles with ORV permits from the Discover pass requirements while anywhere that ORV use is legal.
- During the 2012 Legislative session WOHVA supported multiple bills that would have expanded ORV road use that did not pass and successful legislation that allows the Discover Pass to be transferred between two vehicles.
- During the 2013 Legislative session WOHVA fought hard to keep most of the anti-ORV language out of HB1632 ATV road use bill. By the time the bill was passed none of the anti-ORV provisions apply to offroad motorcycles due to this effort. WOHVA actively supported successful legislation that now allows the use of DNR and WDFW roads without a Discover Pass.
- During the 2014 Legislative session WOHVA worked with key members of the Legislature to shape legislation that promotes an improved DNR trail management policy.
- WOHVA is currently working to assure ORV access to the new Teanaway Community Forest.
- Created the Annual WOHVA Meet and Greet, a friend raising event of three hundred plus attendees where the general public enjoys three plus days of multi-us