The Great Outdoor Consultants are specialists in planning and design for all types of outdoor nature-based recreation. One of their most recent projects includes the Rio Blanco County Trails Master Plan; this is a plan that helps bridge OHV economic opportunity, enjoyment and sustainability to reality. I was able to catch the executive director Drew Stoll via cell phone to give us a little background on his organization and how he was able to help make Rio Blanco an OHV friendly community.
Interview by Ben Janin
Hello Drew, what can you tell our readers about your organization?
We do a broad range of outdoor recreation work for planning and designing. We have (5) people on our team that each have more than 30 years of experience working throughout the country and internationally. Together, we all have a long history of working with the Forest Service, BLM and other agencies like Colorado Parks and Wildlife across the country. We’re also proud to partner with organizations such as COHVCO and NOHVCC. Among many things, we work to find solutions with inventory data, travel management and OHV recreation.
So how did your involvement Rio Blanco County and the Town of Meeker all come about?
Well it wasn’t just one thing and the moving pieces just seemed to fit. I happened to have a colleague who worked in the BLM office in Meeker saw the need for a long-term vision for OHV recreation in the area. At some point, John Bongiavinni had approached the county very strategically and was able to show them the value of OHV tourism in their community. He was able to prove that they would have a significant return on their investment if they became an OHV friendly community.
Well one thing lead to another and the County decided on a county wide focus to have OHV tourism in the community. Together Rio Blanco County, Meeker Chamber of Commerce, COHVCO, The Great Outdoors Consultants and the local OHV club called Wagon Wheels OHV Club developed a Trails Master Plan. Funded through the county, this master plan illustrated to the national government what they wanted. This is a very pioneering document. It does not normally happen this way. Typically there is just meetings of sorts that may not lead anywhere. But this trails master plan is credible and provides a pathway to success.
So how did you get involved with the COHVCO workshop?
It seems inevitable that my clients become my friends, and this has definitely happened in Meeker. I have sponsored and attended the Meeker Rendezvous twice now and have really enjoyed being there.
In any case, I got to speaking with Scott Jones and Jerry Abboud about ways we could make the COHVCO workshop better. In 2014, Scott Jones and Jerry Abboud were busy with land and capital hill issues and weren’t able to organize the workshop. So they approached me to be the coordinator for this year’s workshop. We put out an online questionnaire asking people what they wanted for as focus, public opinions, dates, and locations.
Overwhelmingly people felt that Meeker was an important story to tell. Having the workshop during the Meeker Rendezvous allows us to share their experience. Participants will be able to unload their OHVs when they arrive and use them the whole time in Town and for the trail ride! People from the outside can come and see first hand how you can become an OHV friendly community. Even though we are not set up as a national event we have invited people from outside the state to share ideas and information. NOHVCC will bring a national perspective to the workshop as a co-coordinator.
This is just a fantastic story!!! Where else is your company doing work?
We have ongoing projects in West Virginia, Minnesota, South Dakota, Nevada, Wyoming, and Colorado. We are truly doing work all over the country. I am always networking; as we speak I am at the Baltimore airport returning from the National Outdoor Recreational Conference. Events like these are great opportunities; I just met a US Forest Service Recreation Staff Officer from California that appears to be really interested in working with our group.
So what does the future look like for the Great Outdoor Consultants?
We are working with Stay the Trail to find the best mobile solutions for Coloradointeractive navigation maps. It’s been in the discussion for many years. No one else is doing what we have in mind. Currently all maps are laborious to use. Let’s say you want to set your navigation to just single track or just UTV. In addition it maybe important to know what the terrain and trail difficulty actually looks like before you get there.
I would love to see more strategic planning. If we have plans, we can set objectives. Having a strategic plan at a state level would be great; I have seen a lot of great ideas and written concepts but Colorado has not made this type of planning a priority. States like Arizona, North Dakota and Pennsylvania have some lofty goals, but you have got to have a strategic plan because your opinion will only take you so far. I would love to see Colorado take on this initiative, but it is going to take some money for a quality process. A strategic plan could help Colorado focus OHV funds to the highest value solutions in the best locations.
Any parting words to share with our readers?
We work to find solutions collaboratively with organizations like COHVCO and agencies. We are not advocates but we do find solutions in collaboration with our clients and partners. We are not motivated by the money but by our passion for outstanding outdoor recreation opportunities.