Since its founding in 1959 and continuing through today, the association is committed to keeping public lands open for people who not only go four-wheeling, but also those who enjoy hunting, fishing, hiking, photography, camping, rock hounding, ghost towning, skiing, and numerous other activities.
When you are in the Army, you are told never to volunteer for anything. When you are an avid four-wheeler, you don’t have to be told. Volunteerism is part of your recreational life.
From planting thousands of new seedlings in an area devastated by fire to cleaning up tons of litter in the California desert, four-wheelers are always there. From hosting Special Olympic athletes in the backcountry to midnight runs helping earthquake victims, four-wheel drive families are always among the first to be counted.
In the early 1980’s, the Gear Grinders 4-Wheel Drive Club and the Black Mountain 4-Wheel Drive Club from the Ridgecrest area, kicked off projects in the El Paso Mountains. The entire association got behind these projects to help preserve and mark the old Mojave Trail, also known as the Jed Smith Trail or Old Government Road. About the same time, southern California clubs were busy working in the Ojai Forest Area, where they installed pipelines and water troughs, repaired a road wash, installed a culvert, refurbished three guzzlers, and constructed a block restroom.
In May 1980, the association received a Congressional Commendation for its voluntary work during flooding in southern California during the winter of 1979/1980. Congressman Wayne Grisham said that the association members performed such jobs as towing mud-covered vehicles and assisting in evacuating families whose lives were endangered by the floodwaters. “Their remarkable contribution to the community during this crisis underscores the very basic philosophy of four-wheel drive clubs — a philosophy based on the idea of citizenship and service,” Grisham noted.
For many years now, the Mud, Sweat & Gears Club from Sonora, assisted by several other clubs, has been hosting physically and mentally challenged young adults who belong to the Christian Berets from Modesto. During the daylong event, the guests are treated to tight turns, steep slopes and breathtaking scenery, followed by a visit with Smokey Bear and a lunch provided by the four-wheelers.
Responding to the 1992 Cleveland Fire devastation in the Eldorado National Forest, hundreds of four-wheelers and other off-highway vehicle enthusiasts gave up several weekends to replant trees on a 100-acre parcel. The fire destroyed $245 million worth of timber. The OHV coalition of volunteers made the annual trip to the charred remains, where they worked side-by-side with forest service personnel in planting the new seedlings.
For many years, southern California clubs, in cooperation with Southern California Edison and the BLM, conducted major conservation projects in the California desert in conjunction with Earth Day. Examples of desert projects included work in removing an abandoned mining operation and trash removal from the Calico Mountain. Another project involved the installation of six, 500-gallon wildlife watering troughs (guzzlers) at the El Mirage Dry Lake OHV area. The guzzlers provide year-round water supply for coyotes, birds, and reptiles, which make their home in the recreation area.
Every year in California, thousands of people are rescued from a variety of emergency situations. From natural disasters to recreational accidents, these rescues are made possible because of the many dedicated and courageous search and rescue teams, many of which include four-wheel drive volunteers. They devote their time, talent, and equipment because they take pride in what they do: saving lives.