Approximately 25 riders and supporters were on hand Saturday to celebrate the reopening of phase one of the Rattlesnake Bay OHV Trails in Mississippi’s DeSoto National Forest, according to a report from the American Motorcyclist Association.
Prior to Satorday’s reopening, these trails had been “temporarily” closed for more than 11 years. The Friends of Rattlesnake Bay off-highway-vehicle group joined U.S. Forest Service officials for a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the 9.5-mile section of trails.
“We are elated that the Forest Service has begun the process of re-opening these trails, and we want to thank the Forest Service officials and the Friends of Rattlesnake Bay member volunteers for their hard work that made this day possible,” says Dale Tallman Jr., volunteer coordinator for the Friends of Rattlesnake Bay.
The AMA became involved in the effort at Tallman’s request. Steve Salisbury, AMA government affairs manager for off-highway issues, assisted Tallman, Fred Pittman, Robert Rockco and other Mississippi riders in forming the Friends of Rattlesnake Bay to facilitate Forest Service negotiations with a unified voice.
The initial reopening was made possible by the February approval of a recreation fee structure from the U.S. Forest Service Southern Region Recreation Resource Advisory Committee and cooperation between the USFS and Friends of Rattlesnake Bay. Volunteers from the OHV group helped USFS crews complete the needed repairs to the trails in late August.
The trails reopened Saturday consist of a 7.6-mile loop and a 1.9-mile loop. A second section of trail, encompassing nearly 28 miles, is in the planning stages and may open in the spring or summer of 2015.
“This is, indeed, an important milestone for the individuals and clubs that ride in the Rattlesnake Bay area,” Salisbury said. “And it is equally important to keep the lines of communication open between the riders and the Forest Service as we all work toward the goal of reopening all the closed trails in the DeSoto.”
The Rattlesnake Bay trail system is in the special use permit area for the Camp Shelby Military Training Site near Hattiesburg, Miss. Mississippi Tourism, a division of the Mississippi Development Authority, supported the reopening of the trails.
Trail rules include a one-inch maximum tire tread depth and an OHV sound limit of 96 dBA.
The approved fee structure provides for the continued maintenance and operation of the trails. The fee includes a $10-a-day per person fee for trail use and a $60-a-year annual operator fee, which will be valid for all OHV trails on national forests in Mississippi. The annual pass is expected to be available early in 2015.
Trails covered by the fees include Rattlesnake Bay, the Little Tiger ATV Trail System, the Chickasawhay ATV Trail System and the Bethel Motorized Trail System, which includes a motorcycle loop and ATV trail.