BONNERS FERRY — Surrounded by wilderness — mountains, forests, rivers — the trails that weave through them call to many people who reside in Boundary County. These people who heed the call, do so on foot, horseback, bicycles, and off highway vehicles (OHV) such as motorbikes, ATVs, and UTVs.
For those younger than 16, if their chosen mode of transportation is OHVs, they are required to be certified before they can take to the roads and trails on U.S. Forest Service land. Until earlier this year, the class required for this meant traveling out of the county to take part in a free Idaho Parks and Recreation Responsible Riders education course.
The Boundary County Sheriff’s Office saw a need to bring the class here, so they had members become certified instructors and offered the first class in June.
“It’s being able to take people who not only have a willingness to train, but they have the passion and skill set behind it too,” said Boundary County Sheriff Dave Kramer.
With instructors that are not only law enforcement, but also OHV enthusiasts, they brought fun to the class.
“We like to have fun just like everyone else,” said instructor Boundary County Sheriff Deputy Brandon Cobler. “If we are having fun, then they are having fun. It is easier for them to learn. The whole goal is to instil in them a passion for riding motorcycles off road.”
After a successful first class, they returned with another class on Saturday, Sept. 28, at the Boundary County Fairgrounds. Four young riders attended on off-road motorcycles. One of the riders was 15 year old Hannah Facha, who has been riding for about seven years.
“We wanted to get out and enjoy the recreation in our mountains here a little more,” said her father, Mike Facha, Jr. “Family time on the weekends, but to do that, we have to have this course.”
“It’s good for them,” said Facha. “They learn the safety etiquette.”
The instructors on Saturday were Boundary County Undersheriff Rich Stevens, Boundary County Deputy Brandon Cobler, Boundary County Reserve Deputy Steve Ussher, and Boundary County Corporal Clint Randall. They took turns teaching them safety rules and etiquette first.
“We want them to be safe,” said Stevens. “That is the biggest reason for this class. There is a legal aspect, but ultimately it is the safety.”
The course’s main focuses are on safe riding, proper machine sizing, responsible and ethical riding, proper handling and shifting, riding within your ability, understanding the machine’s capabilities, and rules of the road.
The class was light and casual, but the lessons learned where serious — from their own safety, to the safety and well being of others that may be sharing the same roads and trails. They discussed what to do when encountering other OHVs, horses, hikers and more.
“If you see a hiker, I know it is a pain to stop, but sometimes it is nicer and more polite to pull to the side, let them walk past,” explained Stevens to the class. “Maybe shut the bike off so it is quiet for them. Give them a polite wave. That way they are not dusted out.”
The instructors encouraged the students to participate in the lessons. The question was asked about what to do when encountering a horse and a young man raised his hand and answered that you should probably, “pull off to the side and shut the bike off until it gets far, far away from you.”
This was part of the lesson that the instructors were equally passionate about.
“We have all seen motorcycle land become more and more limited,” said Cobler. “Twenty years ago you could ride anywhere with pretty much no restrictions on it. Because a lot of motorcycle riders have problems with other people trying to use the same land, we have a respect issue.”
Cobler explained that as land becomes more and more limited, it becomes more and more important to teach the next generation of riders how important that respect is and to share the land.
“I want to see my kids be able to ride on the same land that I ride on,” he said.
With two successful classes under their belt, the sheriff’s office looks forward to continuing offering the important education.
“We thought it was something we could do locally here, and having the deputies out there to instruct, helps to build that rapport with them,” said Kramer.