By PATRICK SLACK
For Nancy Lanners, driving 4-wheelers is a family tradition.
The same can be said for the rest of the Eastern Morrison County 4-Wheeler Club, which has been gathering monthly since 1992.
After a local group of six members started the club, it has swelled to about 100 members, gathering the first Thursday of the month from April to October at Hillman Creek, then moving to Genola when trails close in the winter.
“We go to Moose Lake, we’ve gone up to Remer and Cass Lake and through McGregor,” Lanners said. “We’ve gone into Wisconsin too,” as the Soo Line Trail leads into Superior.
And June 15, the newest group of club members joined the long-standing tradition, becoming certified to operate All-Terrain Vehicles (ATVs) at the Department of Resources (DNR) training session.
Lanners, one of the volunteer leaders of the training program, said it’s important for parents and students to fully understand the safety procedures before hitting public trails.
“The training process is something we picked up on because we have some younger kids and we want them to be out there and want them to be safe,” Lanners said.
“If they take just a little bit of what you know it feels good,” she said. “If you don’t know how to run your machine it can be a danger. If you don’t train them right, then you start getting into trouble and you end up with more accidents.”
A speaker from the DNR is typically present as well, allowing parents a chance to have questions answered and to learn about any new laws that have been passed.
Safety training is required for all youths ages 11 – 15 to operate ATVs on public lands, with the certificate becoming valid at age 12.
The program involves a morning of classroom instruction, followed by training on a field course on a DNR-approved trail.
“We have to follow DNR specifics on how to train the kids,” Lanners said. “They hand out the guidelines and we have to follow that so we hit all of the aspects of what they need to know.”
Once a student passes the training, they are set, only needing to renew their license. Training completed in Minnesota is also recognized in any other state, as long as students are old enough in the state they wish to operate ATVs in.
In addition to enjoying the trails available, the group currently sponsors the Soo Line Trail from Highway 10 north of Royalton east to Mille Lacs County, taking care of 28 miles of trail.
“We may not see some of the trails we’ve started on, but if our kids and their kids will, then it’s just great,” Lanners said.
Like many members of the club, Lanners’ entire family is involved, allowing them to pass on the fun.
“My kids are all in it,” she said. “I have a daughter who’s 20 who volunteers. I have a niece that comes up from Utah. We would like to keep it going.”
“To us, it’s just fun,” Lanners said. “It’s a family thing. We have four kids and it’s something you can do as a family. We want them to be outside and on the trails.”