Dealer steps forward to save OHV access – July 3, 2006
July 3, 2006
Filed under Features
At a time when the powersports industry is facing mounting pressure from governmental agencies regarding public land access, most dealers are forced to sit by the wayside and watch the legal battles unfold. Fortunately, Mark Love is not like most dealers.
On March 15, Love, along with business partners Aaron Thompson and Roger Blue, opened Brimstone Recreation LLC to the public. The Brimstone property, located in Huntsville, Tenn., had been an OHV hot spot for years until GMO Renewable Resources purchased the land a little more than two years ago. With the change in ownership came the possibility of a change in access — the threat of closing the area became a concern.
That’s when Love and his partners stepped in. After nearly two years of negotiations, the three local businessmen were able to nail down a deal with GMO allowing the formation of Brimstone Recreation LLC. The for-profit company now manages and promotes the use of the 45,000 acres for the public, while GMO handles the area’s natural resources.
When combined with the bordering recreational sites of Coal Creek OHV Area and Royal Blue/Sundquist Wildlife Management Area, Brimstone brings the total outdoor enthusiast haven to more than 200,000 acres, all of which is geared primarily toward off-road vehicles. Brimstone, however, also offers hunting, hiking, mountain biking and even cultural expeditions to explore the area’s history.
Shortly after the official opening, Love and Thompson bought The Honda Shop of LaFollette from former owner Robert Baird. The two are in the midst of a major makeover, which will include a showroom and a full-service repair shop for dirt bikes, motorcycles and of course, ATVs.
Love witnessed first-hand the economic boon generated by Coal Creek, and he knew that in time Brimstone would do the same for Huntsville and its surrounding area.
Thompson already owns a Yamaha dealership in Huntsville, which is across the street from the main entrance to Brimstone. The shop, Thompson’s Yamaha, has been in business for 33 years, and has already seen an increase in business during the first few months since Brimstone’s opening.
“The goal is to bring people in from all over and boost the community’s economy, as well as provide a great place for people to ride worry-free,” Love said.
And if Coal Creek is any barometer, Love will reach that goal. Last year alone, Coal Creek sold 30,000 permits.
Every April, Coal Creek hosts a Spring Jamboree that draws 5,000 riders. “The Jamboree brings quite a boom in sales for us as well as much of the region’s small family operated businesses,” said Beverly Watson, manager of Polaris Outdoor Equipment in nearby Oak Ridge. Watson said the Polaris dealer sells anywhere from 40 to 80 year-round permits for Coal Creek each year, as do many other local dealers and businesses.
Love’s daughter, Erica, who helped put things together at Brimstone and currently works in the newly acquired Honda Shop, says once they get out of the “growing pains” of remodeling, they plan to have a Honda-sponsored event at Brimstone this August.
Remarkably, “things are already changing,” she said. “Although we have not advertised all that much, word of mouth has definitely helped attract riders from outside our area.” psb