A message from the Carolina Trail Blazers, James Belcher.
The Uwharries, prior to becoming a national forest in 1961 by decree of President John F. Kennedy, were used for hunting, gold mining, timber and farming. All of those activities left a system of roads and trails throughout the forest which continued to be used by recreationists after the Uwharries were name a National Forest. Motorcycles, trucks and early 4wd vehicles accessed the forest for many purposes. With the advent of the ATV in the early 70’s usage of the forest increased.
In the late 70s and early 80s, motorcycle clubs, notably NC Trailriders, under the leadership of John Worsley, were using the forest trail system and developing and maintaining new trails. At this time Scott Fields was living on Badin Lake and as an active outdoorsman, Scott was an active user of Uwharrie National Forest. Scott was an ATV owner who frequently rode the Forest Service roads and hunting trails in the Uwharries. As a “local” Scott became friends with John Worsley and NC Trailriders. Scott would use his Honda Foreman ATV to serve as a pack mule for the motorcycle club as they performed their trail work carrying chainsaws, axes, gas cans and other equipment the motorcycle riders couldn’t carry.
In 1982 Scott purchased a “79 Dodge Power Wagon. This vehicle was capable of carrying much more trail development equipment and Scott’s role in developing the Uwharrie trail system increased as well. At about this same time Forest Service personnel and motorcycle club leadership began to have issues over the trail system usage and maintenance. Legal motorcycle access was even suspended for a short period between 1982 and 1984. It was at this time that Scott began to have a vision to incorporate the off road trails into a Forest Service operation that would serve the full size OHV users in addition to the motorcycles and three wheeler ATVs that were using the trail system. In 1984 the trail system was reopened for all motor usage and was being used by motorcycles, ATVs and full size 4wd vehicles which were becoming very popular.
During this same period of time, 1982-1986, a 4wd event called the Smoky Mountain Trek was being held in the Nantahala National Forest area called Tellico. With the proliferation of full size 4wd usage, the event began to grow beyond its bounds, and the need developed for a recreationist advocacy group to work with the Forest Service in maintaining the trail system.
In the spring of 1987 a new organization was formed to be an advocate for the many individual and club 4wd enthusiasts in the southeast United States. This association was formed as the Southern Four Wheel Drive Association. The inaugural meeting took place in Gatlingburgh, TN. Among the attendees was Scott Fields, a member of the Carolina Trail Blazers 4wd Club, Inc. Scott is a charter member of SFWDA as is the CTB club.
Through his contacts with local enthusiasts, Forest Service personnel and SFWDA leadership, Scott brokered a deal whereby SFWDA would assist the Forest Service in developing an OHV system in the forest which would bring to fruition his vision of a multi-user trail system.
Several of SFWDA’s leaders at that time were experienced heavy machinery operators and Scott recruited their services in operating the machinery that modified the single track trails into something suitable for full size 4wd vehicles. Gunnar Byrd, 2011-2013 SFWDA president, and Griff Shirley were the men on the machines during this phase of the Uwharrie OHV trail system development.
As with many Forest Service programs, the participation of the general public, especially sport specific enthusiasts, was a key to maintaining the new OHV trails. As Scott’s vision began to take shape, the need for someone to coordinate volunteer efforts in this maintenance was self evident. As a resident of the area, an enthusiast and visionary of the project, Scott was the logical choice, and so began his 16 year run as OHV volunteer coordinator for the Uwharrie OHV trail system.
In the mid 2000s Scott suffered some business problems which forced him to curtail his OHV volunteer activities and move away from the Uwharie area. The OHV volunteer coordinator position passed through several people and as participation and communication between the coordinators and the Forest Service declined the Forest Service decided to began using an Adpot-A-Trail Partner program. Instead of having a volunteer coordinator that would work with the various clubs and individuals, clubs would adopt a specific trail to maintain in the Uwharrie OHV system and the Forest Service personnel would coordinate with club leadership.
Without Scott Fields and his vision it is very doubtful that there would even be an OHV trail system in Uwharrie National Forest. He is owed a debt of gratitude from every enthusiast who uses those trails!