Each year the DNR selects one ATV safety instructor as Safety Instructor of the Year; this year, they have chosen Mike Halvorson of Rushford from over 1,000 safety instructors in the 70 ATV clubs across the state.
Bluff Country ATV Club president Allen Kirchhof said of Halvorson’s award, “an award truly deserved because of his tireless effort and dedication to what we are trying to do for the community of which we are a part.”
Halvorson and his wife Heidi were two of the six original members of the BCATV Club which was established in 2001. The club is “kind of an older club composed mostly of couples” and is looking to add younger people as well.
Kirchhof completed the nomination papers for Mike to receive the award. On May 24, Halvorson was notified that he had been chosen; on May 27, Phil George, conservation officer and regional training officer at the DNR, visited the Halvorsons at their rural Lanesboro farm to present the award.
Mike has been involved in safety training since 2003. Each year, the BCATV Club runs three sessions of training with each session averaging around 33 students for a total of 100 new trained riders each year. The club now boasts 17 training officers; almost everyone in the club has become a training officer.
Halvorson commented, “It was a cool honor to get this award, but it takes the whole club; this reflects on the whole club — not just me.”
Riders who wish to complete the safety training can find information on the DNR website; all classes are listed there. First an online class of around three hours needs to be completed.
Then on the training day, the riders go through two to two and a half hour classroom session on site usually presented by Allen Kirchhof. After completing a 15 question test and taking a lunch break, the riders move on to a hands-on riding course with the other safety instructors. First the riders go through a “fit station” at which they prove their knowledge of the use of the machine and hand signals; then they go through three other stations to show their riding ability.
M&M Lawn & Leaisure of Rushford generously provides six brand new machines for the club to use for the training session. Students need to repeat stations until they are able to pass. Halvorson commented that some riders have needed to go through the stations three times.
Halvorson shared that the most important part of the safety training for the new riders to learn and remember is to “use your brain!” It’s important to use common sense when riding and know their own limitations, skills,and machines. He stresses respect for property and people.
Graduates of the safety training get their registration papers signed by the instructors; they then need to finalize on the DNR website. Expenses for the training include $24.95 for the online training, $10 for the training provided by BCATV Club, and $10 to the DNR to print their card.
Youths ages 10-15 can take the course. Anyone born after July 1, 1987, must complete a safety training as well to ride ATVs. Halvorson noted that ever since he took his safety training, he has made a point to always wear his seatbelt. According to Mike, about half of the parents stay for the safety classes. In this way, the parents and kids have the same knowledge of the rules; this makes it easier for parents to enforce those safety rules.
Mike is an active member of the BCATV Club, and the Region 5 director of ATV MN, the state ATV club. He tries to make as many of the ATV MN trail rides as he can. He also has done benefit rides for Spring Grove Lions and Fire Department and the Lansing Fire Department; another benefit ride in Decorah was missed due to a broken machine and conflicting schedules. Recently, he and Heidi attended a Ride and Roast put on in Isle, Minn., by prior ATV MN president Ken Irish.
Mike and Heidi are trail ambassadors. This means they ride a trail and then critique elements of the trail, noting issues and infractions, and counting the riders using the trail.
Southern Minnesota has few trails compared to the Twin Cities area and north. There are only four trails in our area: Snake Creek and Trout Run at Wabasha, a club-sponsored trail in Chatfield, and the Southeast Trail which runs from Stockton to Altura.
The Halvorsons have ridden in Custer S. Dak., Deadwood, S. Dak., Henderson, Nev., Hurley, Wis., Black River Falls, Wis., and many locations in northern Minnesota including Silver Bay and Moose Lake. Northern Minnesota has a lot of DNR grant-in-aid trails. Mike and Heidi own a CanAm 650cc 2 up (built for two people) and a Honda Pioneer 520cc UTV. They enjoy riding their smaller machines at lower speeds so they can enjoy nature on their rides.
Mike’s daughter Desi and granddaughter MiKenna are club members as well. Mike’s sons Cory and Dustin help with the outdoor safety sessions. The entire family sees the importance of safety training.
With larger and more powerful machines weighing up to 1,500 lb being sold every year, Mike feels it’s more important than ever to provide safety training to new riders. He noted that recently three youths were killed in ATV accidents; none of them had had safety training. Often people injured or killed in accidents are not wearing seatbelts or helmets. Would safety training have saved them? According to Mike, “It could only help!”
Mike Halvorson appears to be a great choice for the DNR Safety Instructor of the Year!