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An unusual new venture is underway at American Honda's Rider Education Center in Colton, California, that provides the public with off-road motorcycle and ATV rider training in a setting that teaches respect for the back-country riding environment.

The venture is Honda's Off-Highway Vehicle & Environmental Learning Center, a two-acre addition to the 12-year-old training facility that incorporates 1/3 mile of trail and five distinct ecosystems. Students who come here learn real-world off-road riding techniques and environmentally responsible rider ethics at the same time.

"The Environmental Learning Center will be used to teach environmental awareness and the proper operation of off-highway motorcycles and ATVs," says Colton Rider Education Center Administrator Lowell Christensen. "It will help instill in students a responsible land-use ethic."

"It's a one-of-a-kind facility," says Honda's OHV Media Coordinator Paul Slavik. "To our knowledge, there is nothing that has married these two concepts — OHV training and environmental education — in the same facility."

The initial solution was to model a real-world environment where students could take their basic riding skills and use them to learn to ride effectively in natural terrain. From that preliminary concept, Honda expanded the vision to include instruction on environmentally responsible trail riding.

Honda trucked in 7,000 yards of dirt — more than 300 double truckloads — to create the setting. Some 2,541 plants representing 43 different species of plants and trees were used to create the five ecosystems. They are irrigated by 16,000 feet of PVC pipe and 49 different watering systems. The capital investment by Honda in the OHV & Environmental Learning Center is nearly half a million dollars.

Another important goal for the OHV & Environmental Learning Center is to serve as a model for an urban off-highway vehicle park. "That's another exciting part of the OHV & Environmental Learning Center," Slavik says. "There is a great need for small OHV parks in urban areas, where kids and young adults can easily get to them and where people don't have to drive two hours to go for a ride."

For now, the Honda OHV & Environmental Learning Center is a remarkable example of how to merge two apparently diverse interests — off-road training and environmental awareness. And while that's exciting, what's really thrilling is the center's potential in the future.

The Honda OHV & Environmental Learning Center is another great example of how Honda has made extraordinary efforts to be a good corporate citizen in the community. The rider training and environmental education this center provides will help ensure an environmentally sound future for off-highway vehicle recreation.

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