Ultra4s Rock Johnson Valley

SEMA News—April 2015

FROM THE HILL
By Eric Snyder

Ultra4s Rock Johnson Valley

One Year Later, Legislative Accord Preserves OHV Recreation


Ultra4 racer navigating a rock formation at Chocolate Thunder.
Ultra4 racer navigating a rock formation at Chocolate Thunder.

The ninth annual King of the Hammers was held once again this February in California’s Johnson Valley Off-Highway Vehicle (OHV) Recreational Area. More than 430 teams in four vehicle classes competed during a week-long event witnessed by at least 55,000 spectators and more than 750,000 online viewers. The event culminated in the one-day “Ultra4” race in which vehicles constructed for their speed and rock-climbing abilities raced across a 215-mile course of open desert and steep ravines.

Johnson Valley is a unique setting north of Palm Springs, California, that combines open desert, dry lake beds and extreme rock-crawling trails. The land offers riding opportunities for every skill level. The Johnson Valley area was originally set aside in 1980 for OHV recreation by the State of California on land managed by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM).

However, until recently, the future of Johnson Valley was in doubt. For nearly six years, access to the land had been debated in California and in Congressional offices in Washington, D.C. At issue was a need for additional lands to train Marines at the Twentynine Palms combat center. In a compromise supported by the OHV community, Congress passed legislation to provide permanent federal protection to 96,000 acres of land for OHV activities while transferring 79,000 acres to the U.S. Marine Corps facility. The net effect was a win for both sides.

Charging across a dry lake at Johnson Valley.
Charging across a dry lake at Johnson Valley.

During the Congressional debates, SEMA joined with the Off-Road Business Association (ORBA) and a coalition of other land-use advocacy organizations to propose solutions for protecting military training needs and off-roading. All of the interested parties are now working together to implement the 2013 agreement.

“Johnson Valley has demonstrated that the industry and the enthusiast community can join forces to achieve legislative success,” said SEMA President and CEO Chris Kersting.

“It is a model that can be applied across the country, since many other popular off-roading areas are under similar threats of closure.”

There is still one important goal to be achieved: including the word “national” within the Johnson Valley title. Although the area is already the only federally recognized OHV area, the new designation will acknowledge the land’s national significance.

U.S. Rep. Paul Cook (R-CA)—a former Marine Corps colonel himself—represents the area in Congress and played a critical role in reaching the 2013 accord with the U.S. Marines. He will be leading the charge in 2015 on behalf of this special recognition. SEMA will be climbing over boulders in Washington in support.

Hammertown in the distance, which includes the start/finish line, vendor tents, trucks, attendee mobile homes, race team pit areas and the spectator viewing area for the King of the Hammers event.
Hammertown in the distance.

  Charging across a dry lake at Johnson Valley.
Roadblock as racers try to climb Jackhammer. 
     

Hammertown in the distance, which includes the start/finish line, vendor tents, trucks, attendee mobile homes, race team pit areas and the spectator viewing area for the King of the Hammers event.
Patriotic spectator leaving Chocolate Thunder.

 

The Jumbotron at Hammertown.
The Jumbotron at Hammertown.

     

Spectators take in the race at the Jackhammer.
Spectators take in the race at the Jackhammer.

 

An Ultra4 racer descending the Backdoor course.
An Ultra4 racer descending the Backdoor course.

     

Hammertown in the distance, which includes the start/finish line, vendor tents, trucks, attendee mobile homes, race team pit areas and the spectator viewing area for the King of the Hammers event.
Patriotic spectator leaving Chocolate Thunder.

 

Panoramic view of Johnson Valley
Panoramic view of Johnson Valley.

     

Rep. Paul Cook (left) with SEMA President and CEO Chris Kersting at the 2014 Drivers’ Meeting
Rep. Paul Cook (left) with SEMA President and CEO Chris Kersting at the 2014 Drivers’ Meeting.


 

SEMA PAC President’s Club Spotlight: Wade Kawasaki

 

President’s Club member Wade Kawasaki (left) with wife Rose (right) and U.S. Representative Doug LaMalfa (R-CA).
The first-ever SEMA Battle of the Builders television special is set to air at 8:00 p.m. EDT on Sunday, March 8, on the Velocity Network. Months of filming went into the production, culminating on a live stage at the SEMA Ignited afterparty this past November in Las Vegas.

Wade Kawasaki is the president and chief operating officer of the Coker Group, which is headquartered in Chattanooga, Tennessee. He is a four-year member of the SEMA PAC President’s Club and was inducted into the SEMA Hall of Fame in 2013.

“We feel that it is vital to our industry to have a meaningful presence in Washington, D.C., not only to be on watch for unintended consequences of legislation but also to aggressively pursue alliances that we will need in the future,” Kawasaki said. “We live in a global environment, and building our businesses is no longer just about what we can do for ourselves but what we can do together, because left on our own, we can’t ‘make a dent.’”

For more information on SEMA PAC, contact SEMA PAC and Congressional Relations Manager Christian Robinson at 202-783-6007 x20 or christianr@sema.org.

 

Aerial view of the spectator parking lot at Jackhammer
Aerial view of the spectator parking lot at Jackhammer.


 

Randy Slawson crossing the finish line to win King of the Hammers 2015. Only 17 teams in the Ultra4 division completed the grueling 215-mile course with open desert and steep ravines.
Randy Slawson crossing the finish line to win King of the Hammers 2015. Only 17 teams in the Ultra4 division completed the grueling 215-mile course with open desert and steep ravines.

 

Rate this article: 
5
Average: 5 (1 vote)