The second meeting saw the establishment of the Association's official publication (4WDrive Lines), the motto, (Four Wheeling Responsibly), and the Association's logo. New clubs were joining as the word spread and the Association grew rapidly.
The year 1998 finds the Association with thirty member clubs representing over 1000 member families and spread across five states: New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Louisiana. The Association's four quarterly event/meetings are frequently seen in 4WD enthusiast magazines and the blue and red logo of the Association is a
Growth in the organization has continued to escalate. As of the 2003 May Quarterly Meeting, we were happy to say that we had 35 clubs enrolled in SWFWDA which included 1,749 club members. We also had 95 individual members and 24 supporting members setting new membership highs at a total of 1,868.
A History of the Southwest Four Wheel Drive Association
November 9th, 1991 marks the start of a dream. Alan Gilmore, founder and first president, envisioned an association with which his passion for four wheeling and the need for a southern voice in the fight for public land could come together and unite. Alan contacted other likeminded individuals and clubs, and laid down a mission.
At Leasburg State Park north of Las Cruses, New Mexico, 33 rigs from 7 different clubs and nearly 80 people spanning across 2 states gathered for the first meeting of the Southwest Four Wheel Drive Association. The clubs represented were; Cliffhangers, FWD-FWD, Jeeps Exclusive, Sun Country Jeep Club, New Mexico 4-Wheelers, Catch’N Air, Tejano Fourwheelers, and 4x4 and More of Texas. First order was having a little fun; Sun Country Jeep Club from El Paso hosted the event and after a short orientation led the group into the foothills of the Dona Ana Mountains.
Once SWFWDA was off and running the next order of business was just that, business. The second meeting was held in Albuquerque, NM on February 29, 1992. Here the association established the official publication (4WDrive Lines), the motto, (Four Wheeling Responsibly), and discussed logos that had been submitted.
They decided on the logo that graces decals, t-shirts, and hats to this day.
With the bylaws and formal details ironed out the mission of the association was laid down and word began to spend to other clubs in the area and surrounding states.
By the end of 1992 SWFWDA had grown from the 7 original clubs to 14 member clubs and 54 individual members. More clubs in Texas and New Mexico were being contacted as well as clubs across the southwest. Attendance at quarterly meetings was booming and fun was being had by all.
Enjoying the sport was not the only thing SWFWDA was established to do. The 4W Drive Lines became an important resource for its members. Through the publication members were able to receive information on legislation that was taking place and effecting public lands. Members were able to stay informed of local, state, and federal land closures and openings, or proposals of such. The officers of SWFWDA urged its members to take a stand and write letters to the representatives and agencies involved in public land use matters. Drive Lines makes an effort to educate all who enjoyed 4-wheeling as a sport; to get everyone to pitch in and make change happen. Nelson Mandela said; Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world. If members could do their part a change could be seen and land could be persevered for future generations.
As the years passed the rapid amount of growth which had been seen in the beginning began to plateau. In the fall quarter of 1995 officers of SWFWDA began to plead with member to do their part and spread the word about the association and the role it plays. Growth would mean a bigger voice, more fun and more four wheeling. After a bit of a dry spell in new membership, SWFWDA seemed to start growing again and by the next year had 26 member clubs. That year new leadership came in and a critical look was taken at the purpose and goals of SWFWDA. The association decided to write a formal plan for their future that contained goals and objectives that they would strive to achieve over the following years.
By the end of 1997 SWFWDA was 30 member clubs strong and the association had surpassed the 1000 member mark. Also in ’97 SWFWDA established a Land Action Fund. This was a fund made up of donations from clubs, individuals, businesses, and events that help to finance activities aimed at keeping public lands opened for public use. I was not until 1999 that SWFWDA was able to put the fund into action. That year the Land Action Fund was used in two land closure lawsuits against the Forest Service. SWFWDA was finally able to exercise their right to assess public land and was able to back up their rights in court.
In the year 2001, ten years after the birth of SWFWDA, history was made on the Dona Ana Mountains, the same place where the association held their very first meeting. On February 3rd & 4th 300 plus volunteers showed up to participate in the largest land clean up ever seen in the area. The event was sponsored by Wal-Mart, Rent X, US Rentals, Able Sign Co, Brent Westmoreland, Shorty’s Chevron, Robertos’, Southwest Disposal, the Dona Ana Roads, Environmental, Sheriff’s Department, and the Dona Ana County Grants Commission. Other groups that participated were Agape Christian Church, NMSU Polo Club, Mountain Bike Club, and three different VICA clubs from Dona Ana Community Collage branch, Fort Seldon 4H club and countless individuals who had just heard about the event. Tony Liello spearheaded the event and he and the other members of the Las Cruses FWD club were very please with the outcome. Events like this are essential parts of what makes SWFWDA who they are. Rendering aid and assistance as needed was one of the missions laid out with the start of the association. For SWFWDA helping others is not an obligation it’s a way of life.
2002 proved to be a rough year for SWFWDA beginning with the Spring Quarterly. With only two clubs being represented at the meeting the association did not have enough representation to establish a quorum-so no meeting. Poor attendance at quarterly meetings had been a problem before but it had now become a critical issue. The association would have a hard time supporting its members effectively if the members would not do their part in participating.
In 2003 concerns continued to develop with the Robledo Canyon lawsuit, which was started in 1999. The winning of the lawsuit would have a major effect on not only SWFWDA but associations across the nation. The impact would open many doors for other suits against the BLM for un-constitutional land closures. However, it was a hard process because the BLM and Wilderness group had very deep pockets and SWFWDA was work solely on the support of its clubs and members. Despite road blocks the battle for justice continued on but resulted it a loss for the SWFWDA.
As time went on it became apparent that Off-Roading was growing in popularity. The number of people 16 years and older participating in off-road activities at the turn of the century was around 37,600,000. By 2003 the number had risen to 49,600,000. By 2007 it was becoming one of America’s fastest growing sports although the land availability for the sport continued to dwindle. Parents were beginning to realize the need of their families to participate in wholesome outdoor activities. It gave SWFWDA an opportunity to pass on knowledge and teach the next generation to be good stewards of this land. But even with the rise in popularity SWFWDA had a hard time finding volunteers to fill roles as officers. I seemed that after losing the Robledo Mountain case members became disinterested in the efforts of the organization. But there are still those how have not lost hope. There are the committed members holding on to not only the fun of 4-wheeling but to the principals laid down those many years ago by the founding members. Those who not only wanted to show others their passion and hobby, but wanted to preserve the land on which they so loved. Though time has pasted and people change the purpose remains the same. Southwest Four Wheel Drive Association will live on thanks to that love and purpose. The story doesn’t end here.
Four Wheeling Responsibly,