Wisconsin Four Wheel Drive Association History

By Luana Schneider (W4WDA)

On November 13, 1976 Rod and Luana Schneider called a meeting of all the Wisconsin clubs that were attending the Midwest Four Wheel Drive Association in Albert Lee, Minnesota.  It was decided at that meeting it was feasible to start a Wisconsin four-wheel drive association.  A charter through MW4WDA was then presented, but not approved so it was decided to go separately.  What was interesting is another individual (Terry Gant) in the Fox Valley area was starting the same movement.  Fortunately they connected and worked together.  On January 29, 1977 a meeting was held with about ten clubs attending and a representative from the State Snowmobile Association attending giving info on how to organize, etc. 

The clubs in attendance agreed an association should be started and a 3 person steering committee was appointed to canvass the entire state to find as many clubs as possible. Rod Schneider became the temporary chair of the new association with Luana Schneider the temporary secretary.  In a month’s time 27 clubs were located. A meeting was held on March 20, 1977 at the Meade Inn in Wisconsin Rapids with 18 clubs in attendance. Rod Schneider made the statement that “the main purpose of this association has already been formed—Land Closures and Legislation”. At that meeting officers were voted in and the official name of the association established with work on the by-laws assigned to the officers.  A key player in writing the by-laws was Larry Bohl who envisioned a club in just about every town in Wisconsin which, of course, never occurred. He wrote up by-laws patterned after the Snowmobile Association. Some years later Amanda Cottrell headed up a committee that revised the by-laws more realistic to the times.

Those first few years there were monthly meetings of the Board and quarterly meetings of the whole membership.  The Four Lakes Four Wheelers footed the bills for the postage, envelopes, etc. until a dues structure was established. 

Twice legislation for a sticker program similar to what the snowmobilers had was attempted, but never passed.  The first was in 1973 by a group of Wisconsin members in the Mid West Four Wheel Drive Association. Again under W4WDA legislation was attempted in 1977.

Later in 1977 W4WDA was very supportive in assisting in organizing the United Four Wheel Drive Associations including helping write their by-laws.  W4WDA has been a member all the years in one capacity or another until the last few due to billing issues.

In November of 1977 the W4WDA went to Philips, WI to aid the snowmobilers with opening tornado damaged trails.

In the early ‘80’s what was called the “Bumper Height Law” which would have been very detrimental to the 4WD was defeated by much input from the 4WD community.  This prompted a W4WDA committee headed by Sheila Lund to be established and with an immense amount of research and science done by the committee legislation was proposed which was called “The Lift Kit Law”.  Senator Tim Cullen from Janesville backed the proposal and had formal legislation written.   A public hearing was held on a weeknight at the State Capitol where there were so many in attendance the hearing moved to a very large room that still resulted with standing room down into the hallway.  W4WDA had specific members speak for the group. The legislation then went to the legislative audit bureau for some modifications which actually were more lenient than was asked for and passed only two months later.  Some years later that law was attempted to be changed and with Leo Schneider from the original committee working with the legislator, a few minor changes were made. 

In 1993Brian Swearingen, Pat Jacobosky, Harold Hoernke and others headed up the pipeline restoration project. W4WDA received a RTP grant to work on building two bridges, cleaning up and burming off and seeding sensitive areas on the Pipeline Trail on the Nicolet National Forest (NNF). In 1995 Pat Jacobosky headed up a committee to build an accessible fishing area in the NNF.  Throughout the years also have done various clean-ups, building and setting up wilderness toilets, etc. for the NNF.

W4WDA was part of the DNR Invasive Species sub-committee that was developing ethics for various user groups including those for the 4WD community which resulted in having a special flyer that is still available through the DNR specifically for the 4WD community.

The W4WDA was very involved in public hearings and writing letters to have 4WD trails in both the Kickapoo Valley Reserve and the Sauk Prairie Recreation Area but were not successful.

W4WDA hosted with Rod & Luana heading up and having a very dedicated committee the March Of Dimes Four Wheelin’ with Feelin’ event for 35 years (1979 to 2013). This event raised right at ONE MILLION DOLLARS for the March of Dimes supporting birth defect research along with raising funds for the W4WDA.

W4WDA was a member of Lake States Resource Alliance including holding Board positions and attending meetings regularly until they dissolved.  Also, have been members of Tread Lightly and Blue Ribbon Coalition.

The W4WDA has had representation at almost every State Trails Council (STC) meeting since 1992.  When the Federally funded Recreational Trails Program (RTP) was passed, the DNR needed to establish protocol for using these funds and W4WDA was at the STC meetings providing input to the DNR on this.  W4WDA along with others was instrumental in having a member added to the Council representing 4WD and have had a Governor appointed person (Luana Schneider) on that Council since 2011.

In 2006 Camp Jeep was held at Road America and W4WDA was instrumental in helping host the trail riding portion by cutting trails and leading trails for the event.

W4WDA was also instrumental in getting Four Wheel Driving recognized in the State Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan (SCORP).  In 2017/2018 letters were written and public hearings attended in regard to the Recreation Opportunity Analysis (ROA) which resulted in Four Wheel Driving being included as a recreation that should be considered on several of the properties.

W4WDA was also involved with attending public hearings and writing letters on the DNR Regional Master Plans in 2017 through 2019 with success in having recognition in the plans that 4WD should be considered on the properties in those Master Plans. 

In 2019 W4WDA was instrumental in getting 4WD represented on the DNR Recreation Stakeholders Council.

W4WDA has and continues to support the ATV/UTV movement and the Off-road motorcycle movement.

In 1990 there were over 40 four-wheel drive clubs in Wisconsin, many who were involved in helping their local Red Cross chapters in emergency situations, Toys for Tots, Big/Little Brothers, Veteran fund raisers, trash pick ups, and supporting other local causes and providing several educational and safety programs throughout the state.  Today, there are very few clubs and more social media groups.

W4WDA is looking forward to the new Coaltion’s goal to bring together many of the clubs and the social media 4WD groups in Wisconsin to advance the 4WD movement.