Forest Riders Snowmobile Club marks 50 years – Park Rapids Enterprise

The Forest Riders Snowmobile Club celebrated its 50th anniversary with a scholarship event.

Ideally, club president Richard Ohm said, the Feb. 15-17 fundraiser would have been a snowmobile ride with stops at participating businesses, where participants receive a ticket to enter in their choice of prize drawings. This year, due to insufficient snow to groom the trails, entrants made the circuit by car.

The shindig culminated in drawings at Clancy’s on Island Lake and live music by local band, 2 Weeks Notice. It was the second annual scholarship event in memory of Craig Wilke of Park Rapids, who died in September 2022.

Wilke was the father of Ohm’s wife, Teresa, and they came originally from Murdock, Minn., near Wilmar. According to Richard and Teresa, the club raises funds for one $1,000 scholarship each to a senior who is involved in snowmobiling at both Park Rapids Area High School and Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg High School.


Forest Riders members and officers celebrate the club’s 50th anniversary this spring. From left, past president Cheryle Wilke, vice president Chuck Hanish, scholarship committee member Lou Eischens, trail coordinator and longest-standing member Tim Eischens, treasurer Jolene Retz, scholarship committee member Teresa Ohm, current president Richard Ohm and treasurer Sharon Weaver.

Contributed / Forest Riders Snowmobile Club

Last year’s Park Rapids recipient was Brent Ohm. Applications for this year’s scholarship are due April 1.

Teresa recalls past years when the club held radar runs – basically, a drag race on the ice – and, of course, the snowmobilers’ dance.

It’s been a long time since they held the race, Richard said. “People get tired,” he said. “When you’re out there at 60 below for the weekend, pretty soon nobody wants to do that stuff anymore.”

“Liability insurance got to be a bigger issue, too,” said Teresa. “But that was the big event around here for many years.”

“The whole industry has changed over the years, quite a bit,” said Richard.

According to minutes preserved in the club records, the first meeting was held May 13, 1974 at the Rendezvous. Those attending were Richard and Margaret Gartner, Dale and Donna Forbes, Carl Beck, Joe Eischens, Keith and Terry Evan, Bill Anderson and Jack Stewart.


This photo from the Forest Riders Snowmobile Club’s Facebook page is dated April 1971, officially predating the club by three years. It shows members of the Sollinger, Chennaux and Faltersack families sledding through the woods.

Contributed / Forest Riders Snowmobile Club

The minutes of that meeting show participants were interested in patches and membership in the Minnesota United Snowmobilers Association (MnUSA). Twilight Riders was proposed as a name for the club. Officers were to reside in the “general area of Two Inlets State Forest,” and young people could be members aged 14-16 with a snowmobile safety patch and aged 16 or older with a snowmobile license.

At the second meeting on May 28, 1974, further suggestions for the club’s name included Snowbunnies, Happy Riders, Two Inlets Riders, Friendly Riders, Snowdrifters, Starfinders, Lucky 13 and Forest Riders, with this last option winning the vote. Other business included incorporating the club, electing officers, calling for membership cards, and setting dues.


This patch was created when the Forest Riders Snowmobile Club started in 1974. “I’m not sure who designed it, but it was the patch of the club for many years,” says Teresa Ohm. “The club still has some.”

Contributed / Forest Riders Snowmobile Club

The first class of officers included Jerry Atkinson, president; Carl Beck, vice president; Terry Evan, secretary; and Kitty Long, treasurer. Dues were $5 for families (including children up to 18) and $3 for single members.

Recently, family dues were raised to $40, Richard said, because MnUSA raised their dues.

According to proceedings of their third meeting July 2, 1974, at the Osage Diner, the club planned a snowmobile dance at which “all persons must ride snowmobiles.”


The Forest Riders enjoy their annual family snowmobile weekend around 1984. From left, Doug Bosch, Kim Bosch, Craig Wilke, Teresa Ohm, Corey Bosch, Patrick Wilke and Barb Bosch.

Contributed / Forest Riders Snowmobile Club

At their fifth meeting Oct. 9, 1974, the club ordered patches, looked at a proposed design for trail signs, discussed the grants-in-aid program with a representative from the DNR and planned to write letters to the state parks director and trails system coordinator about snowmobile trails in Itasca State Park. A trails committee was also appointed, among whose members was Tim Eischens – who continues to be actively involved in the club to this day.

Keeping snowmobiling alive

Richard Ohm said the snowmobile club’s bylaws call for them to support some sort of charitable organization. Prior to focusing on the memorial scholarship, they raised funds for multiple sclerosis research, hospice care and other causes.

“We wanted to start something that was going to continue the snowmobile sport,” he said. “That’s how this started to evolve. We started the scholarship ride to fund the scholarships that we’re going to give out.”


Tim Eischens takes a snowmobile ride with his kids, Jolene Eischens (now Retz) and Matt Eischens, sometime in the 1980s.

Contributed / Forest Riders Snowmobile Club

In addition to dues and fundraising, the club also accepts sponsorships from area businesses to support maintaining the snowmobile trails. The same businesses also donate some of the raffle prizes for the scholarship ride, while the riders stuff donation boxes along their route with free-will donations.

While Richard admitted it would have been more fun to be able to ride the trails this year, he added, “If we wouldn’t have had something, it would have been a weekend of nothingness. We didn’t have good snow for riding; we didn’t have good ice fishing. It was a really well-attended event. Clancy’s was packed. It was standing room.”

They also received support from the Northern Lights Trails Snowmobile Club of Benson, Minn., just up the road from Murdock, where the Wilke family is well-known.

“Last year, they came up in a big force to go riding,” said Teresa.


A member of the Forest Riders Snowmobile Club operates a Piston Bully groomer with a roller packer around 2015-17.

Contributed / Forest Riders Snowmobile Club

The club also maintains 255 miles of trail, “including Itasca State Park and everything from west of Two Inlets all the way to Paul Bunyan State Forest, and from the potato plant up to Lake George,” said Richard.

That means brushing, grooming and signing. The club holds three work days in the fall, when volunteers can help clean up the trails and maintain the signs, “between the signs that just get faded and weathered to the ones that get shot up and stolen,” he said.


Forest Riders members Jolene Retz, Sharon Weaver, Lou Eischens, Arlette VanWyhe, Bobbie Wagner and Linda Eickman get together for a ride.

Contributed / Forest Riders Snowmobile Club

“And then we host a snowmobile safety training the first Sunday in December every year,” Teresa said, “for youth ages 11 and up.”

“Again, just trying to get youth involved in snowmobiling,” said Richard.


This Suretrac Groomer is part of the Forest Riders Snowmobile Club’s trio of trail groomers.

Contributed / Forest Riders Snowmobile Club

This winter’s safety class took a while to complete, since there wasn’t enough snow for the riding component until January.

“We’ve had a lot of years where it’s been minimal snow,” said Richard. “This has been the only year that I know of where there has been really no riding whatsoever.”

By contrast, the Ohms recalled, the winter of 2022-23 was exceptional in the opposite direction, with heaps of snow requiring a record 16 weeks of continuous trail grooming.

It’s all about promoting snowmobiling, Richard said.

The club typically meets at 7:30 p.m. on the fourth Monday of the month from August to April at Clancy’s. The September meeting is moved to the Sunday to combine with a work day.

“If anybody wants to join our club, the easiest way is to go to our website (


),” said Richard. “That provides a membership application.


The Ohm family goes sledding with grandpa in 2011. Pictured are Kimberly Ohm, Craig Wilke, Shawn Ohm and Brent Ohm.

Contributed / Forest Riders Snowmobile Club

“Membership really helps, because when you join our club, you become part of MnUSA, which is the state snowmobile club. Most of the money that we take for the membership goes right to MnUSA. The club, I think, gets $5.

“It’s all about numbers and the lobbyists that the state has, to really help this sport.”

He said MnUSA’s lobbyists work at the State Capitol to secure grant-in-aid funding to maintain the trails. “Most clubs are funded specifically through the grant-in-aid,” said Richard. “Some clubs have some secondary funding, whether it’s gambling, pull tabs, things like that. Most all of our funding is the grant-in-aid program and some minor funding through our local sponsors.”


Bruce Weaver acquaints Lexi Weaver with the controls of a snowmobile at a Forest Riders radar run. “We always had a fun run for small kids on the mini snowmobiles,” says Teresa Ohm.

Contributed / Forest Riders Snowmobile Club

The club maintains three trail groomers. Last year, they bought a Polaris Ranger for trail maintenance and recovery, in case someone gets stuck on the trail, and a small drag for trails that the groomers can’t access.

“The trails are constantly evolving,” said Richard. “The biggest hurdle we run into has been private lands. Typically, state and county lands, those trails are pretty locked in, and we’re really fortunate to have 85% or better of trails on that.


Longest-standing Forest Riders club member Tim Eischens has been recognized in past Park Rapids Enterprise coverage for his dedication to grooming and signing snowmobile trails.

Contributed / Forest Riders Snowmobile Club

“But that small percentage of private land has increased. When Potlatch sold all the land that they had, that really complicated things. We’re still constantly having to do bridges and reroutes to maintain what we have. Just maintaining the trail’s existence is a big deal, because we’re constantly being pushed away from different areas for one reason or another.”

Richard said a lot of the club’s approximately 100 members come up to the area from southern Minnesota and the Metro area, where they may belong to another local club. They like to come up to the Park Rapids area to ride the trails.

“Our goal,” he said, “is to provide safe and enjoyable trails.”


Contributed / Forest Riders Snowmobile Club


This website uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you accept our use of cookies.