November 17, 2009 03:12:39
Posted By shefisher
Mention Colorado and most people think of fishing a pristine mountain stream or trout-filled lake, hiking a quiet forest trail or high tundra on the way to a 14,000' summit, or whitewater rafting. This time of year, it may be skiing the powdery snow down rugged Rocky Mountain runs, or taking a more leisurely tour on snowshoes or cross-country skis.
Or maybe your recreation of choice involves a motor: ATV, dirt bike or Jeep. That's where some conflict commonly arises. There are no easy solutions to noise vs quiet, trails vs wilderness, but with more and more people living and "recreating" in Colorado, there are inevitable collisions of purpose.
The most recent re-igniting of controversy involves a proposal to reallocate up to 70% of the Off Highway Vehicle (OHV) permit fees collected by our state park system. Sure, there are those OHVers who flagrantly drive off trail, damaging the forest, tundra and wetlands. Every group has its bad guys. But for the vast majority of responsible users, taking this money away from their trail maintenance and repair funds will cause even more long-term damage and erosion. The couple more officers this might provide will not begin to cover the thousands of trail miles in this state. Additionally, last year's passage of HB1069 authorized by nearly 4 times the current forest management officers who could issue citations for trail violations. This new reallocation is an expensive, ineffective and tardy afterthought.
The worst part of all this is the principle of the thing. Now, I've always been more a "quiet use" type of user than a motorized one. So why am I not all for this proposed "solution?" A group called Responsible Trails America out of Arlington, Virginia, that is primarily anti-OHV has come in from out of state wielding their ever-increasing influence over the ultimate policy makers. They have even succeeded in securing TU's endorsement of their plan. Now here's the question - Why can one group determine the reallocation of another group's legally collected and assigned $3.1 million dollars just because they fundamentally disagree with what some fringe members of that group's participants are doing? Granted, the OHV scofflaws are destructively wrong. The responsible OHV community, especially ATV clubs, recognizes that. But all ATVs and other OHV users are being summarily punished by those who not only don't belong to that community, but don't even belong to our state. It's really hard to not be outraged.
Hundreds of ATV club members in this state voluntarily work a combined thousands of hours each year maintaining, restoring and repairing OHV trails. They have not been given equal voice in this debate. Is it too much to ask that they be given the option to work toward a solution before all their funds are stolen (in essence) by other public lands users who happen to disagree with their sport of choice?
Polarization and animosity never solved anything. Get the Virginians out of here, give the Colorado OHV community their rightful voice, and hammer this out intelligently. We can hope that starts with the Colorado State Parks Board's Friday meeting. Public comment must be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org by noon on Wed., Nov. 18.