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AZ State Parks OHV July 2012 eNewsletter - Disturbing Developments

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Copy of AZ State Parks OHV July 2012 eNewsletter:

Dear OHV Enthusiasts,

 

As Chairman of your Off-Highway Vehicle Advisory Group (OHVAG), I have been tasked with the job of reporting the exact truth of what has been happening with the state’s off-highway vehicle recreation funds. A little more than a year ago, OHVAG felt so strongly about getting the truth out to OHV enthusiast around the state that we decided to appropriate $50,000 per year to hire PRfect Media to get the word out. Hopefully State Parks will allow this month’s report to be published with its full content, without any editing.

 

Several disturbing things have been taking place with regard to your OHV Recreation funds which I feel the OHV Community needs to be made aware of. First of all, at our June 1meeting we reviewed eleven statewide grants that were presented to us. After we went through the process of reviewing and approving eight of out the eleven grants, our recommendations were to be forwarded to the State Parks Board for final approval. In the past we have had a problem with the State Parks staff ignoring our recommendations and presenting the S.P. Board with their own recommendations. I honestly thought that after countless hours of working with the State Parks Staff we had resolved these issues. Unfortunately, I was wrong. Once again, staff presented a different picture to the Board. One of the grants we didn’t recommend for funding was designed to provide two seasonal workers to the Tonto National Forest - Cave Creek Ranger District to help out the forest ranger. One of the issues we had with this grant was our feeling that your State OHV dollars slated as project dollars shouldn’t be going to fund federal employees. When we interviewed the ranger who these employees would be following around on a daily basis, he stated that these employees would not only be used for OHV projects but for all duties the ranger was tasked with. We voted unanimously not to approve this grant yet it was approved by the Board.

Another disturbing issue was a grant that the OHVAG members voted to approve to provide funding for an environmental impact study to keep open several of the trails in the area known as the Snowflake OHV Recreation Corridor, better known as the Whiplash Race area. Once these impact studies were approved it would allow the Forest Service to place these roads on their Travel Management Plan for future OHV recreation use. Another great benefit this grant would provide would be to allow the OHV racing that has been taking place in this same area for the past 40 years to immediately resume. These races not only benefit the racing community around the State but also bring in hundreds of thousands of dollars into their local communities. Once again staff presented this to the Board in an unflattering context and the grant was turned down. These are just a couple of examples of why the OHVAG members feel frustrated with the way things are going when it comes to their relationship with State Parks.

 

Another action that happened recently was that the State Parks Board held a closed door executive session to discuss the “Roles and Responsibilities of the Off-Highway Vehicle Advisory Group.” Over the past several years we have been working hard to change the advisory status of our group into more of a decision making group, which would enable us to better manage your OHV dollars. Somehow staff felt it was necessary to hold a special executive session with the State Parks Board to place our group back into the “Advisory Group” status, thus stripping us of any and all decision making powers we worked so hard to obtain.

This is all actually trivial compared to what I am about to tell you. I hope that after reading this, assuming you care anything about the future of off-roading in the State of Arizona, you will pass this onto as many of your fellow OHV users as possible.

On May 3, 2012 a referendum petition was received by the Secretary of State by the CITIZENS TO SAVE ARIZONA’S NATURAL RESOURCES. This group is gathering signatures around the state to have placed on the November election ballot an act that shall be known as “The Arizona Natural Resources Protection Act”. Along with these signatures which I have no doubt they will collect, this group has already collected well over one million dollars to be used as campaign advertisements leading up to the election. At first glance you may say to yourself that this initiative measure looks noble and will be supporting a good cause and I must say the content does support a good cause. It will allow Arizona schoolchildren to enter State Parks in groups without being charged. It will essentially allow State Parks to keep the monies it earns from its parks.

In section 28-5813 of the initiative it addresses a voluntary $14.00 donation when any person registers a motor vehicle. This is ok except for the way it is worded. It states “The donation shall not be mandatory, and anyone may freely opt out of making the donation by checking a box on a motor vehicle registration or licensing form.” Usually, if you want to participate in a program such as organ donor program for example you check the box. I feel that the way they have this written it is deceiving. Allowing State Parks to keep its earnings is something that definitely needs to be done. The major problem I have with this initiative is that embedded deep in the initiative, it encumbers the States OHV Sticker funds and OHV fuel tax funds. If passed, the State Parks Board of Directors shall have sole authority for expending funds from the “Consolidated State parks Operating Fund.” In a nutshell, the Parks Board will be able to pull any and all of your OHV Recreation tax dollars and use these dollars for anything they see fit to use it for. It is my opinion that if this happens the Parks Board will continue to fund programs such as the Ambassador program which makes State Parks look good and then there is the possibility of the Parks funneling our other OHV dollars into their special projects. When I discussed this topic with the new State Parks CEO Bryan Martyn, I told him that I would support the initiative if he put a clause in it that would protect our OHV dollars. His answer was that he wouldn’t do that.

That told me that their intent was to use our funding for other purposes rather than what it was intended for. I do have to say that I was very impressed with Mr. Martyn, I feel that the Parks Board made a good choice and he will get State Parks headed in the right direction. I just wish it wouldn’t be at the expense of our OHV recreation funds. It is my hope that this Chairman’s report enlightens you on some of the issues we are currently dealing with and that you will pass it on to all of your friends. It would also help immensely if you and your friends would write your State Representatives and Governor Jan Brewer.

This issue is a serious one for the state of Arizona. If we don’t stand up for our OHV rights we could very well see a replication of what is happening in places like our neighboring state of California. As I am writing this Chairman’s report I received a notice from the Blue Ribbon Coalition stating, “As the California OHV community faces the real possibility that Governor Jerry Brown will sign a new budget today that will eviscerate the OHV grant’s local assistance grants program. The budget, once signed, will shift off-road fuel taxes out of the program to the General Fund, taking away much-needed OHV funding”. For those of you who are not aware the State of Arizona has already eviscerated all of our OHV fuel tax monies and given it to State Parks for its operating budget.

I hope to see all of you out on the trails in Arizona and ride safely.

Respectfully,

 

John Savino, Chairman

AZ. State Parks Off-Highway Vehicle Advisory Group

showlowjohn@aol.com

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