10/24/2012 9:45:00 AM Avid OHV enthusiasts watch open areas disappear - Part 3 of Series Riders wonder where state has spent money for sticker program
Review/Matt Santos Marty Walden of Paulden, who rides between 6,000 and 8,000 miles a year off road, hopes that the dollars collected by AZGF for OHV programs will be able to keep trails open, and possibly re-open closed trails throughout the state. In the first two years of the OHV program that started in 2009, nearly $6 million was collected from $25 OHV stickers.
OHV registration 101: Some tips to unravel the confusion
Here are a few tips to keep in mind when deciding how to register your vehicle, as stated at the AZGF web site (www.azgfd.gov):
Any vehicle that operates on public roadways, including trails and state land, is required to maintain a plate of some kind.
Many riders choose to operate vehicles, either motorcycles, quads, three wheelers, or sand rails, both off road and on public streets. The equipment required for both on and off, as outlined in Arizona State Statute (ARS 28-1179), is similar with several additional requirements for street legal status.
Both classifications require riders under 18 to wear U.S. DOT approved helmets, brake units, headlights and taillights if operated near sunset and sunrise, brake lights and red rear reflector, a muffler system, spark arrestor device, windshield (or eye protection on certain units), rearview mirror, and license plate. Some areas also require an eight-foot safety flag to be displayed.
To register as street legal, riders also must maintain required insurance coverage, install a horn, license plate light, and emissions compliance where required.
Owners of both on, off, and dual purpose vehicles are required to show proof of ownership, usually in the form of a tile.
Determining what registration status is needed depends on how the vehicle will be used. Identified by the letters RV, the "title only license plate" is issued strictly for off highway use, and it is illegal to operate these on public roads that require registration.
The street legal or dual-purpose tags, allow use both on and off highway.
Both categories require the $25 OHV sticker, obtained either through MVD, AZGF, or servicearizona.com.
The Arizona Game and Fish Dept. began its Off Highway Sticker program on Jan. 1, 2009, and nearly four years later, many riders still have questions.
Riders are unsure which vehicles need a sticker, what defines the difference between "exclusively off," "primarily on," and "primarily off" highway, what equipment is required to ride, and most importantly, where does that $25 go?
According to MVD statistics, in the 2009 calendar year, 126,329 OHV stickers were distributed, with an additional 110,141 issued in 2010. Figures for the 2011 and partial 2012 year were unavailable from either MVD or AZGF. At $25 per sticker, that is just under $6 million collected in the first two years.
Many riders, including Marty Walden of Paulden, want to know just where that money is being spent.
"I moved out here from California in 2006 and have ridden the trails all over the area since," said Walden, who spent many years riding the Pro Enduro circuit. "I've seen the trails before the program and in the three-plus years after the program and I just don't see any improvements."
What Walden says he does see is more and more "closed" signs.
Walden said he typically will ride approximately six to eight thousand miles a year off road on one of his four off highway or dual purpose vehicles.
"It seems that instead of expanding the rider area, they're shrinking it down," said Walden.
He's worried that the AZGF funds he pays annually may be diverted elsewhere.
"I'm not sure what happened, but in California when I was there, I seem to remember that the money they were collecting from all of us for the off road stickers was being spent for other things. I hope that's not happening here," Walden said.
Game & Fish OHV Law Enforcement Program Manager Jimmy Simmons said the money collected is going to good use, and he hopes that in time, the public will be able to see that.
Simmons said Arizona State Parks receives the biggest portion of the money - 60 percent.
"Out of that 60 percent, about 12 percent goes toward administration, the rest goes toward the grants and agreements program, which funds grants that are submitted to their advisory board. The grants range anywhere from mitigation type projects for OHV use and impacts, to providing better trails, kiosks, bathrooms, and parking lots at OHV use areas."
Simmons said his department also has been able to better equip his staff.
"I have submitted grant applications through them to purchase law enforcement equipment, including five Razors WHAT ARE THESE?, fully equipped with law enforcement lights, siren, and radios," Simmons said. "We were also able to purchase, under that same grant, two training quads to train OHV safety to our agency personnel."
Of the 156 enforcement officers assigned to AZGF, the OHV program has nine dedicated to the program, two more than the state legislature required under the 2009 OHV law.
"If funds provide in the future, we will add more," said Simmons. "Each of those officers has a sector that they are responsible for. For example, we have a guy that's based out of Mesa. He covers all of the east valley, east of the valley up towards Globe and north towards Payson. But they all cover all over the state. If there is more activity going on up in the pines, say up in Flagstaff, or Pine Top, they'll head up there."
While that may seem like a lot of area for one person to cover, the OHV enforcement officers are not alone; they also have the support of remaining 140 plus AZGF officers.
Speaking of the other officers, Simmons said, "They may be out in the field conducting biology tests, or fishing patrols, but if they see someone violating an OHV law, they will take care of that too."
Simmons stated that many of the closures and cutbacks come from the Federal level, and those decisions are out of the hands of AZGF.
"You have things like the Coconino Forest coming out with their travel management rule that restricts access significantly," said Simmons. "That's a federal thing that we don't have control over. We have some input, but what's done doesn't always go along with what we want. There's a lot of misconception by the public because they see law enforcement and the government all as one, not federal and state as separate things, not always agreeing on the same thing."
The biggest improvement since the 2009 OHV laws began having the laws to enforce, Simmons said.
"Before 2009, we really couldn't do anything if somebody was doing something unacceptable on an ATV. We didn't have anything to use, no tools in our bag. Now, with those laws in place, if there are people acting irresponsible, or DUI even, on an OHV we actually have ways we can enforce those laws," Simmons said.
Education also is a priority with AZGF, and Simmons was able to have a hand in the production of a new safety film that is now available to the public. AZGF partnered with
The Southwest Alliance for Recreational Safety, which according to its website is a joint effort of the Brain Injury Association of Arizona, Banner Good Samaritan Medical Center, Banner Cardon Children's Medical Center, John C. Lincoln Hospital and Phoenix Children's Hospital to raise awareness, talk about safety and educate the community about safe responsible recreation in Arizona. The organization came up with the idea for a 26-minute video for OHV safety.
"It will be available through emergency rooms, online, and we'll be able to hand them out here in out offices as well. It has a catchy plot, but sends out the message about OHV safety. We hired a professional producer to do all of the work," Simmons said.
Walden said he hopes the AZGF will be able to re-open, and keep open, the trails he enjoys riding.
"Maybe a movie will get more people interested in riding, but if all the trails close, where they going to ride?" he said.
The 2009 OHV law is listed in its entirety at www.azleg.gov/ArizonaRevisedStatutes.asp?Title=28 under Chapter 3, Article 20. For tips on complying, see sidebar to this story.
More information on all AZGF programs, including the OHV requirements, is available by visiting www.azgfd.gov .