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Proposed criteria for grants from OHV registration fees

Tom Morrissey, the state trails program manager for Colorado State Parks, is seeking public comments on a proposal to evaluate, and possibly revise, the requirements for the state’s off-highway vehicle (OHV) grants.

The proposed process, presented to the Colorado State Parks Board on Jan. 28, would require grantees to gather data on the amount of time spent on law enforcement, visitor contacts, travel management, trail maintenance and habitat repair. The plan would also create a method to identify, prioritize and restore areas that have been damaged by unauthorized OHV use.

The proposed strategic process and other program information are posted at www.colorado.gov/parks under the OHV/Snowmobile tab. The public is invited to comment on the proposal at Parksinfo@state.co.us through Feb. 11. The comments will be incorporated into a revised draft that the Colorado State Parks Board will consider at their March meeting.

The parks board oversees the Colorado Off-Highway Vehicle Program, which is?administered through Colorado State Parks and the state trails program. The OHV program registers and permits all OHVs, including all-terrain vehicles (ATVs), dune buggies, Jeeps (operated off-road), three-wheelers, and dirt bikes. Each year, more than 90 percent of the OHV registration fees are awarded as grants to support OHV activities on all public lands in Colorado.

If the revisions to the grants program are approved, they would go into effect for the 2011 grant cycle.

In 2009, the program distributed $3.2 million in grants, generated by the registration fees, to build, maintain and plan motorized trails, educate the public, enforce regulations, support volunteer programs and restore areas damaged by irresponsible OHV use.

“Our current grant process does provide significant funding for law enforcement, habitat work and managing and maintaining trails that benefit all backcountry visitors,” said Morrissey. “Through these proposed new requirements, we’ll be better able to track the specific amount of time and dollars devoted to those priorities.”

Under the proposed revisions, recipients of new grants will be required to gather information on the amount of time spent on:

• Field presence, including safety patrols, law enforcement and visitor education.

• Travel management, including signage, maps, trail inventories and closures, rehabilitation and planning.

• Maintenance, including building and maintaining erosion controls, trails, bridges, trailheads and clearing trails,

• Other trail work, including equipment maintenance, personnel training and certification and program coordination.

Morrissey said that the revisions would include the state trails program staff working with federal partners and local officials to identify areas damaged by visitor abuse, determine the type of trail user primarily responsible — OHV or other - and coordinating resources to rehabilitate the areas. As part of that initiative, the state trails OHV program could create a new statewide environmental remediation crew for the 2010 work season to repair priority areas within a one to two week period.

In addition, the proposed revisions would include working with local, state and federal partners to gather data about visitor contacts and about law enforcement, including the number of citations issued for unauthorized OHV use in prohibited areas. The Colorado State Parks’ State Trails Program will also evaluate and possibly revise the agreements with grantees to include tracking of visitor contacts, compliance and other law enforcement activities.