Shocker - AZ OHV funds turning out just as bad as CA's

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Shocker - AZ OHV funds turning out just as bad as CA's

Post by jhitesma »

E-mail sent out today by the AZ OHVAG chairman. What a shocker. As many of us predicted the AZ OHV sticker/funds are turning out to be just as dysfunctional and abused as CA's:
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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Re: Shocker - AZ OHV funds turning out just as bad as CA's

Post by Jerry Seaver »

Letter From Arizona State Parks Executive Director
July 12, 2012

Dear Arizona OHV Community,

Many of you recently received a letter from Mr. John Savino, Chairman of Arizona State Parks Off-Highway Vehicle Advisory Group. Although I appreciate Mr. Savino’s passion, his message requires some clarification. Please allow me to briefly address the current relationship between the OHV community in Arizona and Arizona State Parks.

AZ State Parks and the OHV Community are partners. AZ State Parks is Legislatively required to manage OHV Sticker funds in an effort to enhance OHV operations throughout the State of Arizona. I take that responsibility very seriously.

As the new Arizona State Parks Director, I was very concerned when I was briefed that OHV sticker money is having trouble getting to OHV programs. OHV sticker money is the OHV community’s money! Let me say that again. OHV sticker money belongs to the entire OHV community. When I say the entire community, I mean everyone who drives off-highway. Those people include campers, hunters, birders, hikers, equestrians, etc.

Working with Parks staff, the Parks Board and the Attorney General’s office, I wanted to put a program in place that would ensure appropriate OHV Grants were adequately addressed, fairly scored and awarded in a timely manner. Most importantly, I wanted to make sure the OHV community was well represented.

At the June ‘12 Parks Board meeting the Board adopted a new policy for awarding OHV Grant Funds. The core of the policy rests with the original OHV legislation. Effective immediately, OHV grants will be reviewed and graded by the following partners: Off Highway Vehicle Advisory Group (OHVAG), Arizona Outdoor Recreation Coordination Committee (AORCC), and Arizona State Parks Staff.

The final decision for grant awards rests completely with the AZ State Parks Board. The final piece of the puzzle is establishing the correct criteria for grading/awarding OHV grant dollars. To that end, we are gathering OHV experts to determine the way ahead. We will have public meetings in the coming months with members of your community to ensure we get your input.

Mr. Savino also brought up the issue of the initiative, The Arizona Natural Resources Protection Act. Let me be clear. Arizona State Parks did not write the initiative. Although we surely appreciate any group who steps up to seek long term funding for the Parks, we were not part of the initiative drafting process. The issue of a single Parks fund that might strip OHV of their funds was an issue I personally discussed with Mr. Savino. I made it clear that the OHV community would “remain whole” no matter the funding source. The OHV community can ask for more assurances, but that is all I can do. As far as I am concerned, OHV funds were never at risk.

When all was said and done, the initiative was unable to gather the required signatures to get on the ballot. I encourage the OHV community to engage their legislators to ensure that any future funding legislation specifically addresses OHV funds.
Lastly, there is the issue of almost $700,000 from OHV sticker money being used to help operate AZ State Parks. Although completely legal, I philosophically disagree with the practice. OHV money needs to go to OHV stuff. Arizona State Parks will wean itself of sticker money over the next few years. Make no mistake, OHV money was a huge factor in keeping State Parks open following the more than $80M in legislative funding sweeps. We couldn’t have done it without your help. But, it’s time to step up and make things right. Again, OHV sticker money is for OHV programs.

I look forward to working together for our great state in the future. Please feel free to contact me directly with your questions and concerns. We are partners!

Sincerely,

Bryan Martyn
Executive Director
Arizona State Parks

bmartyn@azstateparks.gov
602.542.7102

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Re: Shocker - AZ OHV funds turning out just as bad as CA's

Post by PWR MAD »

If the above statements are true and the director is willing to maintain them, we can only hope that the idiots in CA see this.

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Re: Shocker - AZ OHV funds turning out just as bad as CA's

Post by crash »

Lots of nice political jargon and promises there, but it just comes down to ONE THING...


SHOW ME THE MONEY!!!

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Re: Shocker - AZ OHV funds turning out just as bad as CA's

Post by BHenry »

I wanted to wait to post anything about this, but today is the day. I wrote my three elected representatives in the state legislature when this was first posted. Surprisingly, I did receive a personal response from one representative. Due to multiple scheduling conflicts, I wasn't able to meet with her until today, but I did sit down with Heather Carter (state House of Representatives) for about half an hour today and shared my concerns about the AZ OHV program. Ms. Carter is a rider herself (along with her family) so is very concerned about OHV use and issues in AZ. I came away feeling very positive that there are elected officials who are supportive of OHV issues.

I also attended an AZ State Parks meeting a few weeks back in regards to the OHV funds, and I think it was a partial response to the the original letter posted above. Bryan Martyn was present at the beginning of the meeting and he was very specific in saying that it is "your money" (the majority of attendees seemed to be affiliated with OHV groups). AZ is a bit different from California in that State Parks here does not manage any OHV parks, but is managing the money in the fund. At first blush, I think this is a positive for the OHV community here in AZ, as it would make State Parks more of a "disinterested" 3rd party when it comes to the distribution of funds.

The program here in AZ (as most are probably well aware) was implemented much more recently than California's. I think a vigilant community will help ensure that no one here is able to squirrel away funds into a hidden account.
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Re: Shocker - AZ OHV funds turning out just as bad as CA's

Post by MattV »

http://azstateparks.com/OHV/index.html

Is the OHV program website of AZ State Parks. There were recently three workshops held to gather input from users, however also on the page, is a link to a survey regarding the program as whole. Additionally there's some information about riding areas, local clubs, etc.
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Re: Shocker - AZ OHV funds turning out just as bad as CA's

Post by jhitesma »

There have been signs of things getting better since this post based on what I've heard. I haven't had a lot of time to follow everything lately but it sounds like enough people are staying vigilant that it's not getting that out of hand yet but the potential is still there.

I don't ever see that changing, but it would be nice to get things a little more solidly in support for once.

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Re: Shocker - AZ OHV funds turning out just as bad as CA's

Post by r erfert »

My $.02 worth
I paid up for the copper sticker for years on all the toys.
Last time I went out riding
I was the ONLY one with a sticker Period out of 3 dozen riders out that day.
I have to ask whats the point?
Seems to be a voluntary fee that not many are interested in paying.

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