For starters, we have a larger trail system than we did in 1994. Over a period of years, the trails and routes got a bit run down due to lack of maintenance. The DNR teamed up with MSU to do a series of studies, looking at the trail system the users, where the system was and where everyone wanted it to be. The trails needed work, but partially because the work wasn't done the ORV fund had a big fat surplus in the bank. So the legislature directed DNR to establish 750 miles of new trails, and to pick up the tempo on maintenance. The trail permit fees were not increased but spending started to climb. In 2008 the DNR put together a group of users and various DNR staff to look at the financial plan for the system. As I mentioned above, I participated in that work group - when we put all of our needs, wants and desires in the bucket and let the DNR money guys chew on it, the first answer was a $42 user fee per year - that wasn't going to work. Over a period of several meetings and 6-8 months we revised it down to about $30-32 or so as our recommendation. The trouble was the DNR had no control over the user fees - has to come from legislation. Over the next few years, this just kept getting kicked down the road. There have been several different versions of the current bill, including one that would have put a SOS fee for ATV/MX users in the mix - I have not asked our Land Use Committee Chairman on this newest legislation, but my assumption is the $10 will be for vehicles not already licensed by SOS - but it is not clear from the press release quoted above, so I might be wrong.
The DNR has done a lot of awareness work and applying gentle pressure to the grant holders to get them to do their jobs. We have also seen a lot of examples where groups like ATV Offroad have been able to identify poorly maintained sections of trail and work with the DNR to assum responsibility for the trails to bring them up to standards. So on a personal level I feel that the trails are being maintained better and that should continue as we go forward. We also have received a lot (but not yet all ) of the recently mandated trails, and there are still more coming - I have never added up the miles but GLFWDA is waiting for approval for a series of additions to the St Helen trail system that would connect a lot of the disconnected section of ORV route, making the system more SxS friendly and hopefully making it easier for 4x4 groups to get event permits in the future. Bot SnoFari and Sno Blind are held there each year. We also included a recently closed section of forest road (Pinball Alley) in hopes of being able to use ORV grant dollars to get it reopened.
The ORV grant money also helped build the rocks at the Mounds, built the rocks at St Helen and hopefully will fund the new "special maintenance grant" GLFWDA and Tri City Trailriders submitted to maintain the St Helen rocks.
Paul - 2005 Wrangler Unlimited