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By: Robert Janis

NY ATVers Working to Overcome Obstacles

Continued from page 1...

Yamaha has also set up a grant initiative through its dealers and customers guaranteeing riding access on trails. "The Yamaha 'OHV G.R.A.N.T. Initiative' is a proactive, grassroots program supported by Yamaha dealers and customers nationwide to promote safe, responsible riding and sustainable, open riding areas," said Binga. Through this program Yamaha accepts applications from non-profit organizations such as national forests and associations, OHV riding clubs and associations and national, state, local government agencies and associations each quarter. A committee reviews each application and awards grants to projects.

The grants received by the NYSORVA are used to develop, restore, and maintain trails; develop trail signs and maps; stage area construction, renovations and maintenance; and to offer safety and other educational programs.

The association also suggests ways local clubs can raise funds which is necessary because there is nothing being done by the state of New York to raise funds. The ideas that the association suggests are to approach public based sources.

"One idea is to get a gas station to record every purchase of gas into an ATV, or intended for an ATV or trail bike, and to apply for a state gas tax refund of 8 cents a gallon. The vendor then donates the refund to the club managing the local trails," explained Binga. "This is being done successfully by many snowmobile clubs and has yet to be widely used by ATV or OHM clubs. Since the gas is used off-road and the tax is to fund roads, the state is obligated to refund the money. The form you need for this is FT-946, and instructions on how to fill out and use the form can be obtained at the New York Taxation website.

"Another is to apply for a Recreational Trails Program (RTP) grant," continued Binga. "RTP is a federal block grant to the states and is administered through the New York State Office of Parks (OPRHP). Thirty percent of the typically $1 million plus yearly pot is earmarked for motorized-only grants, 40 percent for combined motor and non-motor and the remainder goes for non-motorized only trail projects and facilities." Binga warns that getting these grants is very difficult. "You will probably need a grant writer. "You can probably get assistance from a town or county agency who can give you guidance or co-op with you to process a grant application," said Binga.

Another idea, suggested Binga, is to approach County Legislatures for grants. "Currently Jefferson County has a small multi-use trail grant program and other counties are contemplating establishing their own," he said.

Binga also encouraged local club members to approach their region's state senator or assemblyperson with a proposed project. "You can use such reasoning as the potential of the project to increase local tourism," said Binga. Also, you can use the NYSORVA survey previously mentioned to show how large the ATV community statewide is. Enticing a good segment of these people to a region can mean a lot of bucks for the area businesses.

The major state agency that local club members must deal with in New York is the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). The DEC oversees more than 4 million acres or about 13 percent of the state's entire land mass. Another agency that ATV enthusiasts must deal with is the Office of Park Recreation and Historic Preservation (OPRHP), which administer 260,000 acres. "To date there are zero of those acres set aside for us to use," said Binga.

Combating State Neglect
The association points out, however, that there is "virtually no accommodation on public lands in New York for legal trails or access. Some ATV access has been maintained on public right-of-way in northern counties but there is no state organized ATV trail system that exists like the state snowmobile trail system." Riders of ATVs and other off-road vehicles must rely on receiving permission from private land owners. In order to entice private land owners into providing their land, the NYSORVA has been able to obtain insurance for these trails. "We have researched landowner liability insurance companies and recommend one company that provides insurance for each club's landowner for which their ATV trails cross," said Binga.

Moreover, there is no public-based ATV trail funding or state agency trail program. There was such funding, but in 1990 the registration-based ATV trail fund was abolished and funds collected from 1986 to the date of the abolishment were placed into the state's general fund. "To date over $13 million has been taken from ATV and trail bike registrants in registration fees and millions more in sales tax revenue. The NYSORVA has been trying to remedy this since 1993.

Yet all ATVs and off-highway motorcycles must be registered when used for recreational purposes outside of closed-course competition and some agricultural exceptions.

"Dissatisfied New Yorkers are tired of paying a fee to register their ATV and not receive anything in return," commented Binga. "New York State has taken some $12 million since the inception of registering and, as late, repealed a $15 increase that is collected for trail development and only returned $10 of it in the form of a free registration for the following year. That leaves the state pocketing $5 of each registered ATV or $600,000. Last year we introduced legislation to allocate $100,000 of the surplus monies to fund an economic impact study for areas that have or promote legal ATV trail riding. The bill was passed unanimously in the State Senate, but was held up in the State Assembly because environmental groups wanted to include language relating to perceived negative impact of ATV use. NYSORVA and its lobby team are currently in discussions with the Assembly and environmental groups to reach a consensus on the bill's language to get the legislation enacted. Along with the Economic Impact Study, we have introduced legislation to change the UTV classification to include those over 1000 pounds. Currently, any UTV over 1000 pounds cannot be registered in New York and thus they are not allowed to ride legally on club trails. This has become a statutory black hole. There is no law regulating UTVs, so anything goes. A ticket written on the ATV-specific laws such as registration and perhaps even insurance requirements technically can't stick."

Website
The association has a website (www.nysorva.org). The site offers up-to-date news that concerns off-highway riders, gives information on pending legislation, provides forms, has links to local clubs that are members of the association and links to organizations that are somehow related to ATV.

As noted, the local clubs are essential in the fight with the state of New York in obtaining public lands for recreation. "NYSORVA will put emphasis on growing the club base in each region this year, thereby increasing trail mileage," concluded Binga.

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