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By: Robert Janis

Arizona OHV Coalition

Arizona Off Highway Vehicle Coalition Combating Closures of Trails for Dust Rules Violations

 
The major issue affecting off highway vehicle recreation in Arizona are dust rules which, depending on how local authorities are interpreting them, are causing the closure of many trails judged to be non-compliant.

The organization finds itself spending an awful lot of time and money trying to get local officials from using their personal opinions in deciding whether to close trails.

The Organization

The Arizona Off Highway Vehicle Coalition (AZOHVC) was developed with the assistance of Dana Bell of NOHVCC. According to Jeff Gursh, executive officer for Education, Grants and Agreements, the Arizona Trail Riders, the Arizona Association of 4WD and the Arizona ATV Riders were working together to create an organization as a 4-wheel drive association in 2000. “Dana Bell came to Arizona and helped us develop the ‘outline’ for the organization in 2003 and it was finally formed in 2004,” said Gursh. “It took another three years to be officially recognized as a 501c3 organization.”

The mission of AZOHVC is to establish a recognized, statewide, non-profit incorporated association of Arizona Off Highway Vehicle enthusiasts, businesses, and groups that will identify and work together on recreation issues in cooperation with land managers, educators, legislators, and the public to ensure a positive future for responsible motorized and non-motorized recreation.

The association depends on many OHV groups to help in explaining the issues that need to be addressed in Arizona’s state capital. “Very often, clubs and OHV folks just don’t understand the need or the issues and allow us to fight these battles for them,” said Gursh. “Others get involved where their needs or concerns are most important, i.e. where they ride. What makes a statewide organization good and bad is that we have to look at everyone’s riding areas, not just one small spot. Most people can’t afford the time to invest in anything other than their own area. Unfortunately, AZOHVC has limited funds and has to pick issues that affect the majority of OHV users.”

So AZOHVC seeks the help of national organizations to achieve their goals. These groups include the American Motorcyclists Association, The BlueRibbon Coalition, NOHVCC, MIC, SVIA, CORVA, COHVCO, ORBA, ASA, Honda and more as well as dealer organizations. “These groups help with how other states and areas addressed similar issues that we are concerned with,” said Gursh. “We also use the Arizona State Park Trails plan. The plan is produced every five years and begins with the State Parks Service asking Arizona OHV users what they want involving recreation for the next five years. AZOHVC use the OHV economic impact information surveys which are done for the trail plans to show how important managing OHV use is to Arizona’s economy.”

 
The group has one lobbyist, Nick Simmonetta, who has experience dealing with the State Land Department. The department manages 9 million acres of land and has worked on legislation that affects everything in the State of Arizona. Simmonetta is also a lawyer and has background in the legalities of land and trail issues. He also has the advantage of knowing just about every legislator in the Arizona State House and he knows just about every lobbyist so that he can pull apparent divergent groups together for one common cause.

The AZOHVC tries to influence local city councils and other decision making agencies by being “...in their face!” said Gursh. “You have to go and meet these people and let them know you are not going away. And, on the other hand, you have to be willing to offer them help. That can include helping someone who is running for office who support OHV use or doing trail work as a volunteer. Both sides need to see a benefit in the relationship.”

The group educates and motivates its members by using a “...help us keep trails open approach,” said Gursh. He complained, however, that “Unless riders see a threat to their riding, it just doesn’t hit home and... well, someone else will take care of it.”

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