By Scott Jones
Scott is a legal and land-use consultant that supports the TPA, COHVCO and the Colorado Snowmobile Association.
Our local clubs are the backbone of the motorized community here in Colorado. They are at the forefront in dealing with many local issues and relationships with local officials.
These are the folks who are volunteering to fix trails, getting grants, paying their registration fees, providing local knowledge and insights to resolve issues, organizing the end of the year barbeques, and generally serving as the glue for all trail users. We have done this really well for a very long time, and sometimes we do it so well that it embarrasses other users of the routes we maintain. Every year your $6 million in motorized funding becomes more and more critical to the operation of the entire trail community, often if other people are not aware of the contribution. While our local clubs have been working hard to keep trails open, the challenges we are facing have changed and evolved.
One of the major evolutions that our clubs are going to have to embrace is the development of local collaboratives throughout the state to address trails, and often these collaboratives are not directly addressing motorized trails. Rather they may be seeking to address recreation more generally. These collaboratives are often not convened by your local land manager, but by local government entities or not-for-profits. Even if the collaborative does not want to address motorized trails, their decisions impact your access to motorized opportunities. The convening body presents an interesting hurdle to the local motorized club, which is that often these bodies are not the traditional groups that you have worked with when doing trail maintenance. Our clubs have always worked with the land managers as our trails are overwhelmingly on federal lands.
These local collaborative efforts are here to stay. They are only picking up steam in many communities, and it would be foolish not to recognize this.
There are two good reasons we need to evolve. We cannot let the practice of only working with federal land managers guide us as we move forward, as many local collaboratives are seeking to manage lands that the entity may not have direct control over. We still have to be at the table to participate in the decision, and if we are not there, the decision will be made for us, and sometimes by folks that don’t like us. We already have examples of these collaboratives failing to reflect motorized interests and make generalized assertions of benefits that are often offensively short of what the local motorized community wants.
The second reason is these collaboratives are a great place to tell our stories about what we do for all trail users and have done for more than 30 years. In most Ranger Districts, we provide hundreds of thousands of dollars for maintenance and operation of recreational opportunities for the benefit of all; this includes direct funding of staff for the office, equipment for trail maintenance, and funding for a wide range of other projects. In addition to this funding, at a scale that no one else provides, we are often the largest source of volunteer labor for these projects.
While we have worked hard for decades to maintain our access, this discussion has changed. Our efforts simply must change along with this new direction, or we will lose trails. Your club participation in these local efforts is going to be one of the necessary changes. We all value the opportunities we have and recognize what we don’t want Colorado and the west to become.