New House bill would change ATV registration

Thursday , February 15, 2018 - 12:00 AM

LYNN R. BLAMIRES
Special to the Standard-Examiner

The first four-wheeled ATV was introduced by Suzuki in 1982. Now there are over 202,000 OHVs registered in Utah.

Because these are motorized vehicles, it logically follows that they should be registered in the county in which the owner resides. The fees then benefit the county wherein the fees are paid.

Here is where “logic” falls apart. The greatest number of registered ATVs are in Davis, Salt Lake and Weber counties. However, the greatest number of ATV trails are in the least populated counties. In those counties, it is a struggle to maintain the trails that are ridden by riders from the more populated counties.

Salt Lake County has zero miles of ATV trail and yet it receives the highest number of registration dollars. The question of how that money is spent has never been answered.

Many miles of hiking and bicycle trails have been built and maintained by money coming from somewhere and yet hikers and bikers don’t pay any fees for that purpose. Of the $20 million collected annually in registration fees, only $2 million goes for trail maintenance.

While some trails exist in Davis and Weber counties, the bulk of the trails are south of the Wasatch Front. Piute County is the second-least populated county in Utah, but it has over 2,000 miles of ATV trail to maintain. The county had a population of 1,556, according to the 2010 census, but the 2016 estimate shows those numbers declining.

According to the document preparation person at Layton Cycle, a person buying a new 2018 UTV and registering it as street-legal will pay $196. The current fee for off-highway use only for my 2013 ATV is about $58.

Brett Stewart, vice president of UTV Utah and a member of the Utah OHV Association, has worked closely with Rep. Mike Noel to introduce a bill (H.B. 143) that would make changes to the way money received from OHV registrations is distributed. It will also reduce the overall fees required to register. Stewart also gave credit to the Utah ATV Association as being a key supporter on this bill.

Instead of the money remaining in the county where the machine is registered, it will go to an Off-Highway Vehicle Fund administered by Utah State Parks and Recreation to be distributed to the counties according to the ATV trails those counties have to maintain. This would make more sense of the money spent to register ATV’s.

Under this new proposal, the fees for registering an ATV would increase, while a uniform fee in lieu of property tax would decrease. According to the fiscal notes on H.B. 143 found at www.le.utah.gov, “In total, owners of street legal and not street legal ATVs may see a decrease in ATV and vehicle registration costs.”

I have ridden the trails in these Southern Utah counties for years and realize what a benefit this money will be for the purpose of trail maintenance. I have seen what happens to a trail when the track gets muddy. Riders will try and find a way around the mud, creating a new trail beside the muddy one. This action is referred to as “braiding.”

The new funding would allow bridges to be built across those muddy sections, helping to maintain the pristine beauty of the backcountry. I have also seen bridges built across problematic water crossings that have improved the riding experience. The funding will also assist in making trails safer to ride.

Trails could be rerouted to avoid sensitive terrain. Counties with little or no trails would be able to build trails to qualify for funding. Counties with large systems will be able to better maintain those trails to attract tourism, thus improving their economies.

Parking at trailheads could be improve,d along with information kiosks, restrooms and maps to aid the rider in enjoying the trail system. Connector trails could be built to enhance the rider’s experience and to make more sense of the layout of a trail system.

With some 75,000 miles of ATV trail to ride in Utah, this money would be put to proper use. When you go, take plenty of water, keep the rubber side down and watch H.B. 143.

You can email Lynn Blamires at quadmanone@gmail.com.

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