Great meeting and I am really glad I went. Here is a summary I posted on another forum concerning the meeting. Please feel free to correct me on anything stated as I am just going from memory here. By no means is this an extensive summary, just a high level overview. Thank you to everyone who showed up!
AZ Parks did an excellent job gathering info and statistics that revealed some interesting facts about trail usage in AZ. There are an estimated 600,000 trail users in AZ which included all types of motorized and non-motorized users. The top concerns for the 600,000 persons surveyed are trash, vandalism, lack of enforcement, access, and trail closures. Some categories of the user types skyrocketed in numbers over the past few years. For example ATV/Dirtbike/UTV riders increased from 7% to 24% in just 5 years. Also, 5 years ago Rock Crawling was not even considered a category and not comprises 8% of the total usage. These numbers really say a lot about what is going on out there. They also touched on the fact that much of the funds allocated towards land management and maintenance is being cut to aid with the deficit. This is very much so a continuing problem with no end in sight.
After informing us on the results of the survey and asking for our interpretation of the numbers they proceeded to get input from us on a number of categories as follows:
We were asked what we are satisfied about with the current situation. One very strong point that was made is the location and variety of trails. We have lots of trails close to town and range from easy scenic to extreme. We specifically in the Phoenix Metro area have the ability to be on a trial in most cases with in an hour or less.
We were asked what types of issues we see specific to the regional area. Some of the big ones were development imposing on trails, lack of trail ethics and education, general disregard for others, trash, vandalism, inappropriate creation of new trails, dust, lack of enforcement, and the states track record of not using volunteer work to take care of much of the problems. Lots of great ideas came were brought up by attendees regarding these issues. A great point was made about the need for a trail rating system. This would allow the difficult trails to remain challenging and difficult for those who want this type of experience and conversely help keep the easy trails easy with maintenance and management. The need for better staging areas was also a concern of many people. This includes better parking, more trash bins and pick up, and the patrol of these areas by local law enforcement.
We were asked how the state could use volunteer work and what has worked well in the past. This was a very important topic considering the recent and continuing budget cuts to BLM, AZ Parks, Forest Service and other land management entities. It was stressed by a majority of attendees that we as trail users are more than willing to do work out on the trails but more times than none, the land management entities do not provide enough input on how to get started. We did point out that we don't need organization particularly, just some one to say "you can clean up this area, stay out of this area, and here are some dumpsters". They did say this was a concern state wide and that this report will heavily focus on making the use of volunteer work a higher priority.
We were asked how we felt about current educational material, programs, and what can be done to make it better. Everyone agreed that the internet is a primary source for information and that the land management entities should have a "one stop shopping" per se location where all information can be found regardless of the governing entity. The educational programs need to extend further into the communities and possible become mandatory for trail usage. This will partly be addressed by the OHV Sticker program that is starting in Jan 2009, but that there needs to be a greater push to communicate with more users. Several ideas were proposed on how to accomplish this and what types of education are most important. It was also stressed that the current information provided by the state is not sufficient and tends to be out of date. It was suggested to allow the public to update and verify this information with GPS coordinates, directions, trail reports, and general information regarding trails in the state much the same way public forums have compiled great databases of info regarding AZ trails. This use of information that already exists was also a hot topic stressing the fact that they state does not need to reproduce material that already exists such as that provided by the Tread Lightly organization. This will help ease the stress of budgetary concerns and the lack of.
The next phase of the process will be the creation of the new 2010 draft proposal. Starting in April 2009, the public will be allowed to review the new proposal and make further comments regarding its content which will run for 3 months. After the public comment period is closed, the draft will be finalized and released as of January 2010 to facilitate the budget for land management in AZ and the programs coordinated to do so. Hopefully the opinions that have been expressed will not only make the budget committee aware of the needs at hand, but also help to reshape the way the land management entities use volunteer work, enforce regulations, and educate the trail user community.
If you have any questions about the meeting or the summary posted here please let me know, I would be happy to talk about it in greater detail. Thanks!
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