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Texas Lawmakers Increase Funds for OHV Facilities

Tom Harvey, 512-389-4453,

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AUSTIN — More and better off-highway vehicle (OHV) facilities will surface around Texas after a bill passed during the 81st Texas Legislature this year will allow Texas Parks and Wildlife Department to use all of the funds generated from OHV decal sales.

The department has been approved to spend an estimated $572,000 from decals sold in recent years. That includes an almost $500,000 increase for the 2010-2011 biennium over the previous biennium, reflecting increasing revenue from expanding OHV decal sales. The funds will pay for basic necessities for OHV parks, such as land surveys, appraisals, land acquisitions and biological or cultural surveys. Any additional money collected from decal sales beyond projected estimates can also be used.

"If we sell more than the expected amount, we will also be able to use the additional money, which is good news for people who utilize OHV facilities," said Steve Thompson, OHV program manager with TPWD in Austin.

The department administers grants that can help fund OHV projects. The National Recreational Trails Fund (NRTF) is an 80-20 matching grant that requires recipients to provide an amount equal to 20 percent of the federal grant. Grant funds come from a portion of the federal gas tax generated by gasoline purchases to utilize off-road recreational vehicles, such as off-road motorcycles and all-terrain vehicles. A federal requirement is that 30 percent of the funds be spent on motorized recreational trail projects, 30 percent on non-motorized trail projects, with the remaining 40 percent discretionary.

TPWD recently allotted $1.6 million in National Recreational Trail Grant Funds to the Texas Motorized Trails Coalition to purchase 3,300 acres in Crockett County near Ozona for the Escondido Draw Recreation Area. Though the park is already OHV-friendly, the non-profit organization had to purchase private land running from a county road to the entrance of the park so OHV users could access the park.

"We’re either supporting existing grant projects by providing money for consulting or professional services, or we will help grant recipients match the amount of money needed for land acquisition," Thompson said.

The 78th Texas Legislature enacted Senate Bill 155 several years ago, which closed navigable stream beds in Texas to motorized recreational vehicles, except for some parts of the Canadian and Red Rivers. That law also directed TPWD to "facilitate development of sites for motor vehicle recreation other than protected freshwater areas."

In 2007, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department game wardens and other authorities began enforcing the requirement that all qualifying trail vehicles must have a current Texas OHV decal properly mounted on their trail vehicles when used at OHV venues on public land in Texas.

The TPWD Off-Highway Vehicle Program and the Sam Houston National Forest were recently awarded a 2009 Recreational Trails Program Achievement Award, awarded by the Coalition for Recreational Trails. This national competition for motorized and non-motorized trails projects recognizes efforts which exemplify the best attributes of trails design, construction, rehabilitation, environmental & wildlife protection and public education for the safe & responsible use of trails.

The Sam Houston National Forest multiple use trail system restoration project won the award category for Best Trail Construction and Design. The project involves a partnership between members of the Trails Riders of Houston, the USFS Trails Unlimited Enterprise Team and the staffs of the national forest and OHV program. The partnership was created to restore a largely user-made trail system which was in need of major restoration because of decades of heavy use and some fundamental trail design and construction problems. The first two phases of this project are nearly completed; the third phase will be finished by the end of 2010.

OHV decals are now required to be properly mounted on any vehicle (street-legal or not) used at a legal trail riding venue on public land in Texas, or at any private OHV park which has received TPWD grant funding. Public land here includes any local, state or federal government OHV venue. Except for private OHV venues which have received TPWD grants, decals are not required for vehicles used on private land.

Chapter 29 of the Texas Parks & Wildlife Code defines "off-highway vehicle" as either (1) an all-terrain vehicle, as defined by Section 663.001, Transportation Code; (2) an off-highway motorcycle; or (3) any other motorized vehicle used for off-highway recreation on: (A) public land over which the department has authority or on land purchased or leased by the department; or (B) land acquired or developed under a grant made under Section 29.008 or any other grant program operated or administered by the department. A Texas OHV decal costs $8 and is good through Aug. 31 of the year it was purchased.

Texas OHV decals can be purchased at more than 50 OHV dealers, parks and other locations across Texas. See lists of decal sales locations and places to ride on the TPWD Web site. Or, decals can be purchased by phone using a credit card through the TPWD Customer Service Center at (512) 389-8917.

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