Nevada off-road enthusiasts to pay non-resident’s fee
Nevada residents have to pay a fee to snowmobile in Hope Valley or other public land in California after a new California law went into effect on the first day of the year.
The reason, say California park officials who administer the state’s off-road vehicle program, is that Nevada residents have not contributed to the development and maintenance of California’s extensive off-road recreational program.
“In the case of Nevada, we receive a massive influx of mainly snowmobilers into the state,” said Brian Klock, who administers the Off-Highway Vehicle Program for the California Department of Parks and Recreation. “We’re looking to recoup some of the cost of the facilities we are providing. An annual fee helps them pay their way.”
The new law requires residents of other states to pay a $20 annual fee to use snowmobiles, all-terrain vehicles, motorcycles and other off-road vehicles on California’s off-road trails.
Residents of 36 states already pay off-road fees in their own states, and are therefore exempt from California’s non-resident permit. Other states that border California – Oregon and Arizona – have off-road programs and are exempt from the fee, but Nevada does not.
Each year, the California off-road program funnels $14 million in user fees to the U.S. Forest Service, federal Bureau of Land Management and other public agencies to build, maintain and operate the state’s network of off-road trails, trailheads, parking lots, signage and off-road parks. The program started in 1979.
Off-road vehicle owners who buy Green Stickers for $21 every two years contribute less than 10 percent of the revenues for the state program, with the rest coming from gasoline taxes. Because Nevada residents don’t usually buy gasoline in California, they are not helping maintain the California trail system, Klock said.
“Typically, we’re not getting gas tax revenues from Nevada residents,” he said.
The Carson Ranger District is seeking $154,000 to oversee off-road recreation in Hope Valley for 1999-2000, and is seeking comment from the public on the grants.
Jocelyn Biro, recreation planner for the Carson District, said the non-resident fee is needed to help improve the off-road facilities.
“Nevada residents have been riding on the coattails of California for years,” Biro said. “Most recognize the benefits of the program, but there’s still a radical few Nevadans who don’t want to pay and think everything should be free.”
Last year, an estimated 7,000 visitors used the network of trails in Hope Valley, Biro said, making the scenic Alpine County area one of the more popular areas for off-road recreation.
So far, off-road recreational users have been supportive of the non-resident program, said Bill Dart of the American Motorcycle Association, who is also a snowmobiler.
“We have always believed in a user-pay program. We think it’s important,” Dart said. “Twelve years ago there was no statewide program. Now, there are 14 grooming machines out there, at least 30 trailheads, warming huts and 220 miles of groomed trails and forest roads.”
Dart said the popularity of the off-road program is largely limited by the capacity of parking lots, and the non-resident fee will help pay for new lots.
At a glance:
What: Comments sought on Hope Valley off-road grants
Who: Send comments to Gerald O. Grevstad, Acting District Ranger
Where: Carson Ranger District, Green Sticker Grants 99/00, 1536 S. Carson St., Carson City, Nev. 89701
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