By KEVIN HITE
President, Alaska State Snowmobile Association
For those of you who attended or got information from our “Snow Summit” last spring, and as we publicized afterwards, the focus of the group was that we intended to take the SnowTRAC program out of the purview of DNR and place it under the supervision/cooperation of another entity that would give us more input into the program’s goals and direction. We took that message to the legislators we were working with and presented our plan forward.
As the season progressed, and it became more and more clear that the legislature was going to be completely occupied by the budgetary shortfall and the gas pipeline, getting an audience for our program to be completely revamped and moved to a new structure was going to be tough. During those conversations, it was also pointed out that in moving the program to a Governor’s advisory board would put us in the position of having to go to the Legislature each and every year for funding. Not an enviable position to be in for a newly organized program.
A couple of our legislators have worked diligently to enable us to make some progress on the SnowTRAC program. One representative is preparing legislation that will tie in the Point of Sale Registration funding with the SnowTRAC program. That legislation also proposes a rate increase.
I am certainly not giving up on having an autonomous SnowTRAC program, but the reality of the legislative focus doesn’t favor us at the moment. When looking at other options to move forward, we received a proposal from a legislative heavyweight who suggested we submit what we wanted the program to look like and they would take it to DNR with the intent of advocating this agenda for us. With that support advice, I prepared the following outline for legislative action within the DNR structure.
Organize the new SnowTRAC board on the lines of a regional representative board. Initial program organization should draw representatives from the most active snowmobile clubs in each region as well as an Alaskan Business representative. The New SnowTRAC board would need to meet and work out the program guidelines and processes, including the grant process and Standard Operation Procedures. Initial thought process is that the first edition of the new SnowTRAC board would be made up of the following representatives:
Fairbanks (selected by Fairbanks Snow Travelers), Mat-Su (selected by Curry Ridge Riders), North Kenai (selected by Caribou Hills Cabin Hoppers), South Kenai (selected by SNOMADS of Homer), Copper Valley (selected by Valdez Snowmobile Club-Lake Louise Wolfpack), Anchorage (selected by Anchorage Snowmobile Club), Western/Bush Alaska (Alaska Department of Transportation nominee), At-large (DNR sleection) and Business (All club nominations).
Winter Trails Coordinator
Utilizing the 12.5 percent administration fee, the board will select/hire a Winter Trails Coordinator.
The WTC (or whatever the SnowTRAC board names the position) is needed to coordinate all snow trail programs in the state.
This person will be seconded to the SnoTrac board and will be tasked with actively seeking coordinated funding to expand statewide trail programs.
The WTC will coordinate the Statewide Safety Program. More on this below:
He/she will be tasked with preparing and distributing of program reports to include performance and evaluation of grants and pool funds. These reports will be submitted to the SnowTRAC board for evaluation of continued funding.
Once the new SnowTRAC Board has a year under their belts to work out the SOPs and evaluation tools needed for program process, they will request a raise in the annual registration fees from $5 per year to $10 per year. (One option is to jump completely to $20/year depending on success.) This will obviously be tied into the Legislature allocating the new amount from the general fund and will work with Mark Neuman’s proposed legislation.
Included in this registration process would be all On Snow Vehicles. Any ORV or ATV using a state funded trail would be required to register.
Again, after a year’s performance history, the SnowTRAC board and WTC would begin to seek matching state funding to augment the program. (Or jump to the earlier-mentioned $20/year.)
Alaska Statewide Snowmobile Safety Program
When the funding mechanism goes from the current funding levels to the secondary level mentioned in 3a, then an automatic trigger would kick in to fund a statewide snowmobile safety program at approximately 20 percent of the funding mechanism. At the proposed $10 per year, that would approach $100,000 per year. At $20 a year, it would approach $200,000 a year.
The Statewide Snowmobile Safety program would be one that can be taught by local organizations, i.e. community schools, Public Safety Officers, etc.
The Program would be customizable to account for regional requirements. That could be one route for rural participants who use snowmobile as primary transportation and another route for recreational/backcountry participants.
The program could possibly be patterned after the Alaska Boating Safety program or the Alaskan Hunter Education program.
The intent would be to go out to bid to organizations that would design and deliver the type of program that can be replicated without specific organizational support. Basically SnowTRAC would initially purchase the program and then continue support and distribution of the safety program statewide.
Grooming and Trail Development Program
The remainder of the funding pool (67.5 percent) will be allocated by the SnowTRAC board in support of both grooming existing trails and begin the creation of the Statewide Trail system as envisioned initially in the program development.
Eventually the SnowTRAC funds would be utilized to develop and groom a main artery trail from one end of the mainland to the Interior. Trail support development would include local entities being responsible for interties into the main statewide trail system.
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