Without funding, grooming, signage, trailwork and lodges at risk of going away
We had a little glitch with our main guest speaker, but Rep. Cathy Tilton and her chief of staff Heath Hilyard gave us an update on the status of SnowTRAC (Snowmobile Trails Advisory Council) funding at our November Anchorage Snowmobile Club meeting. Tilton and her staff reported that because of the election results, the odds of getting the funding back was not looking promising. Remember those snowmachine registration funds that Gov. Walker re-appropriated and put in the general fund; the funds that were supposed to be used for grooming and other trail related purposes?
I know readers have heard this before, but what does this mean to us and why should we care? These funds are our snowmachine registration renewals and point of sale fees. This program was a handshake deal put in place in 1997 to fund the SnowTRAC effort and provide assistance to snowmachine clubs and others in their grooming efforts, trail acquisition and safety programs. The idea was that the program would be self-sustaining because of recurring registration fees and ongoing purchases of new snowmachines registered by dealers in our state. The state would appropriate 12 percent of the annual funds to cover administrative costs while the remaining funds would be paid out to clubs and others who applied by grant application/award process.
My perspective of what Rep. Tilton and Hilyard told us was that most senators and representatives have never heard of SnowTRAC, didn’t know what it was or how it came about, and don’t care if it went away because they didn’t know the history. Therefore they don’t realize the repercussions of their actions or lack of actions.
I know previous suggestions on what to write to our legislators have included threats of not paying registration fees, but that doesn’t help anyone. It would only make the state spend wasted funds on policing the trails, since most of the trails we ride on are on state land.
Instead, we have to appeal to the governor and our legislators that it isn’t just about grooming. Without these funds for grooming, signage and trail work, not only will you not find a safe trail home, but many areas could be permanently closed for winter use if grooming can’t preserve underlying vegetation in a low-snow year. And what about those awful mogul bumps that beat you up? These are just a small reason; there are also economic repercussions? How will the lodges survive if riders can’t find them? We are just seeing the benefits of having a place to stop, enjoy a hot lunch or beverage and a chance to warm up, visit with those we are riding with (put a face to that helmet), and share some of our hard-earned funds. We’ve waited many years for these places to open; we sure don’t want them to go away, just when we get a reliable ride that will take us that far. Look how many overnight rides we have now; these lodges could be in jeopardy.
How about all the other users that benefit from groomed trails; mushers, skiers, fat tire bike riders, those going to their cabins, or those moving supplies to lodges. I’m sure I missed something, but these are all economic drivers.
So, if we don’t let our elected legislators know how we feel about this action, absolutely nothing will happen, and our registration dollars will go away for some other purpose.
Our governor will have already submitted his budget for approval by the time this commentary hits the streets. However, it is not too late to still be heard. If we can’t convince our governor and legislators to please use our registration dollars for SnowTRAC, all of the above will come true. So, please beg (that really means bombard them, a lot) our governor, and educate our legislators. They all have Facebook pages, websites, email and addresses. If we educate them, our legislators will help us. We are all over Anchorage, if each one of us reaches out to our legislator, they all will educated. It only takes a one-liner to get your point across.
— Vicki Gerken, secretary and board member
Anchorage Snowmobile Club, Inc.