We had a phenomenal first year, thanks to your help and a strong Board of Directors. We achieved what many long-time Maryland riders said was impossible; DNR is opening an OHV trail in Savage River State Forest, the Maryland Legislature unanimously passed legislation modifying Maryland’s Recreational Land Use statute to apply to the entire State and to cover OHVs, for the first time ever OHVs are included in the State’s 5-year Land Preservation & Recreation Plan; and Senator Edwards had a meeting with us and three western counties including State Legislators, county commissioners and county planners to discuss the economic benefits of OHVs to the counties. It was quite a year and you made it happen with your generous support! As Paul Harvey would have said, now for the rest of the story!
It has been many years in the making and members of your Alliance Board have been working on this long before the Alliance was formed. The State has officially started the process to create an OHV trail system within Savage River State Forest. The initial engineering assessment should be done this spring and the Alliance has been invited to participate with the engineering firm on trail layout and user expectations. This is a slow process and we continue to push DNR on our issues; this needs to be done right the first time. This will be a model for future OHV areas on public land.
Speaking of public land, we also are pushing DNR to acquire more land either through outright purchase or via a public/private partnership to create new OHV areas. This is gaining momentum and DNR is actively looking at one parcel in western Maryland of nearly 3,000 acres.
This legislation was introduced by the Maryland Motorcycle Dealer’s Association with support and assistance by the Alliance. It extends the same liability relief to landowners throughout the State that previously were only granted to landowners in Garrett County. It also extends the relief previously restricted to cross-country skiing and snowmobiling to include OHV recreation. Veterans of Maryland legislation initiatives will tell you it is rare to get a statute change on the first effort. This took a lot of action by you calling your representatives and sending emails. This is truly a huge win for us.
For the first time in Maryland’s history, OHVs are in the Land Preservation and Recreation Plan (LPRP)! Every 5-years the State must update the LPRP to identify essential and contemporary issues impacting outdoor recreation and natural resource protection in Maryland. “The Land Preservation and Recreation Plan will help guide land conservation and development of outdoor recreation opportunities over the next five years and builds upon the America’s Great Outdoors Initiative to include proactive approaches to address critical issues identified in the planning process. The Plan aims to: provide Maryland’s citizens and visitors with safe and easily accessible amenities; encourage the enjoyment and stewardship of Maryland’s natural world; and balance outdoor recreation land use with natural and cultural resource protection. It also serves as Maryland’s Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan and qualifies the state to receive funding through the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund.”
In a nutshell, the State has said it will include the need for OHV trails in their planning! This is huge for our cause. Monitoring how well the State delivers is one of the Alliance’s primary functions.
Members of the board met with Senator Edwards, and representatives of the three western counties including State Legislators, county commissioners and county planners, to discuss the economic benefits of OHVs to the counties. We discussed the DNR’s efforts to open new OHV trails, the concept of Public/Private Partnerships for recreational use of land (similar to the Hatfield/McCoy model), the potential for trails in Washington County specifically near the old Ft Ritchie site, and other challenges and opportunities for OHV recreational tourism. There was a lot of interest and support from those in attendance and that support was evident in getting the landowner liability statue amended as stated above.
Your Alliance will continue to push forward on the issues above. To date, we have been creating the foundation necessary to facilitate OHV riding and driving areas on both public and private property. In that regard we are supporting a landowner in Garrett County who is trying to open a small ATV park. We will continue our education mission by facilitating a 2-day workshop between the DNR and the National Off-Highway vehicle Conservation Council (NOHVCC) on trail design, maintenance and enforcement. We will also be focusing on building support in the counties for economic development through OHV recreation as well as opening new OHV areas across the State.