LIVERMORE — The ATV Task Force report has stirred some ATV clubs and their members to action. The highest priority will be seeking an equitable distribution of gas tax revenue, but that won’t be possible in time to help with the financial crunch that the ATV program is experiencing.

One proposal is to raise the registration fee $25 which would raise the resident fee from $45 to $70 a year.  At a committee meeting on Feb. 26, several legislators say they have heard from constituents who are opposed to any increase.  Most are stating they have not heard from many ATV clubs but some are getting mixed reports from the clubs both for and against a fee increase.

Many are upset because the ATV program isn’t receiving a reasonable amount of the gas tax revenues and also that not many join local clubs.   Both of those situations are issues will need to ultimately be addressed, but they can’t be addressed now and not by the IFW committee.

Current updated numbers from the federal highway gas tax study shows that ATVs in Maine generated $1,729,824, but the program only received $157,018 last year, basically only 9 percent of what is generated. Unfortunately, funds are needed to keep the trails open and in order to do that, raising the registration fees are the easiest way to accomplish that.

Western Maine ATV Club (WMATV) hosted an open meeting at the Livermore Community Center. About 40 people from different ATV clubs gathered to express their opinions regarding the recent ATV Task Force report that was released last month.

Bob Dalot, president of Western Maine ATV Club, introduced the three legislators attending the informational meeting, Sen. Lisa Keim, of Dixfield and Maine State District 18, Rep. Christina Riley of Jay, District #74 and Rep. Richard Pickett of East Dixfield, District #116.

The task force recommendations, outlined in their executive summary are these:

“Having considered the information and points of view expressed, we are pleased to propose this set of recommendations, along with items for further consideration that came out of our discussions. The following are some of the highlights of our recommendations:”

  • Limit the size and weight of ATVs that can be registered in Maine to 65 inches wide and 2,000 lbs.
  • Adopt Best Management Practices (BMPs) for state-funded ATV trails.
  • Create a standardized annual trail inspection process.
  • Develop a collaborative communications campaign.
  • Maintain a simple user-pay registration system with one sticker type and price.
  • Raise fees across all ATVs equally, having a differential for residents and non-residents and directing the entire increase to trail funding.

“ATV registration fees have been raised before and the clubs and ATV program got little or none of the money raised by the increase,” said Dalot, “But we have been talking with Brian Bronson, who is the supervisor of the state’s ATV program, and he recommended getting in touch with our representatives and senators, so we decided to hold a pot luck meal with any legislators we could get to attend. I’ve had some resistance to the 65 inch limit, but have come to realize that we have to have a legal definition of an ATV. Some wanted to have 60 inches as the width limit. My main focus is making sure that our trails not be accessible to jeeps and four-wheel drive pickups. And if we limit the trails to 60 inches, the state would lose a large amount of money from ATVs that are currently registered.”

He added that he could go along with most of the recommendations, but enforcement of the limits will always be a problem.

Several people spoke up to say that some of their large landowners wanted to stick with the 60 inch limit, but as they speak to landowners in preparation for the coming season, they will try to convince them. If not, the landowner has the final say regarding what size machines and what they are willing to allow.

“The landowner is always right and that may cause some difficulty in marking trails for this year,” Dalot said.

Dan Mitchell, who was involved in the first task force, said that keeping the trails in good shape for an annual inspection may be tough, especially with the funds currently available to ATV clubs.

“All it takes is one landowner asking for a certain contractor to repair the trail on their land and for them to submit a bill for several thousand dollars,”

Currently, a club must have a minimum trail length of 5 miles with the approval grant money amounts as follows: $4,000 up to 10 miles; $4,500, for 11 to 20 miles; $5,000 for 21 to 30 miles; $5,500 for 31 to 40; $6,000 for 41 to 50 miles;, $6,500 for 51 to 70 miles, $7,500 for over 70 miles.

Some clubs in Maine have more than 200 miles of trails and all clubs depend upon volunteer work from its members. If the registration fees were hiked and the entire additional amount was earmarked for the ATV program, it would almost double the club grants.

“In short the landowners are expecting a better outcome than they have been getting and they deserve a better outcome. One very obvious problem is we don’t have enough money to do what is being asked of us. I know that many of you have mentioned the gas tax and I agree. The numbers show we should be getting at least a million dollars a year from gas tax which would be a huge help as it is to the snowmobilers, but the bottom line is the ACF & IFW Committees have no jurisdiction over that and so the task force could only really look at the registration fees,” said Bronson in an email to clubs.

“The reality is I have to start the rule making process to change the Trail BMP standards and the grant processes as well as establishing an inspection process and a protocol to close trails that don’t meet the standards. We have already experienced several closures due to poor maintenance. If we don’t get additional funding we will surely be looking at a significant number of ATV trails being closed! As it is tough decisions are going to have to be made that may lead to outcomes we don’t like.”

Bronson added that he will keep everyone informed on committee meetings and hearings.

Now, the ball is in the hands of responsible ATV riders and owners. Please contact the local legislators and keep them informed.

Here is the contact information to use to reach some local legislators.

House District # 74 – Rep. Christina Riley, 437 Main Street Jay, ME 04239. [email protected] Phone: 207-287-1440

House District #116 – Rep. Richard Pickett, 21 Church Street, East Dixfield, (Home)(207) 645-4893, Email: [email protected]

State District 18 – Sen. Lisa Keim, 1505 Main St. Dixfield, [email protected] 207.562.6023 (Home) 207.287.1505 (Senate Republican Office)

Farmington: House District 113 – Rep. H. Scott Landry Jr. [email protected], 37 Shepherds Lane, Farmington, ME 04938, (207) 491-9041.

Senate District 17 – Sen. Russell J. Black, 123 Black Road, Wilton, ME 04294, (207) 645-2990 or (207) 491-4667 Email: [email protected]

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