The Wyoming Trails Advisory Council is set to recommend distribution of $1.3 million in federal grants in Cody Friday, amid a call for giving more money to non-motorized uses.
The 10-member appointed board will decide on which trail projects to fund in three categories – motorized, non-motorized and diversified, according to an overview of the 2015 Recreation Trails Program Wyoming grant guidelines. Slightly more than $406,955 in federal money is available for each of the first two programs, and $542,607 for “diversified” trail projects.
At issue is whether grant applications for the “diversified” program have to contain an element of motorized use. At least one advocacy group — Wyoming Pathways — says federal rules allow a diversified project to be motor-free, like a bridle and walking trail.
But Trails Advisory Council rules impose a stricter interpretation and are biased, Wyoming Pathways Director Tim Young of Wilson said. They require that any diversified grant project include a motorized component.
Acting council chairman Bert Miller of Cody likes projects that include both motorized and non-motorized elements, he said.
“At this time, I like the heart of the program, bringing the motorized and non-motorized together,” he said. “I’ve seen a lot of wonderful programs come together where grooming has linked together a snowmobile trail (and) a cross-country trail.”
Young is trying to change the Wyoming restriction to make the program reflect the federal guidelines. “We would like non-motorized projects to compete fairly for that category and let the best projects receive funding,” he said.
“It’s essentially all gone to snowmobiling,” he said of the diversified account. “Well over $5 million in the last decade.
“Wyoming is the only state in the nation that requires motorized use in all diversified projects,” Young wrote the advisory council. Last summer he also lobbied Wyoming State Parks and Cultural Resources director Milward Simpson, whose board has the final say on grant applications.
“We are disappointed … that the language bias against nonmotorized modes continues,” the letter said.
The allocation of “diversified” money to projects with motorized components is justified, Miller said.
“Wyoming has a very large ORV user group and a very large snowmobile user group,” he said. “Other states don’t have as large of a user group that way,” and can structure their programs the way they want.
Miller stopped short of predicting any change in the rules. “I envision a great dialog with motorized folks and non-motorized folks,” he said. “That’s what we have come to at this point. I hate to see these entities opposing each other all the time.”
The Wyoming State Snowmobiling Association is backing Miller’s position. Miller is listed as president of the snowmobile group at its website. He was appointed to the Trails Advisory Council as a member representing multiple use.
“WSSA respectfully stands firmly opposed to changing the current RTP Ranking System or Project Multipliers in any way which would inappropriately favor nonmotorized projects any further than currently allowed,” states the Jan. 6 letter, submitted by the WSSA board of directors to the advisory council.
Miller said he would like to help non-motorized users create methods, like the ORV registration fee system, to raise money for their needs. He also would like more funds.
“We only wish we had three times the money,” he said of the grant amounts.
Friday’s meeting is set to start at 9 a.m. at the Holiday Inn in Cody. Miller predicted a full day of business reviewing applications.
Public comment will be accepted during the meeting on the agenda item for Recreation Trails Program guidelines and again at the end of the meeting.
This year’s grants are complicated by the fact Congress has only authorized partial funding for the program to date, Young said. The amount available for distribution may be curtailed or made contingent on future Congressional authorization, he said.
Read the letter requesting change in grant guidelines:
Read letter from the Wyoming State Snowmobile Association: