At least 60 people have signed up to attend a summit on non-motorized trails in Idaho — a meeting that will seek solutions to a funding gap that has left some trails impassable.
The discussion will run from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday at the Andrus Center for Public Policy (301 S. Capitol Blvd., Boise). Participants are asked to RSVP by calling 514-2251.
The primary purpose is to gather hikers, mountain bikers, horseback riders and other non-motorized users to confront the need for a funding source that will help Idaho Parks and Recreation address a backlog of maintenance.
“Hikers, mountain bikers and horses mostly use the same trails,” said David Langhorst, the director of Idaho Parks and Rec. “If they were all to get together and support the right idea, could we get this done in Idaho? That’s what the summit is about. It’s very open-ended. We don’t have a particular outcome in mind. We just wanted to get these constituents that come to us a lot together. Our board has passed a resolution in support of finding a funding source. It’s been one of our goals for a long time. In Idaho, realistically, it needs to be generated from the users and not from a government agency.”
Snowmobilers, ATV riders and other motorized trail users generate money for trail maintenance through sticker programs.
That’s more difficult to do with non-motorized trails. Success stories around the country are rare, said Leo Hennessy, the coordinator of non-motorized trails for Idaho.
Colorado uses a portion of state lottery money for trails. California sells Adventure Passes for some recreation areas. Washington redirects gas taxes paid for gas that isn’t used on state-maintained roads (like Forest and National Park Service roads, and for off-road activities) to recreation, with 30 percent of that money allocated to non-motorized recreation.
Most of Idaho’s 10,248 miles of trails are on Forest Service land. Fire costs have consumed much of the Forest Service’s budget for trails, Langhorst said. Idaho receives $1 million to $1.5 million to distribute in grants as part of the federal Recreational Trails Program funded by gas taxes, with about half that money going to non-motorized trails.
Volunteers do a lot of trail maintenance but they’re harder to find for rural and backcountry areas. The Idaho Centennial Trail from Nevada to Canada, for example, needs maintenance, signs, improved maps and a website refresh, Hennessy said.
“We wanted to get (the users) all together and have this discussion and see if there’s enough energy to tackle the problem,” Langhorst said. “We’re not going to solve the problem in two hours. What we can find out is whether there is an idea that might work in Idaho and the will to get it done.”
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