OHV Rally in Olympia

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OHV Rally in Olympia

Be there Friday February 25th, or let your voice be heard from home

By Barry Mercer

It reminds me of an old saying that my father used to relate. "It all depends on whose ox is being gored.” Right now it seems that everyone’s is! Times are tough and the State of Washington, whose officials were really putting themselves in unsound financial situations before this crisis, are franticly dumping programs and permanently borrowing funds as fast as they can. This, of course, two years ago included the monies that were set aside from the yearly fund of One Percent of the gas tax on all vehicles, as a kind of refund for vehicles that use the gas and don’t use the state highway system. These funds were literally stolen from their legal purposes and given to the State Parks Department temporarily. Following the move, a lawsuit was filed by WOHVA against the State.

With a lawsuit on the table, rather than monkey around any further with the situation while it is being challenged legally, this year the state wants to make it permanent!

This one percent of the gas tax called the NOVA fund, or Nonhighway Off-road Vehicles Activities programs account, was attached a few years ago and then split up for more than just activities that were Off Highway Vehicles related. Trails and recreation funds for other activities were given part of the NOVA funds for maintaining hiking, camping, bicycle and horseback riding trails. This was in the form of a new law that stood up to challenge in January 2004 in Kittitas County Superior Court, and still makes its way though the courts of appeals process. These new laws made groups like the Sierra Club jump for joy!  This now brings us to "whose ox is being gored” as the groups that were all for the splitting up and siphoning off of funds dedicated to Off Highway Vehicle users are now seeing those funds taken for use by the State Parks system, whose funding has been cut out of the State General Fund completely. No more funds for anyone’s trails, or upkeep, but just to keep the State Parks open, period. 

Somehow I don’t see a great cooperation between the off road vehicle groups like the Washington Off Highway Vehicle Alliance, (WOHVA www.wohva.org/ ), the Northwest Motorcycle Association (NMA www.nmaoffroad.org/ ) and the Sierra Club coming in the near future. We will likely see more interest in the former two as places that have been traditional riding areas since I was a kid, like the Reiter Forest area, that are being attacked for closure by the Sierra Club. The Sierra Club doesn’t want to quarantine OHVs to certain areas, they want to remove them from all public lands, and then restrict their use on private lands, too. For more information on these issues, I suggest you get clicking on the above links, before there are no more areas in this state to use your OHV.

There are issues this year on the rally’s platform other than funding and keeping areas open for use. There are licensing issues on what constitutes an OHV, and/or a dual sport vehicle that can be licensed for the highway and then used in off highway areas.  Some bikes brought in from out of state are being denied licensing now even though they are the same vehicles that before last June could be licensed here. For more information on these and other issues, again click the links above! This may be a slippery slope on how to restrict more vehicles used on public lands and/or highways in the future.

Again this year, there will be a rally in Olympia Friday February 25th at the State Capitol Building, and though some have suggested that these have had little effect on the actual legislature’s policies in the past, they have brought more awareness that there is a coalition of these groups operating in the state. It may not have an immediate effect, but it does give a place for all of the persons impacted by these changes in the laws to meet and help get them organized into an effective group, even if it just means getting an email list together for the sponsors of this rally to use to put mail and phone call pressure on the state legislators when the time is right. It works if you work it!  No State representative wants to see their Donkey or Elephant gored next.

To voice your opinion to your representative CLICK HERE.

Barry Mercer is a former president of the Vintage Motorcycle Enthusiasts and has been riding in Washington state since he was ten. He often enjoyed sandy eggs and pancakes in the Mattawa area, when you could still ride there.

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