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Copyright © 2003 Express Publishing Inc.
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Friday, June 18, 2004


Lost River ATV trail put on back burner

Idaho Parks and Recreation Department undertakes planning process

Express Staff Writer

When Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation Director Rick Collignon resigned in early April, some of the wind in the sail of a proposed 460-mile off-road-vehicle loop connecting Challis, Mackay and Arco began to wane.

While the trail is no longer one of the agencyís leading priorities, it also is not off the table, said parks and recreation comprehensive planner Connie Vaughn.

"The last I heard about the Lost River Trail is that it is not a priority any longer," she said.

Vaughn gave a presentation Wednesday evening at the Community Campus in Hailey to about a dozen local residents. While the purpose of Vaughnís visit was to gather public comments to help the agency draft new planning documents, the majority of the publicís inquiry centered on the so-called Lost River Recreation Trailway.

During much of the meeting, local residents asked questions about the state agencyís budget and the money it distributes from the state fuel tax to off-road vehicle programs, including its own.

"Those of us who do not use off-road vehicles are asked to subsidize those who do use that type of transportation," said Andy Goodwin, a Mackay area rancher and part-time Ketchum resident. "Who gave the parks and recreation people the mandate to advocate for off-road vehicle recreation?"

Citing the departmentís Idaho Recreation Demand Assessment, Ketchum-based Wilderness Society member Norma Douglas said the public at large does not appear to place off-road-vehicle trail systems as a high priority. In the assessment, water quality ranked first, followed by access to public lands and protecting public lands resources, she said.

Providing off-road-vehicle trail systems ranked 17, she said.

"If this was the guiding document, how did we get a 460-mile trail proposal?" she asked, further stating that the departmentís credibility with the current planning process might be wearing thin because of the seeming disconnect between public wishes and the department-driven off-road-vehicle loop.

Asking a long-standing question about the trail proposal, which underwent numerous public hearings and sustained significant scrutiny from residents of the Wood River and Lost River valleys two years ago, a Blaine County senator said he still wants to know where the proposalís origins lie.

"No one seems to know where the Lost River Trail proposal came from, including me," said Sen. Clint Stennett, D-Ketchum.

On point with Vaughnís visit, the department is visiting every county in the state this spring and summer in an effort to find out what kind of recreation opportunities people need in and near their local communities.

The public meetings are part of a three-pronged effort to analyze outdoor recreation needs. In addition to the county-by-county meetings, the recreation research center will conduct regional focus group sessions with city, state and federal recreation advocates. Using that information, county-specific questionnaires will be drafted and sent randomly to households in each county.

"Itís important for everyone to understand that weíre talking about all kinds of outdoor recreation, not just activities that take place in state parks," said Rick Just, the departmentís outdoor recreation data center coordinator. "We need to find out what people want to do in their local parks, at school facilities and on federal lands.

"What we find out helps us rank outdoor recreation grant applications and gives direction to city, county, state and federal recreation programs statewide."

The departmentís current strategic plan was meant to apply from 2001 to 2005.

"Our next strategic plan needs to start now," Vaughn said.


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