NOVA Cuts Impact Cle Elum Trails
Over the weekend, the Ellensburg Daily Record published a good article on how the new state budget will affect trails in the Cle Elum Ranger District. It's definitely worth a read if you like hiking in the Teanaway area and are concerned about whether those trails will get seasonal maintenance.
To summarize, the state legislature decided to pay for part of the Washington State Parks budget by taking money from the state's Non-Highway and Off-Road Vehicle Account (NOVA). NOVA is generated from state gas tax revenue and is distributed to pay for maintenance of trails on federal, state, county and municipal public lands. Much of the U.S. Forest Sevice's Cle Elum Ranger District pays for its annual trail maintenance budget through NOVA grants.
According to the article, these grants account for up to 70 percent of the Cle Elum Ranger District's summer trail maintenance costs. The district usually hires a staff of 23 seasonal trail workers, but this may be reduced to zero because of cuts to NOVA.
Tim Foss, the district's manager of trails and wilderness, said in the article:
“Probably most hiker-only trails aren’t going to be cleared — logged out to remove downed trees — this year,” he said. “Hikers are going to be scrambling over logs.”
WTA will certainly lend a hand with volunteer support in the Cle Elum district, but volunteers alone can't do the work of clearing those trails.
While WTA is pleased that no state parks will have to close this year due to budget cuts, we’re saddened that NOVA dollars will not be available for grants to deserving agencies such as Washington State Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Forest Service. If revenue from the recently passed State Parks "opt-in" fee of $5 on motor vehicle registrations is above projections--which is a likely scenario--we believe the legislature should move quickly to restore funding for the NOVA grant program.