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Ceg_ 06-15-2010 04:07 PM

Trail users help officers enforce oft-ignored rules
Trail users help officers enforce oft-ignored rules

June 14, 2010 by Scott Sandsberry

YAKIMA, Wash. — With fewer enforcement officers on the trails, organized four-wheel-drive and motorcycle clubs are doing what they can to rein in the “two-percenters” who either don’t care enough to know and observe proper trail etiquette and simply choose not to.

Last month, with the help of ORV Trail Watch — a loose-knit consortium of law-abiding, ethics-focused trail riders and clubs that formed roughly a year ago — three people were cited for “mudding” at Oasis Spring in the Manastash, a trail system primarily on state wildlife land.

“With the help of the public taking pictures and providing those photographs to us, we’ve been able to cite these guys,” said Yakima County Sheriff’s Deputy Steve Sutliff, whose responsibility includes patrolling off-road vehicle use. “If we can get a picture of them in a mudhole with the license plate showing, we’ll cite them. The more pictures we have, the better it is, because it just gives us more evidence.”

Flagging budgets in both Forest Service and Yakima County Sheriff’s, plus the diversion of the state’s Non-Highway and Offroad Vehicle Activities (NOVA) funds into the state’s general budget to rescue state parks, have left a near void in frontcountry trail-system enforcement. For much of the time, Sutliff is the sole enforcement officer responsible for the trail systems on both the White Pass and Chinook Pass corridors.

“Before, we had a guy on White Pass and we had two guys working ORVs,” Sutliff said. “Well, the ORV money went away because the state legislature took the NOVA funds and gave it to State Parks. On the plus side, the Forest Service still has a few people working ORVs, and those people are going to be trained so they can cite violators.”

Without a strong enforcement presence, the recent Memorial Day weekend saw a lot of trail systems “hammered” by excessive use, according to Forest Service officials.

“That’s the worst thing — the lack of law enforcement due to budget cutbacks and whatnot,” said Wade Kabrich, safety/education director for the Yakima-based All Wheelers Off Road Club, one of the driving forces behind ORV Trail Watch.

“If they could get those ORV deputies back up and running, it would cut the problems we’re having up there. They did such a good job. Not to discount the efforts of Steve Sutliff and everybody else that’s making a valiant effort, but there’s just not enough enforcement.”

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