Here's an opportunity to at least share our opion on the subject. As per Iva Michelle Russell;
- 2007 to Today:
- 2007: Brought back OHV4TN to move the 2004 TN OHV Act forward.
- 2008: Created the Tennessee Off-Highway Vehicle Association (TOHVA)
- 2010: MOA between TWRA and TDEC to create an OHV grant-in-aid program. $1 million in RTP monies dedicated for three test projects in each grand division.
- 2012: Doe Mountain in East Tennessee was bought by the state for an "Adventure Tourism" park.
- 2013: Self-fund OHV program in Tennessee?
TDEC: Since getting the $1 million wrestled away from TWRA to TDEC in 2010 to create 3 prototype OHV projects in East, Middle and West and a grant-in-aid program for auxiliary projects....we have found that TDEC is probably not the best place for an OHV program. There is only one project that made it thru the TDEC process, in Middle TN, and two years after the initial project was gift-wrapped for them, they have managed to completely screw it up before it has even started. We are in damage control right now, but two years have been completely wasted in what should have been a relatively quick start-up. Another component of this puzzle is that the federal RTP dollars that currently fund trail programs in TN will always be in jeopardy, especially now...and the OHV segment of those dollars is mostly spoken for in TN. Love it or hate it, that is a fact.
Doe Mountain: In the meantime, thru a very aggressive effort by an awesome county mayor and an OHV club in East TN, an entire mountain was bought by the state for an "Adventure Tourism" project. Although not completely OHV oriented, we are relying on this project to blaze the trail on future projects, both organizationally and economically. Many kudos go to my NOHVCC Associate Partner Mike Farmer for his shear dogged determination and diplomacy in getting this project moving forward "correctly". It is his OHV club that has stepped up to the plate to partner with the county on this project. Kudo's especially go to Mayor Larry Potter, for his vision and cajones to serve his people. Elections do matter folks, don't ever forget that.
TWRA: This past year, we were dealing with another closure of OHV riding land on Aetna Mountain near Chattanooga. After awhile, this stuff gets you numb. I am sure you know what I am talking about. Can we hit rock bottom any harder. Thru these OHV sagas, I meet some really great people, and thru one of these great warriors for the cause, I met a recently retired TWRA officer of great character and passion. He is also a military veteran and lover of OHV fun. As we were going round and round with possible solutions for keeping Aetna open, I gained a great deal of knowledge about the true role of TWRA (not the bastardized version we have learned to hate with equal passion). TWRA was the original choice for the OHV program by all the agency braniacs and user groups reps who were on the Guv's blue ribbon study committee back in the day (1999-2002), and with this new input, after all these years, this fella made me see that TWRA is still the logical choice for the OHV program right now. Life is real funny like that sometimes.
Politics: And yes, everything comes down to politics. In 2010, Tennessee became a 100% Republican state effectively ending 150+ years of Democrat control. Both the TN House and Senate won a Republican majority, we elected a Republican Governor and by caveat, all constitutionally appointed offices are now held by Republicans. In 2012, we elected a Republican supermajority in both our state legislatures, which gives them a walk-out proof majority. In 2011, the Republicans started taking a long look at ineffective government bureaucracy. One of the first targets was the Democrat stronghold TWRA governing board, TWRC. In 2012, the TWRC was reconfigured and renamed TFWC. 6 out of 13 of the current commissioners are new, with the rest being staggered out. How does that affect us? TWRA is the home of the 2004 TN OHV Act. That cracks the door wide open for opportunity to move OHV forward...if we self-fund.
Self-fund: With conservatives in firm control of Tennessee and now in TWRA, government hand-outs are just not an option, nor should they ever be. The original TN OHV Act presented in 2002 had the self-funding component in it. Two years and alot of hands in the mix later, the funding part of the legislation was gutted and then passed in 2004. The six million dollar question...are we, the TN OHV community, willing to step back up to the plate after all these years of bs and self-fund the TN OHV program as envisioned? Are we willing to bring ourselves back to the table and partner with TWRA to create a statewide, sustainable system of OHV trails?
Time for a Decision: Because we are all in this together, I need to know where you stand on the self-funding issue. This is not a "bitching and moaning about it six months from now but said nothing about it now when asked" kinda thing. This is it folks. Yea or Nay. The devil is always in the details, but we won't get a chance to beat the devil if we don't agree to the first dance. Some say the heaven gates open for those who take chances. I only know that the status quo is killing us slowly and painfully.
Action Plan: This is real simple and quick feedback. If you are all in for self-funding, click on this online petition, sign it, and pass it on to your friends. Deadline January 15, 2013. If you belong to a TN OHV club or organization, send me a letter of support for self-funding. firstname.lastname@example.org If you are a dealership or have a business that depends on OHV related purchases, send me a letter of support for self-funding. Obviously, a statewide system of OHV trails would greatly benefit your bottom line. Deadline January 15, 2013.
http://www.gopetition.com/petitions/we-want-to-self-fund-an-ohv-program-in-tennessee.html (copy and paste this link into your browser if the link above doesn't open).
Thanks for the opportunity to serve you all these years, let make the next ones count big!
Iva Michelle Russell
NOHVCC State Partner - Tennessee
2011 Partner of the Year