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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
It's made it thru the Senate ...on the way thru the House
...and it's made news...


Bill could open spaces for ATVs, other off-road riders
By Tim Eaton/Scripps Howard Austin Bureau
April 23, 2005

The sandy beds of North Texas rivers are missing some characteristic tracks - swirling signatures of all-terrain vehicle traffic. Senate Bill 1311, now pending, could put the off-road tire tracks back in the public Texas landscape - if not in the riverbeds at least in some other wide open spaces.

A state law enacted in 2003 made both public riverbeds and public roads off-limits to ATV's.

"You can only ride your ATV on private property," said Tela Mange, spokeswoman for the Texas Department of Public Safety.

Left without a place to play, ATV-rider Carol Smith, a spokeswoman for the Texas Motorized Trails Coalition, feels deprived. Smith supports SB 1311, a law that would open certain designated areas to off-road riders.

"In a state with this much property, there's no place for us to go," she said, looking at a state map that shows vast reaches of terrain well-suited to off-road recreation.

The TMTC promotes safe and responsible use of off-road vehicles and the land. Sen. Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa, D-McAllen, author of SB 1311, takes the same approach to environmental concerns.

"I think this (SB 1311) would be a good way to protect our environment," Hinojosa said.

The bill would designate trails to allow off-road recreation while protecting natural habitats by limiting off-road vehicle usage to other areas, he said.

Environmentalists were among supporters of the law that currently bans ATV's from public land.

Environmental lobbyists attended a hearing Tuesday but did not testify.

The program created by Hinojosa's bill would be self-funding and would be administered by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. The sale of permits up to $15 each would help the state secure federal grants to buy land.

At Copper Breaks State Park, 80 miles west of Wichita Falls, the success of park programs depends greatly on adequate funding. ATV's aren't allowed.

"If they had the funding to develop areas for designated use only, I would welcome it," said Rick Morrison, assistant park manager.

Meanwhile, monitoring off-road activity creates extra work for Morrison and the rest of the park staff - not because of ATV's but other vehicles that stray off paved roads onto trails meant only for horses and bicycles and hikers, he said.

Also in the economic realm, ATV sales and business generated by ATV riding would naturally increase if more Texas land could be devoted to off-road use. Not surprisingly, the Motorcycle Industry Council and the Specialty Vehicle Institute went on record at the Tuesday hearing in favor of the bill.

Small communities with off-road parks could benefit from the money spent in hotels and restaurants, Smith said.

"We have a $3 billion a year industry waiting to be tapped," she said.

The same 2003 legislation that closed public land to ATV's also allows counties to reopen the land in their jurisdiction to ATV's and other off-road vehicles and to provide points of access, including accommodations for riders with disabilities.

But counties - at least not in North Texas - haven't chosen to take control of their public lands despite the positive impact the off-road activity might have on their economies.

"All the counties jumped back from that," said Matt Thompson, game warden in Foard and Hardeman counties. "Its a huge responsibility."

It is Thompson's task to keep ATV's out of the Pease River. So far, few riders have challenged the law.

From his own perspective, Thompson would like to see Texas rivers opened to more than hikers, waders and horseback riders.

"I grew up on the Canadian," he said. "It was nice to have a place to go play."

The Times Record News contributed to this article.

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popcornn Sounds like we with real 4x4's will have to provide the BFH when the senate passes this bill. If it's good enough for the little guys, it would be better for us. when they get this wedge in the door, we just keep pushing.

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from all i have read about sb1311 it sounds like it is aimed to atv's but does have broad enough reach that trucks arent far behind.

i think a program like california has would be nice. especially for those of us with trail only rigs. i supported this bill through ARRA. if you havent voiced your opinion please do so through any off road coliation.

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
here's the history on SB1311

An action has taken place on SB1311 during the past day.

Author: Juan Hinojosa
Caption: Relating to the establishment of an off-highway vehicle trail and
recreational area program; providing a penalty.

Status: IN

Bill History (ordered by most recent action):
S 04-27-05 Placed on intent calendar
S 04-25-05 Committee report printed and distributed 07:03 PM
S 04-22-05 Reported favorably as substituted
S 04-19-05 Testimony taken in committee
S 04-19-05 Considered in public hearing
S 04-19-05 Scheduled for public hearing on . . . . .
S 03-21-05 Referred to Natural Resources
S 03-21-05 Read first time
S 03-10-05 Filed
S 03-10-05 Received by the Secretary of the Senate

03/21/2005 - Date of last status change.

Current bill text:

Current fiscal note: http://tlo2.tlc.state.tx.us/tlo/79r/fiscal/SB01311S.HTM
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