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The purpose of this Plan is to provide information and recommendations to guide Arizona State Parks and other agencies in Arizona in their management of motorized routes and non-motorized trail resources, and specifically to guide the distribution and expenditure of the Arizona Off-Highway Vehicle Recreation Fund, Arizona Heritage Fund, and the Recreational Trails Program.

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Arizona Trails 2010: State Motorized and Non-motorized Recreational Trails Plan

Arizona State Parks

The demand for recreational trails in Arizona, both motorized and non-motorized, is high. Sixty- nine percent of Arizonans are trail users, twice the national average. Considerable change has occurred on Arizona's recreational trails and off-highway vehicle (OHV) routes and areas in the last five years including a 16% state population increase, and a 20% increase in numbers of recreational trail and OHV users.

photo of people at sign

Kiosks and trailheads are excellent places to post maps and other
trail information desired by trail users.

In Arizona, with 82% of the land managed by federal (42.1%), state (12.7%) or tribal (27.6%) governments, and only 0.4% owned by cities, towns and counties, most towns haven’t experienced the need to build extensive recreational trail systems.

However, many of the more populous cities in Arizona are expanding their existing trail systems at the request of residents, and smaller towns are beginning to seek assistance in planning local trails and OHV routes that connect their towns to the surrounding public lands. In addition to providing recreational opportunities for their residents, many towns are anticipating that these “regional” trail and OHV networks will attract visitors and tourism dollars.

To pull together these diverse issues and the needs of agencies, organizations and individuals into a statewide effort, Arizona State Parks conducts a yearlong process of gathering public input, researching issues and developing recommendations for trails and off-highway vehicle recreation in Arizona. This effort becomes the Arizona Trails Plan, which is the state’s policy plan regarding non-
motorized trails and off-highway vehicle recreation. The Arizona State Parks Board is mandated by state statute to prepare a state trails plan (A.R.S. § 41-511.22) and a state off-highway vehicle recreation plan (A.R.S. § 41-511.04 (20)) every five years.

photo of jeeps on steep trail

Many off-highway vehicle enthusiasts enjoy
driving backcountry routes with friends and
family. Martinez Canyon, Middle Gila Canyons area

Summary of Survey Findings

• The telephone survey results show that 68.6% of Arizonans have used a trail for recreation during their time in Arizona; 31.4% of residents do not use trails for recreational purposes.

• Statewide, 63.7% of respondents indicated that they had engaged in non-motorized activities on trails at some point during their time in Arizona, and 58% of trail users indicated that the majority of their trail use is non-motorized.

• Statewide, 21.5% of respondents indicated that they had engaged in motorized activities on trails at some point during their time in Arizona, and 10.7% of trail users said that motorized use accounted for the majority of their trail use.

• The percentage of non-motorized trail users ranged from a high of 68.3% in Coconino County to a low of 34.6% in Yuma, La Paz, and Mohave Counties. The percentage of motorized trail users ranged from a high of 22.2% in Yuma, La Paz, and Mohave Counties to a low of 7.9% in Pima County.

• Overall, 87% of respondents are either very satisfied or satisfied with non-motorized trails in Arizona, and 65% are either very satisfied or satisfied with motorized trails.

• The most common non-motorized trail activities for non-motorized trail users are: trail hiking, backpacking, mountain biking, and horseback riding.

• The most common motorized pursuits for motorized users are: all-terrain vehicle driving, four wheel driving or other high clearance vehicle driving, and motorized biking/dirt biking.

• Overall, the top three areas of environmental concern for all trail users are litter or trash dumping, decreased wildlife sightings, and erosion of trails. The top three concerns for motorized users are litter or trash dumping, damage to vegetation, and decreased wildlife sightings. The top three environmental concerns for non-motorized users are litter or trash dumping, erosion of trails, and decreased wildlife sightings.

• Overall, the top concerns about social conditions for all trail users are vandalism, urban development limiting trail access or use, and lack of trail ethics by other users. The top three concerns about social conditions for motorized users are urban development limiting trail access or use, vandalism, and closure of trails. The top three concerns about social conditions for non-motorized users are vandalism, urban development limiting trail access or use, and lack of trail ethics by other users.

photo of bulletin boards at meeting

Participants at the Regional Workshop in Flagstaff provide
Arizona State Parks staff with their region’s priority issues and needs

• The top three trail planning and management priorities for motorized users are acquiring land for trails and trail access, keeping existing trails in good condition, and mitigating damage to environment surrounding trails. The top three issues for non-motorized users are keeping existing trails in good condition, mitigating damage to environment surrounding trails, and enforcing existing rules and regulations in trail areas.

• When asked, given limited funding, which one management priority is the most important, motorized trail users indicated acquiring land for trails and access (20%) was most important, whereas non-motorized users replied keeping existing trails in good condition (32%).

• Non-motorized users are more likely to respond that trails should be designated for multiple activities but with motorized and non-motorized users separated, or trails should be designated for a single activity.

• Both motorized and non-motorized users tend to use trails in groups of 1-5 people, although motorized users were more likely to recreate in groups of 5 or more.

photo of jeeps on steep trail

Many trail users are willing to volunteer to keep trails open

 

• Nearly half of motorized users (44.4%) believe that access to off-highway vehicle roads and trails has declined in the last five years. In contrast just 11% of both groups believe that access to non-motorized trails has declined.

• On non-motorized trails, both groups tend to prefer social environments with very few or some other people around but not dense social settings with lots of other people present.

• The three most important desired OHV trail features for motorized users are loop trails, trails that offer challenge and technical driving opportunity, and cross-country travel areas (where riding anywhere is permitted).

• The results indicate that, by and large, respondents do not experience recreation conflict with other trail users, although there are some areas of potential concern. For instance, 13.7% of non-motorized users reported experiencing conflict with mountain bikers somewhat or very often. Also, 33.4% of motorized trail users experienced conflict with all terrain vehicle or quad riders somewhat or very often.• More than 50% of motorized users and more than 40% of non-motorized users are willing to volunteer their time to build or maintain trails in Arizona. To encourage volunteerism, the most important consideration is providing information about when and where to show up.

Top Three Trail and OHV Issues from Public Workshops—Statewide View

photo of horses on trail

The City of Phoenix Parks & Recreation Department has nominated their trails
to the State Trails System. This designation provides prestige and makes
trails eligible for Trails Heritage grant funds.

1. Keep Trails and Routes, and Their Access Open
Protecting access for trails and routes was at the forefront of conversations at the public workshops. Workshop participants expressed concern about the number of existing trails or routes being closed. This was especially concerning for motorized users and their perspective on current and potential future impacts of Federal route designations and State Land access closures. This discussion included acquisitions of easements to protect access to trails and routes, protection from encroaching development, and land agency cooperation/collaboration.

2. Proactively Implement Interagency/Cross-Jurisdictional Planning and Coordination
The need for agencies to plan beyond their jurisdictions for regional trail connectivity was a common theme at workshops throughout the state. Planning aspects included many levels: longterm planning, growth/land use planning, trail interconnectivity in conjunction with regional or county planning. Land managers and the public alike had interest in connecting urban areas (city/town/county) to more remote areas (federal lands, larger less developed parks and preserves) through trails and routes.

3. Improve Volunteer Coordination and Management
Both the public and land managers throughout the state raised the issue of volunteerism. The public expressed willingness to volunteer to help agencies in all aspects of trails including maintenance, construction and education. They do not feel that agencies adequately respond to volunteer requests. The land managers acknowledged the value of volunteers, but expressed a lack of agency funds, personnel and time to coordinate and effectively manage and train volunteers. However, agencies would like to see a large cadre of trained volunteers to offset staff and budget cuts, and more importantly, involve trail users in trail management to create a sense of stewardship/ownership.

Trail and Off-Highway Vehicle Recreation Issues

The findings of the Trails 2010: A Study of Arizona’s Motorized and Non-motorized Trail Users survey report show the importance of recreational trails and routes to Arizona residents. There are several current issues in Arizona that are affecting both the resources available for trails and off-highway vehicle routes and the user demands for these recreation opportunities. These issues are discussed further in the Arizona Trails 2010 Plan.

A Snapshot of Trail and OHV Issues in Arizona

Priority Recommendations

The Arizona Trails 2010 recommendations for motorized and non-motorized trail use serve as an overall direction for Arizona State Parks, land managers, and trail and OHV users in their efforts to improve the State of Arizona’s trail opportunities. These recommendations are also used by all participating agencies to guide distribution of funds administered by Arizona State Parks from the Trail Heritage Fund, OHV Recreation Fund and the Federal Recreational Trails Program until the next five-year plan is published.

Motorized Trail Recommendations

First Level Priority

Second Level Priority

Third Level Priority

Non-motorized Trail Recommendations

First Level Priority

Second Level Priority

Third Level

 

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