Club News & Information (H.M.B.A.) > Advocacy

FAQ on Permits

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Paul_Arlinghaus:
Lots of questions and comments about the mtb permit on various forums and facebook pages.  Here is a compilation of some of the questions and some comments. 

Q. What is being proposed?

A. Increase of gate fees
Instate: $40 to $60 annual and $5 to $7 daily
Out of State: $60 to $70 annual and $7 to $9 daily
Addition of an Off Road Cycling Permit: Annual of $20 and daily of $5.

There are a number of other fee increases. http://www.in.gov/dnr/parklake/files/sp-2015_fee_changes.pdf

Q. Why is State Parks doing this?

A. The Spring legislative session just ended and the budget passed left Indiana State Parks with a $3,000,000 short fall for their operating budget.  This doesnít count the hundreds of million dollars of deferred  maintenance costs for park facilities.  At the end of the day, State Parks canít run a deficit and have no choice but to increase revenue or low costs by closing parks.  There are a whole list of fees that are increasing in an effort to keep our parks open. 

Q. Didnít Mountain Bikers build all the mountain bike trails in State Parks?

A. Not really true. While mountain bikers have built many miles of mountain bike trails in State Parks, many miles of trail have been built by pro trail builders through grants.  HMBA has received $725,000 in grants through the DNRís division of Outdoor recreation.  Some of these funds were Federal and some State.  With the success of the first volunteer built trails, the Division of Outdoor Rec has worked hard to help us find Grants.  So, while the Division of State Parks hasnít funded the construction of mountain bike trails, the IDNR has.  Also to note that at OíBannon Woods State Park, Stan Baelz the Assistant Park Manager, has helped build trails using park staff. 

Also, keep in mind that mountain bikers do have costs to the Parks.  Toilet paper, maps, search and rescue, etcÖ do have some cost. 

Q. Are mountain bikers going to see any benefits from an off-road cycling permit?

A. Mountain Bikers are a diverse user group.  We range from very serious riders who ride multiple times per week to causal riders who may only ride a few times per year.  There also are some geographical concerns that play into answering this question.  For some mountain bikers the permit is going to be a very good thing and for some it will not.  For serious mountain bikers in Central and Southern Indiana the permit will be a good thing.  In a time when the State Parks are underfunded we are still getting access to build more trails (OíBannon, BCSP, Versailles, and Harmonie). 

We also want to build trails in State Forests.  The permit would cover both State Parks and State Forests. We donít want to have separate Parks and Forest permits as that would be very confusing. Currently there is no revenue stream for State Forests.  The off-road cycling permit opens up a lot of opportunities for both mountain bike and gravel/cross bike access to State Forests.  HMBA is currently developing trails in Yellowwood State Forest that will connect to BCSP and Hoosier National Forest. 

There are concerns. 

While the value of the Pass plus permit is pretty good for serious rides in the South Half of Indiana, this will present challenges to some groups.  Riders in the Northern Half of the State have one 7 mile mountain bike trail (Potato Creek).  They are also a long way from trails in the Southern Half of the State.  Add in that there are some good mountain bike trails in Michigan (which cost less for Hoosiers than Indiana Parks) and the cost of using mountain bike trails in State Parks isn't a good value.

Will the out of state costs ($90 annual or $14 per day) discourage those outside of Indiana from using our parks.  While out of State riders donít pay Indiana taxes they do tend to spend a lot more money in Indiana when they come to ride the trails.  State Parks only gets $1.39 from each Hoosier.  So it really isnít like Hoosiers are paying much for State Parks through taxes.  But out of State Riders contribute to our Stateís economy.  They buy gas, camp, rent hotels, eat, and I have heard in some cases drink local beer.  If out of state riders are deterred by the cost of Indiana State Parks, this will have a negative impact on the Stateís economy.

While serious riders will get their $20 worth  pretty quickly.  There is a concern that the extra cost may discourage those who are interested in mountain biking from giving the sport a try.  We do want more people to ride mountain bikes and need to make sure this doesn't become a barrier to entry.

Q. What would happen if the permit doesn't happen?

A. It is unlikely that we would get access to State Forests or approval to build new trails in state Parks. And outside of just mountain biking, if State Parks cannot cover the costs of operating State Parks, then services/recreational opportunities would go away or even Parks would have to be closed.
Q. Is the permit fair compared to other user groups?

A. Every user group can look at what other groups pay/get and make arguments that they are not being treated fairly.  Hikers and trail runners complain that mountain bikers are getting all the new trails. Hikers, trail runners, and equestrians all complaint that the mountain bikers get better trails than they get. At the end of the day, worrying about whether life is completely fair just distracts us from focusing on doing the right things for our group.  We need to focus on doing what is the right thing for our user group in the long run. I believe that in the long run that the strategies of the Equestrian and Hiking Communities will have negative repercussions. 

Q. If mountain bikers are paying for a permit, why should they also volunteer to maintain trials?

A. We have the best trails in state parks because those who maintain the trails are mountain bikers. It is very rare for Park Staff to understand what trail users are looking for and build and maintain trails that are a fun to ride as user built trails.  With the lack of funding from the State, State Parks could not afford to maintain the mountain bike trails.  They would quickly become less fun to ride.  State Parks could hire staff and maintain our trails for us. But this would require a significant source of funding that currently doesn't exist.   

Q. Does HMBA support this Permit?

A. HMBA does support a permit system that would allow access to State Forests and continued development of trails in State Parks.  But there are aspects of how this Permit is being proposed that HMBA does not support. We would like for permit to be for specific trails in State Parks.  This would allow trail systems like Potato Creek (only 7 miles of trail), and beginner trails to not require a permit.  We want to see kids be able to ride without a permit.

Q. What is HMBA doing?
Given the current financial crisis our State Parks are Facing, it is not likely that an off road permit will not happen.  Our efforts are focused on helping to shape the permit system to be as fair as possible and to reduce negative consequences of the permit.  We are engaged with State Parks and Forests and the Natural Resource Commission. IMBA is involved as well.  They have issued an action alert and are speaking for riders around the state as well and neighboring states.  HMBA and IMBA are planning to work politically to get more funding for our State Parks and Forests.  We will also be working with local and state tourism organizations to ensure they understand the impact increased fees with have on tourism.

Q. What can mountain bikers do?

A. In large park mountain bikers in Indiana have had it pretty good.  New trails have been built every year and the trails are some of the best in the country.  This has led to little need for our user group to be politically engaged.  But now we do need our user group to be engaged politically.  The bad guy here isn't State Parks.  Itís the State Legislator that has underfunded our Parks for the past decade and now has provided State Parks $3 million dollars less than what they need to keep our Parks open.  Every mountain biker and really every Hoosier who uses our State Parks needs to write, call, or meet with, their local legislators and let them know that the rising fees for State Parks are bad for the State (Health, tourism, well being, attracting young professionals).  The focus of the conversations shouldn't be just specifically about mountain biking. Our parks need and deserve an appropriate amount of funding. 


Q. Will this permit work for Hoosier National Forest?


A. No, Hoosier National Forest is Federal land and a State Permit will not work there.


Q. The language on the NRC document indicates the permit is do to the extra maintenance required for mountain bike trails.  This doesn't make sense?


A. Correct, this doesn't make sense.  The reason that HMBA has supported the concept of a permit was to generate funds to build and maintain more trails.  If the mountain bike community continued to maintain trails, then the funds could support new trail construction.  But the current need for State Parks is just to survive financially.  While they are struggling with the messaging, the permit is not due to mountain bike being more damaging to trails than hikers.  The reason for the permit is to make it financially beneficial for State Parks and State Forest to support the construction of more trails.

Paul_Arlinghaus:
We have been working with the DNR to help adjust the role out of the MTB permit.
   
* Beginner trails will not require a permit.
* The permit is being called an off road cycling permit, so it will apply to those riding any bike on designated trails.
* There is an option for volunteer to get free passes and permits from the DNR (we feel that the hour requirements are too high and it is likely that HMBA will provide free permits to those who want them from less volunteer hours.
* The permit will not be implemented until 2016.Here are the comments from the DNR.

1) The Annual Permit will be called an Off Road Cycling Permit, not a Mountain Bike Permit. This allows for a distinction in how the bike is used. We do not intend to charge a child riding a "Mountain Bike" in the campground or on a hard surface trail.

2) All mountain bike trails carry a level of difficulty. Any trails identified as "Beginner" using IMBA standards will not require a permit. This will allow newcomers - both youth and adults - to try the sport before investing in it. Additionally, it may discourage novices from using the more difficult and advanced trails before they are ready to ride them. As we understand it, all of the the trails at Potato Creek State Park are identified as "Beginner" level trails, which means no permits will be required to ride at Potato Creek. IMBA and local chapters will work with us in the coming months to ensure that all trails are properly rated, and signage will be posted to identify the rating.

3) We currently have volunteers who serve in a wide range of roles totaling over 80,000 hours annually, and we have a recognition program. We will add opportunities to earn many of our DNR use tags and passes as part of an incentive for all volunteers. For example, volunteers who serve a total of 250 hours in a calendar year - either to work on mountain bike trails, perform resource management activities, staff the nature center or any other volunteer activities will receive an annual pass. Volunteers who contribute 125 hours can earn an off-road cycling permit, an equestrian permit, or a lake permit. This recognizes the work that mountain biking volunteers contribute to maintain our trails and build new ones, as well as recognizing volunteers for all types of services performed.

4) To allow for additional time to work out the policy, logistics and volunteer documentation for 2015, we will seek approval at the NRC meeting next week as planned but will not implement the off-road cycling permit until the 2016 season. We anticipate working with IMBA to discuss details related to the policy and permit, and anticipate having the off-road cycling permit for sale by 11/1/15.

Paul_Arlinghaus:

The MTB Permit was approved by the Natural Resource Commission at Tuesday's meeting.  Below is HMBA's statement on MTB Permit.






Pay to Play: DNR Off-Road Cycling Permit Coming
 
The Hoosier Mountain Bike Association (HMBA) has built some great trail systems, and we have a vision for natural surface trails in Indiana. Implementing that vision requires funding from land managers, donations from outdoor enthusiasts, and sweat equity of volunteers. HMBA has in the past discussed an off-road bicycling permit to generate funding for expanding trails in State Forests and State Parks. The idea of a permit was moved forward quickly in the past month due to budget challenges that left State Parks with a $3 million shortfall. State Parks had the choice of closing parks or raising fees. 
 
A complete list of fee increases can be found here. Included in the fee increases is the off-road cycling permit, which will be a $5 daily fee or a $20 annual fee (both in and out of state).
 
While possibly irritating to some, there is an upside to this development. Those who have attended HMBA annual meetings the past few years have heard HMBA President, Paul Arlinghaus talk about an off-road bicycling permit as means to gain access to more trails, especially in State Forests.  Fees mean potential leverage to obtain access to more trails and improve the quality of existing ones. Our first addition of trails in State Forests will be in the southern section of Yellowwood State Forest.  This area will connect to both Brown County State Park and to Hoosier National Forest.  Other State Forests will be reviewed this fall for opportunities to open existing double-track trails to off-road cycling.
 
While this permit fee happened very quickly, HMBA and IMBA were able to get some concessions from the IDNR on how the permits system works. 
We were able to get beginner-rated trails to be excluded from needing a permit. This will allow new users to try out mountain biking without the additional expense of a permit.   
* The DNR will also give free permits and passes to volunteers who do 125 and 250 hours of work.
* HMBA will work on establishing a fund to cover the cost of the permit for volunteers that don't meet the 125 hours.
* The permit was going to start in July, and riders where going to have to pay the full price for the last half of the year.  We were able to push back the start of the permit system to 2016.  Permits for 2016 will go on sale in November.

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