Grand County’s Active Transportation and Trails Department requested approval from the Grand County Commission on an application for a state OHV Fiscal Incentive Grant to support the expansion of the department’s trail ambassador program to include motorized trails.

The trail ambassador program stations county employees at popular trailheads during peak user times to educate trail users on safe, responsible and courteous recreation. So far this year, trail ambassadors have encountered close to 30,000 people at trailheads and on trails and delivered information to about 60% of them. The program, which officially launched in 2021, has so far focused on hiking and biking trails, but GCATT Director Maddie Logowitz and Responsible Recreation Coordinator Anna Sprout are working with stakeholders to tailor the messaging and strategize the most effective way to reach motorized users with the same basic principles.

The state grant is designed to fund OHV-related projects, including educational programs, making it a good fit for GCATT’s vision to offer education at motorized trailheads. The program expansion is estimated to cost about $230,000, including hiring staff and purchasing equipment; the largest expense would be the purchase of two off-road vehicles, a Jeep Wrangler Rubicon and a CanAm Commander UTV, that ambassadors would use to patrol trails and make on-trail visitor contacts. The grant requires a match from grantees. Sprout told the commission that commitment to a higher match would make the county a stronger candidate.

Commissioners praised the program and supported the effort to expand it to motorized trails, but were hesitant to approve spending for the two vehicles. Commissioner Josie Kovash asked if the department had considered an electric UTV. Sprout said the department has been working with the Grand County Motorized Trails Advisory Committee to select the wisest motorized trails to target, the most important messaging points, and the optimum vehicles. They looked at electric UTVs, but learned that if they ordered one they would likely be on a long waitlist to actually receive it. The CanAm model the department specified in the grant application, with a cost of $25,000, is one of the quietest models available.

The department also included an alternative request that budgets to purchase the Jeep, but not the UTV. Commissioners voted to approve the Jeep-only option, with commitment to a 50% match of funds from GCATT’s budget (a value of $98,096, some of which would be paid in the form of staff hours contributed to the project over a two-year period).

“It’d be best to not jump all in at once, and just see how the program is going,” Commissioner Trisha Hedin said. “I do love Josie’s idea of purchasing an electric UTV down the road.”