Boulders OHV Area could fall victim to state budget battle

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The battle over the state budget may soon be claiming another victim. This time the lack of money could affect those who love to four-wheel and ride off road.

The Boulders Off-Highway Vehicle (OHV) Area west of Lake Pleasant offers 150 miles of trails, keeping those who love to off-road from cutting new trails though our desert. But now state and federal budget problems may mean the Boulders trails will soon be closed.

“I’d have to say, I get to see stuff that most people wouldn’t see in their lifetime,” said Jeff Gursh.

That's one of the reasons Gursh and thousands of others take to the trails at the Boulders OHV Area. But these days Gursh is doing less riding and more spraying.

“Today we are applying a dust surfactant,” he explained.

It's an expensive oily mixture that keeps dust down as bikes and ATVs zoom by. It's not Gursh's favorite job but Maricopa County has the power to close down the Boulders if the dust continues to fly.

“If we don’t have too much traffic we can make it stretch to about eight months,” Gursh said. “So every eight months it’s $60,000.”

That money used to come from the off-highway vehicle fund until the legislature needed to make up budget shortfalls.

“And so what normally would pay for this is grant dollars through state parks from that fund, and that money is drying up,” Gursh said.

The Boulders is on land belonging to the Bureau of Land Management. But Tom Bickauskas says his agency is short of cash also.

“Well the worst-case scenario is we would have to close the area for dust,” he said.

Thousands of dollars have already been spent on the trails, signs, bathrooms and fencing at the Boulders. But if the closed signs go up, our disappearing Sonoran Desert could be the big loser.

“Without a managed trail system like this, you have people going anywhere they want,” Gursh said, “and that’s hard to manage for and it’s terrible resource damage.”

Those who want to protect the Boulders OHV Area are holding a clean-up and education day this Saturday. The event starts at 10 a.m. and ends at 2 p.m. All those concerned about the area's future are invited to attend.