Nonhighway and Off-road Vehicle Plan


The Nonhighway and Off-road Vehicles Activities Grant Program Plan (NOVA Plan) is a coordinated strategy that informs the Recreation and Conservation Funding Board  (board) in the administration of  NOVA grants.


The goal of the NOVA Plan is to improve program processes and policies to fund projects that best create, improve, and maintain diverse NOVA recreation opportunities in the state.

Authority statement

This plan is authorized by the Off-road, Nonhighway and All terrain Vehicles Act, RCW 46.09.370 and sets forth recommendations to guide expenditures under the Nonhighway and Off-Road Vehicle Activities Program Account, RCW 46.09.510. This plan relies on the research and findings in the 2018-2022 Recreation and Conservation Plan. The Recreation and Conservation Funding Board adopted the plan on October 11, 2017.


The NOVA Plan replaces the 2013-2018 Nonhighway and Off-Road Vehicles Activities Plan and sets forth policies to guide expenditures under RCW 46.09.520(2)(d) thereby continuing funding for acquiring land and  planning, building, and maintaining facilities used by nonhighway road recreationists and ORV users.

The NOVA program provides funding to acquire, develop, and manage nonhighway road, nonmotorized, and ORV facilities, with a portion of the funding available for education and enforcement programs. Except for ORV facilities, users must access facilities funded by the NOVA grant program from a nonhighway road, which is a public road not built or maintained with state fuel taxes. The NOVA program supports recreational activities taking place on land and in the water; and on snow and ice.  For more information about the NOVA grant program, see Manual 13 and Manual 14 on the Recreation and Conservation Office’s Web site.[1]

Provide Quality Opportunities and Maintain High Levels of Satisfaction for NOVA Recreationists

The statewide resident recreation survey showed high satisfaction with the opportunities typically supported by NOVA.

The data displayed for “Satisfaction Rates of Recreation on Trails” shows the satisfaction of a percentage of the population that participates within the chosen recreation category. For example, 58 percent of the 61 percent of the population that hiked in 2017 were satisfied with their experience. The data displayed in the chart is within a 1-2 percent margin of error when compared to the data presented in the 2017 Assessment of Demand.

To maintain high levels of satisfaction, and bolster moderate satisfaction levels is a few categories[2], the board seeks to support facility providers in their efforts to operate, maintain, and expand their inventories of facilities for nonhighway road, and ORV recreationists.  Therefore, the board seeks to evaluate and update policies and evaluation criteria that raise satisfaction levels where needed.  Also, the board seeks to ensure grant funded projects responsibly manage environmental problems, are well planned, identify a primary management objective, reduce future maintenance costs, minimize conflicts among user groups, and prioritize education and enforcement projects that support management of open areas rather than enforce closures.

Currently identified evaluation criteria improvements are 1) reconsidering the relevance and implementation of priority funding for projects near population centers, and 2) increasing the increments at which match is scored to encourage additional matching resources and to create greater scoring differential between projects.

The board also seeks to understand new trends in NOVA recreation and the corresponding needs of recreationists, land managers, and stakeholder groups.  As needed, the board shall develop new policies and criteria to account for new trends and evaluate NOVA statutes to identify opportunities for any new types of projects.

Another way the board seeks to contribute to improved recreational opportunities is it to evaluate the kinds of grant costs that are eligible at concessionaire-run facilities such as sport parks and campgrounds.  The purpose of evaluating this issue is to ensure NOVA funds are used for public purposes to augment public-private sector cooperation and capacity in the most responsible and meaningful way.

Respond To the Needs of Grant Applicants

To respond to the changing needs of grant applicants, the board seeks to maintain and implement grant policies that allow them to most effectively scope and execute NOVA projects.

For example, currently the board allows maintenance grants to span up to 2 years. This reduces the need for grant applicants to re-apply annually, allows flexibility in accomplishing their scopes of work, creates efficiencies with their other programs, and promotes budget certainty in the mid to long-terms.

Currently identified improvements to the NOVA program include considering the eligibility of multi-site projects, capital equipment only grants, and increases in grant limits.

Ensure Equity in NOVA Spending

The last fuel use study was done in 2003 at the request of the Legislature. The study resulted in changes to the distribution of funds to state agencies including the board, as well as the creation of the non-motorized and non-highway road grant categories. Since 2003, it is likely the profile of non-highway road and ORV recreation has changed.   If so, an update to the distribution of NOVA funds would be helpful in promoting tax equity, align funding with recreational uses, and redefining the composition of the NOVA Advisory Committee.

To ensure equitable distribution of NOVA funds, the board seeks to update its understanding of who contributes to, and benefits from, the refund of fuel taxes. The board shall evaluate the benefits of conducting a fuel use study, and potentially request funds to conduct that study.  In this effort, the board seeks to work with all NOVA user groups and their organizations towards establishing an approach and methodology that is thorough, accurate, and equitable.

The study shall also be used to inform the other recommendations in this plan, in particular:

  • Provide Quality Opportunities and Maintain High Levels of Satisfaction for NOVA Recreationists
  • Coordinate with Other State Agency
  • Improve Transparency in Eligibility
Streamline Grant-making

The board will work to improve the efficiency and efficacy of the grant-making process. The number of applications has been increasing and there is a significant shift towards requests for seasonal maintenance and operations programs, as opposed to discreet trail projects. These maintenance and operations program requests are increasingly hard to distinguish from one another. Therefore, a consideration of how funds within categories are prioritized, and how projects are grouped and evaluated would likely improve the grant-making process. For example, a written evaluation method as opposed to an in-person evaluation may be preferred, or the board may consider block grants for at least a portion of NOVA funds.

Coordinate with Other State Agencies

The board seeks to fulfill its full statutory role in developing a NOVA Plan that guides all spending of the refunds from the motor vehicle fund as directed by RCW 46.09.370, and  RCW 46.09.520. It has been the practice to prepare a plan for the expenditures the board has authority to distribute via RCW 46.09.520(2)(d) . However, state law says that “(t)he board shall maintain a statewide plan…(that) shall be used by all participating agencies to guide distribution and expenditure of funds under this chapter.”[3]  Developing a complete plan as called for in RCW 46.09.370 needs to include the Washington State Department of Natural Resources, the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, and the Washington State Department of Transportation.

The board will work with the above agencies and the board’s NOVA Advisory Committee to plan a path forward to plan for all refunded motor vehicle fuel tax distributed under RCW 46.09.

The board also shall continue to engage local governments, federal agencies, tribal governments, and nonprofit organizations in its policy, planning, and grant-making responsibilities.

Improve Transparency in Eligibility

For projects in the non-highway road and non-motorized categories of the NOVA grant program, project sites must be accessible by non-highway roads. Some of these projects gain eligibility through a very short length of non-highway road, which may not meet the intent of the program. Therefore, the board seeks to evaluate if length or other factors regarding the qualifying road should be a factor in the eligibility of projects.

Economic Benefits of NOVA Recreation

Annual Expenditures for NOVA Type Recreation in Washington State (2014 Dollars)[4]

Activity Total ExpendituresEquipment Expenditures Trip-Related Expenditures
Sightseeing and Nature Activities Total $10,425,033,323$1,230,967,051 $9,194,066,272
Snow and Ice Activities Total   $1,726,729,167$33,232,313 $1,693,496,854
Hiking, Climbing, Mountaineering Total   $3,979,727,445$75,848,897 $3,903,878,547
Horseback Riding Total $2,292,986,614$1,534,994,148 $757,992,466
Off-Roading for Recreation Total   $2,292,961,301$1,416,433,424 $876,527,876
Hunting & Shooting Total   $1,883,052,842$860,690,884 $1,022,361,958
TOTAL $22,600,490,692 $5,152,166,717 $17,448,323,973
Mapped Inventory
Resident Survey Data – Nonhighway and Off-Road Vehicle Plan


The words used in this plan are defined in RCW 46.09.310.

“Non-highway road” means any road owned or managed by a public agency, a primitive road, or any private road for which the owner has granted an easement for public use for which appropriations from the motor vehicle fund were not used for (a) original construction or reconstruction in the past 25years; or (b) maintenance in the past 4 years.

“Non-highway road recreation facilities” means recreational facilities that are adjacent to, or are accessed by, a non-highway road and intended primarily for non-highway road recreational users.

“Non-highway road recreational user” means a person whose purpose for consuming fuel on a non-highway road or off-road is primarily for non-highway road recreational purposes including, but not limited to, hunting, fishing, camping, sightseeing, wildlife viewing, picnicking, driving for pleasure, kayaking and canoeing, and gathering berries, firewood, mushrooms, and other natural products.

“Non-motorized recreational facilities” means recreational trails and facilities that are adjacent to, or accessed by, a non-highway road and intended primarily for non-motorized recreational users.

“Non-motorized recreational user” means a person whose purpose for consuming fuel on a non-highway road or off-road is primarily for non-motorized recreational purposes including, but not limited to, walking, hiking, backpacking, climbing, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, mountain biking, horseback riding, and pack animal activities.

“NOVA” means the Nonhighway and Off-Road Vehicle Activities grant program administered by the Recreation and Conservation Office.

“Off-road vehicle (ORV) recreation facilities” include, but are not limited to, ORV trails, trailheads, campgrounds, ORV sports parks, and ORV use areas, designated for ORV use by the managing authority, that are intended primarily for ORV recreational users.

“Off-road vehicle recreational user” means a person whose purpose for consuming fuel on a non-highway road or off-road is primarily for ORV recreational purposes including, but not limited to, riding all all-terrain vehicle, motorcycling, or driving a four-wheel drive vehicle or dune buggy.

“RCO” means the Washington State Recreation and Conservation Office.

“RCW” means the Revised Code of Washington.

[1] RCO, “Nonhighway and Off-road Vehicle Activities” 2017. and

[2] RCO, “lowest satisfaction rates were in the Hunting or Trapping category (at 59% satisfaction), and Off-Road Vehicle Driving (at 61% satisfied)” 2017.

[3] Washington State Legislature, “Section 46.09.370” 2007.

[4] Ibid

Print this page

Best printed from Chrome, Firefox, or Safari