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November 1, 2005 - Please see updated May 23, 2008 version.
Several people have inquired recently about Federal requirements regarding equestrian and other nonmotorized use of projects funded under Section 217 of title 23 of the United States Code (www.fhwa.dot.gov/environment/bicycle_pedestrian/legislation/sec217.cfm). The reauthorization proposals from the Administration and the Senate had proposed adding some language clarifying this issue: "Shared use paths may be used by pedestrians, bicyclists, skaters, equestrians, and other nonmotorized users." This language was not included in the final version of the SAFETEA-LU legislation. The fact that this new language was not adopted does not change current Federal policy.
Equestrian and other nonmotorized recreational use may be allowed on shared use paths and trails that use Federal-aid transportation funds. Federal transportation laws and regulations do not prohibit the use of shared use paths or trails by equestrians, in-line skaters, cross country skiers, snowshoe users, or other nonmotorized users. States may choose to prohibit such use; it is a State determination. Various design options may allow equestrian use, such as providing both a paved path and an unpaved path within the same right-of-way. See Resources below.
Section 217(i) states: Transportation Purpose.--No bicycle project may be carried out under this section unless the Secretary has determined that such bicycle project will be principally for transportation, rather than recreation purposes. This requirement only affects bicycle projects. It does not create a prohibition of equestrian or other nonmotorized recreational use.
Transportation enhancement projects must relate to surface transportation (see www.fhwa.dot.gov/environment/transportation_enhancements/relate.cfm). This is a flexible provision that accommodates recreational use as long as the project relates to surface transportation.
When a State uses Federal-aid transportation funds for a project affecting a recreational trail, the use of Federal-aid transportation funds should accommodate existing legal recreational uses that are consistent with the land management agency's plans. A land manager may choose to change land use consistent with management goals and plans, but State or local officials should not require a change in existing legal recreational uses solely because Federal-aid transportation funds are being used for a project.
The Recreational Trails Program (RTP) encourages trail management practices to serve a wide variety of trail users, including equestrians. This philosophy of trail sharing and cooperation should extend to other trail projects using Federal-aid highway program funds. An amendment in the RTP now allows RTP funds to match other Federal programs: for example, a State may now match Transportation Enhancement or other Federal-aid funds with RTP funds. The RTP continues to allow matching funds from other Federal programs. The RTP guidance states: "Many trails provide both a recreational and transportation purpose. RTP funds may be used on any trail which provides recreation. Using RTP funds on a trail project does not make the trail ineligible for other Federal highway funds if the trail also provides a transportation purpose."
If you need additional informational, please contact us.
Federal Highway Administration
Federal Highway Administration
National Trails Training Partnership website resources: www.americantrails.org/resources/index.html.
National Trails Training Partnership website on Trail Design and Construction: www.americantrails.org/resources/trailbuilding/index.html.
Presentation from Anne O'Dell, Designing Shared Use Trails to Include Equestrians. Go to: www.americantrails.org/resources/trailbuilding/index.html and select the publication.
Recreational Horse Trails in Rural and Wildland Areas: Design, Construction, and Maintenance. By Gene W. Wood, with major contributions from 16 contributing authors from around the nation. Available from Clemson University's Forestry and Natural Resources website at www.clemson.edu/forestres/. The order form is at www.clemson.edu/forestres/book_form.htm.
Equestrian Land Conservation Resource - Dedicated to promoting access to and conservation of land for equestrian use. www.elcr.org
Trails for the Twenty-First Century, from the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy. See RTC's bookstore at www.railstotrails.org/whatwedo/railtrailinfo/resources/design.html.
FHWA's Recreational Trails Program publications (includes trail-related publications from the USDA Forest Service): www.fhwa.dot.gov/environment/recreational_trails/publications/.
Recreational Trails Program: www.fhwa.dot.gov/environment/recreational_trails/.
Transportation Enhancement Activities: www.fhwa.dot.gov/environment/transportation_enhancements/.