1998 State Trail Administrators Meeting
Friday, November 13
National Trails Symposium, Tucson AZ
8:30 am - Introductions
Participants introduced themselves. There were 56 State administrators representing 41 States, plus representatives from several trail advocacy organizations. Several State administrators described projects or problems in which they are involved. Some States presented slides to highlight projects.
The Recreational Trails Program (RTP) funds have provided a lot of new opportunities to provide and maintain recreational trails for all kinds of trail enthusiasts. For some States, the RTP is the only source of funding for recreational trails, especially for trail maintenance.
- Several States noted they are working with motorized trail groups for the first time. Many also are working closely with their State DOTs to develop nonmotorized trails. Rail-trails are important to many States, as are river and canal corridors.
- Several States mentioned the importance of reviving funding for the Land & Water Conservation Fund.
- Several States mentioned the importance of coordination with appropriate Federal agencies, such as the National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, and the US Forest Service.
- Some States are developing educational materials for safety, trail construction and maintenance, and trail sponsor workshops.
- Some States with less public lands are having difficulty finding enough qualified motorized trail project applications.
9:50 am - Break
10:10 am - TEA-21: Federal Transportation Programs
Christopher Douwes provided a general overview of the Federal-aid Highway Program, and on the bicycle and pedestrian provisions in particular. Butch Wlaschin (FHWA Federal Lands Highway Program) provided an overview of the Federal Lands Highway Program. States also are encouraged to work with Indian tribal governments within their State when considering recreational trail projects. Tribal representatives must be designated as official representatives.
10:45 am - Recreational Trails Program Discussion
Christopher Douwes moderated a discussion on Recreational Trails Program (RTP) implementation. The "National Recreational Trails Funding Program" no longer exists; it was replaced by the new Recreational Trails Program. Trail advocacy organizations such as the Coalition for Recreational Trails played a major role in the authorization of the RTP.
State Recreational Trail Advisory Committees:
- Show of hands: slightly more than half of States had a committee before the establishment of the RTP; the others established committees after the RTP required it.
- Rhode Island: various trail groups are now working together.
- South Carolina: having the committee brought trail groups together for the first time.
- New Hampshire: there is some conflict among different trail groups.
- Georgia: there are new voices for trails within the State. The horse council wants equestrian trails funded; getting equestrians involved in regional trails planning.
- In some States, there is a bias against using RTP funds for urban paved trails; Texas is adding greenway representatives to the State trail advisory committee in response.
- Connecticut: although Connecticut has a small State exemption (not required to fund motorized trails) participation of motorized trail groups on the advisory committee helps. The State provided some funds for motorized activities, and motorized trail clubs are doing a lot of trail work to benefit nonmotorized trail users.
- Illinois is using the committee to set priorities to target dollars for State funding programs. It is looking at programs not already funded that RTP can help with: mountain bikes, equestrian trails, backcountry trails; the idea is to coordinate with existing grants programs and see how the RTP funds can be utilized most effectively.
- Massachusetts: the committee makes decisions; this may protect the "bureaucrats" from public criticism. One concern: how to attract "new blood" to the committee.
- There are concerns about appointing every single trail group; it may create more conflict.
- Colorado moved from having every trail group represented to a more strategic group that represents trail groups, but has broader thinking and can help tackle more difficult issues.
- Minnesota: there are concerns about who is on the committee and getting new trail modes represented, such as in-line skaters. It is a challenge to balance the concept of "fair share".
- New Hampshire uses its committee representatives to handle questions and concerns from the different trail enthusiast groups.
- RTP funding valuable for smaller communities and volunteer groups that can't get Transportation Enhancements funding.
- New Jersey: the committee includes a land trust and a parks/recreation organization.
- Show of hands: most States include the State DOT bicycle and pedestrian coordinator on the State Recreational Trail Advisory Committee as ex officio or other participation.
- Other kinds of representation include: land trusts, recreation and park associations.
- Show of hands: nearly all States involve committees in scoring and recommending projects for funding; no State said its committee was purely advisory. In many States, the resource agency has the final decision whether or not to accept the advisory committee's decisions.
Project Selection Process
- Pennsylvania uses a point process; the committee evaluates and selects the projects.
- Many States require a pre-award site inspection to make sure the project on paper agrees with the site inspection.
- Alabama suggested using the pre-award site inspection for LWCF compliance purposes.
- Nevada uses committee members to look at project sites when discussing project evaluations.
There was discussion of the definition of "Diverse Use" and "Motorized Use". Alaska defines "diverse use" as trails that include both motorized and nonmotorized. Other States pointed out that, while a nonmotorized trail may be strictly nonmotorized, it is rare to have a strictly motorized trail except within site-specific motorized recreation areas.
- How do you account for diverse use? Professional judgement, request letters of support from various trail groups, trail surface issues (such as not paving an equestrian trail), ask which kinds of trail modes are not allowed, ask the landowner about which kind of trail modes are allowed, let applicants know the priorities of the committee ahead of time. The selection process is a subjective process.
- If there are concerns about the definition of diverse use, ask questions: Is there a primary mode choice? What is the primary mode choice? Issue: while nonmotorized trails are exclusively nonmotorized, motorized trails rarely are exclusively motorized. This may affect how to meet the 30% motorized requirement.
Who may sponsor a project? The States decide. The Federal law is very broad: any public agency and any private organization may sponsor a project, but funds may not be provided to private individuals. However, a State may have its own State restrictions.
Fees: project sponsors may charge fees, but States should consider how to rank such projects in their ranking process. The project sponsor must be accountable for funding and accounting.
- What about a motorized park which is only open on weekends and has a substantial fee? It is up to your State to work out these issues with your trail groups.
- Educational projects for safety and environment: Any public or private sponsor may request educational funds.
- Minimum time frame: The RTP does not specify the minimum amount of time a project must be open to the public. Each State needs to determine its own policy and procedure to guarantee public access for the purpose intended, and for how long public access must continue.
- Federal rules and State rules: Some States have legislative or policy requirements which are more restrictive than the Federal law. For example, Federal law allows States to provide funds to a private organization; some States do not permit this. A State may have tighter restrictions than the Federal law, but States should not attribute the restrictions to Federal requirements.
- Accessibility: The U.S. Access Board established a Regulatory Negotiation Committee to develop Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Accessibility Guidelines for outdoor developed facilities, including trails. See handout. Stuart Macdonald represents the National Association of State Trail Administrators on the committee. Christopher Douwes represents FHWA. State Trail Administrators should work with Stuart. State Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinators may work through FHWA (Christopher Douwes and Barbara McMillen).
PLEASE RETURN PROGRAM GUIDANCE COMMENTS TO CHRISTOPHER DOUWES.
Youth Conservation or Service Corps--Andrew Moore, National Association of Service and Conservation Corps. TEA-21 requires the Secretary of Transportation to encourage the States to enter into contracts and cooperative agreements with qualified youth conservation or service corps to perform construction and maintenance of recreational trails under the RTP (and to perform appropriate transportation enhancement activities under other Federal-aid highway programs). See handout. There is great success in States where the corps are recognized by State agencies.
12:00 pm - Lunch--Millennium Trails--Jeff Olson, USDOT Millennium Trails Program Director
Jeff Olson provided information on the USDOT's Millennium Trails Program initiative. Further information is available on the Web at www.whitehouse.gov or www.dot.gov.
1:00 pm - Interagency Coordination--Moderator: Jeff Cook (ID)
Sylvia Ramsey of the Maryland DOT Greenways program spoke about how MDOT works with counties and the State resource agency. MDOT looks at the geographic spread of transportation enhancement and RTP projects, and coordinates the funding from the two programs. MDOT is coordinating with Pennsylvania and the District of Columbia to connect Pittsburgh and Washington DC with a trail using the National Park Services's Chesapeake & Ohio Canal trail.
Kim Raap spoke about Wyoming's relationship with Federal agencies, especially the Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, and National Park Service. More than half of Wyoming is Federal lands. It was difficult to find locations for RTP projects in FY 1996 and 1997 because of the 50% matching requirement; the new matching provisions will resolve this. Another difficulty is that staff turnover in ranger districts harms continuity; the new staff is unaware of work done by previous staff. Federal partnerships take a lot of work because of Federal staff decreases.
Denise Obert of the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) spoke on behalf of the Coalition for Recreational Trails (CRT) about coordination with advocacy groups. There is a need for advocacy to educate the Congress and the public about the benefits of the RTP. An event is planned for 10 June 1999 in Washington DC to highlight the RTP. This will be a part of "Great Outdoors Week" and immediately after National Trails Day. The purpose is to keep the positive benefits of the RTP within the view of the Congress to keep up support for reauthorization in the future. CRT proposed having State trail administrators represent RTP projects in their State. CRT also is interested in developing a database of projects funded under the RTP. See handouts. CRT would like to receive the comments of State trail administrators. Contact: email@example.com or call 703-858-2184.
- Alicia Soriano (GA) suggested sending a State trail advisory committee member rather than a staff person; it will appear more "grass roots" and avoid the perception of State lobbying.
- Get Congressional representatives involved on National Trails Day at the local level.
- Show Congressional representatives and delegates particular trail projects.
Other coordination issues:
- The environmental assessment process under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) is a slow process when working with Federal agencies. Ideas: require an up-front NEPA process; States should work with Federal agencies during the NEPA process.
2:00 pm - Statewide Trails Planning--Moderator: Dan Collins (MN)
Minnesota: Dan Collins: Minnesota's first State plan looked at rail trails and corridors that didn't match the need for trail systems around the State. The second plan asked trail advocates to look at their needs and desires instead of the State putting lines on the map. This has worked better; it was completed about six years ago. "What you want is what we'll work toward." The third plan is a $100,000 project: "Tools in a tool box":
- Tools: here is how to evaluate proposals;
- First goal: use GIS to document abandoned rail corridors and other feasible trail corridors; include inventory of existing trails;
- Database includes unfunded projects and proposals, including transportation projects;
- Trail user profiles: small project to look at trends and unmet needs in trail activities;
- For Metro area, a council looks at urban trail opportunities.
Michigan: Hector Chiunti
- The old notion of applying formulas for how many miles of trails or standards for providing trails has never worked well.
- Convened 500 people to set up advisory groups for each interest group.
- Policy plan (not a program plan) to outline goals and how to achieve them.
- Success with funding and political support.
- State employees can't be advocates; grass roots group efforts are needed to come forward with projects and trail needs.
- Each separate program has its own advisory committee.
Colorado: Jack Placchi
- Surveys: one general public survey to look at trail attitudes; one a mailing to OHV registered owners to see how they want to see motorized dollars spent.
- doing a questionnaire to trail managers and trail groups statewide.
- interviews with opinion leaders.
- look at how to better address backcountry trail needs.
- GIS work: inventory trails.
Other Planning Issues
- SCORP requires trails, but they don't say where you are and where you want to go with trails.
- See the draft program guidance on State trail planning.
- Utah did an assessment of different areas and cities and looked at the needs; identified opportunities for linkages and partnerships.
- Illinois: provides assistance to local governments on how to do their own planning; goal is to build better grass roots support rather than spend money on a traditional State plan.
- Nevada is doing a new SCORP since all Federal programs require an active SCORP; strictly issues oriented rather than complex documents: 10 basic issues such as trails. Nevada will update its 1978 trail plan since there is so much TEA money. It will use RTP administrative funds to pay for a new trail plan.
- Arizona: did survey of thousands of trail enthusiasts and held 17 regional meetings; result shows need for more trail facilities, maintenance, urban trails, and winter trails. Message to public is tell us how to spend the money.
- Wisconsin is doing planning in cooperation with State Department of Transportation.
- Michigan: No SCORP funding means that partnerships are crucial; everything they do for trails is in cooperation with Federal agencies, local groups, local governments.
- Iowa: asked trail and park managers to identify trail users to help provide input from interests like equestrians who aren't always organized. Motorized groups have not had a voice on trail planning before now.
- Some States post the trail plan on the Internet.
- Lot of interest in issue of coordinating with State DOTs. Some States like Georgia advise the DOT on trail issues; others include Parks agency in Enhancements decisions. Others don't coordinate planning and funding between Parks and DOT; coordination is strongly encouraged to take advantage of various funding sources, to avoid possible duplication of projects, and to avoid having conflicting projects.
3:00 pm - Communications for Trails Programs--Moderator: Jim Schmid (SC)
- Alison Brayton, Tennessee: Used grant dollars to produce a newsletter; got good feedback. The public is glad to see a statewide group promoting trails and greenways. Use the newsletter to get out information on timely topics, grants, and issues such as trail conflict. Distributes 2500 quarterly: target local greenway groups, also local governments and trails organizations. The goal is to help build support for statewide greenways system. Include various trails interests. The newsletter gives the State advisory committee a way to communicate issues with public. Past issues are posted on the web site. It created a focal point for trails information. Challenges: use a simple eye-catching format; be prepared to edit articles to make them usable. Develop good relationships with your State agency media people and get your own trails information out to the media.
- Alicia Soriano, Georgia: Electronic media are a very effective way to communicate with the public. Using the State web page and a list server is a great way to get the word out for meetings and planning efforts. Now trails applications and all information is on the web.
- Charlie Willard, California, is working on a multi-agency "California Trail Connection" web site to share costs: www.caltrails.org. He felt a web site would be a more cost-effective way to make information and technical assistance available to a wider audience. The web site will provide links to other sources of maps and trails information. The estimated maintenance cost is $2,000 per year.
- Jim Schmid, South Carolina: "Hit the Web: Marketing your Trails and Greenways Program in Cyberspace." Jim used the web as a cost-effective way to get information out when the State trails program first started. Just get the information out; it doesn't have to be perfect. The old site used big graphics for buttons. A site index is the clearest way to show new visitors where to find the information on your site. Jim worked a lot on concept on what a State trails program should provide. He has a searchable bibliography of trails articles and a database of trails organized by region: www.sctrails.net. Links are also important to visitors.
- Colorado: get a web site structure set up and it's really easy to put the information on the site. Very easy programs do the coding for you.
4:00 pm - The Future: How should we spend more trails money?--Moderator: Kim Raap (WY)
In many States there has been State support for nonmotorized trail groups in the past, but less support for motorized trail groups.
Vanyla Tierney, Pennsylvania: A challenge is providing motorized trails; Pennsylvania has no motorized trails in State Parks. Proposal: work more closely with OHV groups to help develop projects and generate ideas, as they have done with nonmotorized groups. A "peer-to-peer" program helps fund consultants to work with local park and recreation groups or communities. A snowmobile group asked the State to fund a statewide snowmobile opportunity assessment as part of an effort to promote winter recreation for the tourism value. Other States receive economic benefits from motorized trail opportunities.
Jeff Cook, Idaho: In the past, motorized groups in Idaho have been more organized than nonmotorized groups [in contrast with most other States]. Snowmobilers have a registration fee which funds thousands of miles of trails. The ATV and motorbike registration fee also provides funds. A recent fuel tax refund program puts additional money into motorized recreation. Five different grant workshops help around the State; the State mails information to trail groups and communities statewide. Eventually, Idaho will put all the information on the web site.
Kim Raap (WY) said we all need to work together to ensure that motorized projects are getting funded. It is important to note that the root of the RTP funding is from the motor fuel tax paid by motorized trail enthusiasts. There needs to be education of public land managers.
- New Hampshire: some land managers don't want motorized recreation.
- Clark Collins, Blue Ribbon Coalition: offers to work with States to develop better communications with motorized trail enthusiasts. Now that we have funding for a few years we should see more response from both the trail public and land managers.
- Jon Strickland, Alabama: looking to purchase property for OHV recreation opportunities.
- Jack Placchi, Colorado: one problem is that Federal land managers don't have time or resources to apply for funds or manage projects. Colorado is making it as easy as possible with a simplified grant process, funding crews to improve and maintain trails on Federal lands, and by developing projects with youth corps.
- There have been proposals for user fees for nonmotorized trails: see Denise Obert for more information. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org or call 703-858-2184.
Kim Raap said using administrative funds to hire staff is very important to some of the States. The program guidance may need to clarify what is permissible.
- Christopher Douwes: Any State employee time directly accountable to the RTP program in a State is billable to RTP funds; same with educational.
- Colorado will try to use RTP money from three sources to hire staff to accomplish on-the-ground trail improvements and maintenance work, including supervising with youth crews and working with Federal agencies to develop projects. Part will be funded from administrative funds, part from education/environmental, and part from diverse use trail development money.
- FHWA has contracted again with the Oak Ridge National Laboratory to review the formulas used to apportion funds out to the States based on fuel use by various types of vehicles. There is a questionnaire out right now on email which you are requested to respond to. It is possible that the "light truck" fuel use is much overestimated compared to ATVs and snowmobiles.
- There are some concerns about funds passing first through the State DOTs. The obligation authority goes to the DOT; the State resource agency needs to work with the DOT for its share of obligation authority. However, if the State resource agency is designated to administer the program, the DOT does not have to be involved in project selection, approval, or financial transactions (other than the transfer of obligation authority).
- Stuart Macdonald: Colorado's "Trails and Wildlife Handbook" is available for any State trail administrators who would like extra copies.
Alabama - Jon Strickland, Jody Smith
Alaska - Ron Crenshaw, Linda Padie
Arizona - Eric Smith, Terry Heslin, Steve Laurent, Peggy Drumm
California - Charlie Willard
Colorado - Stuart Macdonald, Jack Placchi
Connecticut - David Stygar
Delaware - Kyle Gulbronson
Dist of Columbia - Ted Pochter
Georgia - Alicia Soriano, Antoinette Norfleet
Idaho - Jeff Cook
Illinois - Dick Westfall, Mark Yergler
Indiana - Bob Bronson, Steve Morris
Iowa - Janet Ott
Kansas - Jerry Hover
Maine - Mike Gallagher
Maryland - Sylvia Ramsey
Massachusetts - Peter Brandenburg
Michigan - Hector Chiunti, Steve Kubisiak
Minnesota - Dan Collins
Mississippi - Mitzi Stubbs
Missouri - Steve Burdic, Debbie Schnack
Montana - Bob Walker
Nebraska - Larry Voecks
Nevada - Steve Weaver
New Hampshire - Bob Spoerl
New Jersey - Celeste Tracy
New Mexico - Sandra Massengill, Doris Archuletta
North Carolina - Tom Potter
North Dakota - Randy Harmon, Marni Walth
Oklahoma - Susan Henry
Oregon - Peter Bond
Pennsylvania - Vanyla Tierney
Rhode Island - Richard Tierney
South Carolina - Jim Schmid
Tennessee - Alison Brayton
Texas - Andrew Goldbloom, Kathryn Nichols
Utah - John Knudson
Virginia - Jerry Cassidy, Bob Munson
Washington - Greg Lovelady
Wisconsin - visitor from DNR in the afternoon
Wyoming - Kim Raap
FHWA Env & Plan: Christopher Douwes, Barbara McMillen
FHWA Federal Lands: Butch Wlaschin
FHWA Field: Katherine Kelly (CO), Greg Rawlings (NM)
Jeff Olson, USDOT Millennium Trails Program
Andrew Moore, National Association of Service & Conservation Corps
Julie Kirschbaum, Beneficial Designs
Denise Obert, National Recreation & Park Association
Jack Welch, Blue Ribbon Coalition
Clark Collins, Blue Ribbon Coalition
Christine Jourdain, American Council of Snowmobile Associations
Steve Emmet-Mattox, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy
Pam Gluck, American Trails