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2008 State Trail Administrators Meeting

Meeting Notes

The State Trail Administrators Meeting (STAM) is for State trail administrators and Federal agency personnel who are involved with statewide or national trail programs. It is organized by the National Association of State Trail Administrators (NASTA) and the Federal Highway Administration's (FHWA) Recreational Trails Program (RTP).

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Friday, November 14, 2008

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Other Resources


Introductions and Show and Tell

The meeting began with introductions. Attendees introduced themselves and shared about their State or local programs. Each State that shared portrayed a successful and growing program. See the attendee list to see who participated in the meeting and the State Trail Administrators list for contact information for many of the partipants.

[Future program note: We underestimated the time needed for this session. For future meetings, we need to increase the time allotted, and limit introductions to 2 to 3 minutes (or 5 minutes for programs prepared ahead of time.).]

Remembering Jessica Terrell: www.americantrails.org/resources/advocacy/JessicaTerrell.html
David Certain of New Mexico organized a short session to remember the positive role Jessica Terrell played in both the program and the lives of many of her associates. David ran a brief slideshow and several colleagues from other States stood up to share thoughts and some poems that represented the memories she left behind.


Surface Transportation Authorization Discussion

All attendees should have received a copy of the Administration's Reform Proposal in "read ahead" material. See:

This is the official DOT viewpoint, and reflects the thinking of many interests who benefit from highway expenditures. It does not provide funding for the RTP, Transportation Enhancement (TE) Activities, or Scenic Byways, but it also does not eliminate these programs. Under this proposal, the programs would continue to exist but would not be specifically funded through the Federal Highway Trust Fund; they would depend on General Fund appropriations.

There is growing discussion and awareness that the Highway Trust Fund doesn't have the money to keep up with project expenses and that the Federal gas tax is an insufficient way to raise money for the Fund. The Highway Trust Fund fell $3 billion this year because people are driving less, underscoring the fact that solely relying on the gas tax as a funding source is not sufficient. According to Secretary Peters, the trend underscores the need to find a new way to finance transportation projects in America. She added, "We need a new approach that complements, instead of contradicts, our energy policies and infrastructure needs."

The reform proposal has a lot of facts that are indisputable. There are also many viewpoints discussed in the proposal that have strong opposition. For example, see:

The National Surface Transportation and Revenue Study Commission established in the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU) reported that the Federal government should significantly expand responsibility for transportation. Others think roads and other forms of transportation should be more privatized. Several States like Texas, Indiana, and Pennsylvania are considering tollways or selling highway assets to private companies to fund transportation. Florida, Oklahoma, and others already have many toll roads.

Many transportation interests are calling for surface transportation program performance standards and measures. Do we need performance standards for the RTP? How do you measure program benefits? The RTP legislation never set any national measures or goals for the program, and FHWA never set performance measures or goals. RTP funds are a pass-through program to the States. If a performance measure requirement is implemented, there will be stricter oversight and administrative demands at both the State and Federal levels.

Currently, project reporting is done on a volunteer basis by the States through nonprofit advocacy organizations like the Coalition for Recreational Trails and American Trails.

AASHTO's Viewpoint

The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) released its vision for surface transportation authorization on October 24, 2008. AASHTO represents State transportation departments. It would like to see Federal money with few strings attached. See key provisions of AASHTO's proposal:

Among the goals called for in AASHTO's new transportation agenda are:

The RTP and TE are much less of a focus for DOTs in surface transportation authorization discussions. They are more concerned with transportation planning and other types of projects.

During AASHTO's recent meeting, one State proposed to eliminate TE and only 6 States voted to eliminate TE. Overall, AASHTO is asking that TE remain untouched. The State TE program managers also agreed that TE should remain mostly untouched, however, the State TE program managers agreed to reword the TE legislation to allow fish passages under highways.

Christopher Douwes met on November 10th with the FHWA Office of Natural and Human Environment on planning and environmental issues. Planning models and environmental streamlining are the two most important issues for the Office. Stakeholders are trying to cut a year or more out of the environmental review process, which now can take 3 to 6 years. FHWA's authorization proposal will support streamlining the approval process for transportation projects.

This may get opposition from groups that want to stop highways from being built. However, process delays add to project costs. How can we make it easier to get through historic, NEPA, and Fish and Wildlife review processes while protecting environmental concerns? Most RTP projects will qualify as Categorical Exclusions (CE) under NEPA (23 CFR 771.117). However, each project must be reviewed to assure that it does not have a significant impact on the environment. See: General Environmental Requirements in the RTP Guidance.

Bob Bronson (Indiana) said it can take up to a year and a half and cost $10,000 to $20,000 for a Categorical Exclusion for a trail project.

Rails-to-Trails Conservancy's Viewpoint

On October 20, 2008, the Rails to Trails Conservancy released its Active Transportation report with Representative Oberstar, chair of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. The 2010 Campaign for Active Transportation aims to build on the success of the Nonmotorized Transportation Pilot Program in SAFETEA-LU. The goal: empowering dozens of communities to each advocate for $50 million in Federal funds to make focused investments in infrastructure and programs to shift automobile trips to walking and biking. The campaign aims to double the Federal investment in active transportation in the next reauthorization.

Under RTC's proposal, 40 cities nationwide out of the 50 States would see up to $2 billion in Federal funding. Some cities are convinced they are already approved for funding. Bikes Belong and other organizations want to pour money into nonmotorized transportation. They are also promoting Complete Streets: intended to accommodate all uses, not just cars and trucks when building or rebuilding new facilities.

The Surface Transportation Policy Partnership represents a lot of "green" groups in another coalition that wants to reduce truck and auto use, encourage walking and bicycling, and convert more commercial transportation to railroad use.

Statements like "pedestrian and bikes shall be accommodated" worry some groups who are concerned that this may become an unfunded Federal mandate.

Christopher asked "What should Stuart be taking back to American Trails and the Coalition for Recreational Trails on the viewpoints of States for Reauthorization"?

Group Comments

FHWA is seeking reasonable proposals that could help RTP work better.

Should the RTP be exempt from Statewide and Metropolitan Transportation Planning processes?
There is unanimous agreement from the State Trail Administrators that it does not make sense for recreational trail projects to go through the Metropolitan Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) or Statewide Transportation Improvement Program (STIP) processes. Congress wants all projects that get transportation funding to go through public involvement process to "weed out bad projects." All projects, even RTP, need to go through this process. Some organizations feel that some RTP projects (motorized) can destroy the environment and therefore should go through the TIP and STIP processes.

States have to submit a list of RTP projects to State DOTs so the projects may be included in TIPs and STIPs. The States generally agree there may be some projects that need to go through NEPA environmental assessment process.

Legislation -- 23 U.S.C. 206(c)(2)
Requires States to have an Advisory Committee which provides public review of RTP projects in a public meeting, with notice. Hence, there appears to be a duplication of public review with the requirements of 23 U.S.C. 134 and 135.

One proposal is that RTP projects be grouped and submitted as one line item to State DOT unless determined regionally significant. States could follow RTP public involvement procedures to ensure public comment and review is achieved.

New Mexico takes the annual RTP apportionment and places that amount in the STIP as a placeholder with the notation that "projects will be determined by the process." Then when annual grants are selected, they provide the list of projects to retrofit into the STIP as an administrative adjustment.

In California for RTP projects they feel it doesn't make sense for a $50,000 trails project to be included in a $50 million transportation plan. California wants to take the requirement out. It's a burden on the local sponsor to include a project in the STIP. Many Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPO) are so big and powerful they're able to get projects through, but outside of big metropolitan areas project sponsors with fewer resources can get lost in the process, and an otherwise worthy project may go unfunded.

In Delaware they like to create a "bucket list" instead of splitting out all kinds of projects.

In Tennessee they start with a SCORP and then refer to the Greenways and Trails plan. When applying for projects, if you can't figure out where your project fits, then you shouldn't be submitting projects.

How many States go through a process where you have to submit projects to your DOT?
Majority raised hands. [Editors note: All should have raised their hands.]

Rocky from Oregon proposes to "modify" the process rather than "eliminate" the requirement to place projects in statewide plans. States in attendance seemed to agree that the best course of action is to modify the process, and expressed interest in working together towards determining a solution.

Can States have a waiver for motorized projects?
FHWA is not likely to propose changes. Motorized people already feel they are subsidizing the nonmotorized trails. There is still debate on this issue.

Education
We discussed education funds at the 2007 STAM. States seem to agree to allow the spending maximum to rise to 7 or 10 percent, but it is up to the State to spend that much or not.

Routing Law Enforcement
States agree that law enforcement should not be eligible for RTP funds. Law enforcement also is not eligible for highway funds.

Matching share
The RTP has some disadvantages for matching share requirements compared to other Federal-aid programs, especially on Federal land. The 95% cap on federally sponsored projects is too confusing for some.

Donations
The most recent legislation makes it easier to allow donations of services and materials. The program guidance also includes a volunteer policy. Some resources mentioned are:

Should there be a greater distinction between recreation and transportation? States feel that they shouldn't have to prove a trail project serves a transportation purpose. For example, driving for pleasure on a Scenic Byway shouldn't be considered transportation? Bryan Alexander (Georgia) said that this is an important discussion related to reauthorization. Your trail can get funded without having anything to do with transportation. But maybe we need a backup position that shows the benefits of trails to transportation.

Sherry Winnie (Vermont), via phone, said that as with the cigarette tax in part going to health programs, maybe a part of every gallon of gas should be dedicated to trails and bike/ped facilities.

If a group of State trail administrators wants to self organize and take on these recommendations, they are welcome to do so. FHWA is unlikely to recommend major changes.

There was an idea at one time that RTP funds would go directly to agency that administers the RTP, not to the State DOT. The issue is whether the State park agencies have authority to obligate funds. There is no interest on the part of DOTs to give out obligation authority. However, the Secretary's Reform Proposal would anticipate providing Federal-aid funds directly to other government agencies, nonprofits, and others. It is the way Federal Transit Authority currently works. It is something that can be proposed by States and can go to Congress through an appropriate source.

New Mexico pointed out that money goes a lot further in trails than roads.

Stuart Macdonald said the Coalition for Recreational Trails (CRT) hasn't met on Reauthorization in a long time. The last meeting was last August 2007, and the next meeting was December 2008. CRT was very successful at pushing green infrastructure in the last reauthorization so Stuart was unsure why CRT hasn't been too involved yet. However he feels there will be a big campaign to promote and lobby for trails. For now CRT is just keeping low and may take this strategy if things look like there will be no negative impact on these programs in next surface transportation authorization.

Nathan Caldwell (FWS) expects the new administration will move quickly on reauthorization as a sign that they can work together across party lines, run the administration, and increase jobs. Trail projects are easier to implement and run because of Categorical Exclusions and other streamlining measures. States can get trail projects done much more quickly and show successes faster then big transportation projects that may take many years just in the planning stages.

Susan from Delaware said that job creation needs to be highlighted.

Sherry from Vermont said: We should do more to encourage individuals to be active locally and to talk publicly about the benefits of trails and of community involvement in trail projects.

We can encourage civic participation and encourage groups to plan events, ribbon cutting ceremonies, and to put articles in local newspapers about local trails and the trail work being done in their communities. We need to increase public awareness to show how a wide variety of outdoor recreational trail use contributes to good health, provides environmental benefits, alleviates traffic congestion, and how the program contributes to jobs and employing youth crews and volunteers.

I just think it is more important now more than ever to stand up and talk about why we have the passion for doing the work we do.

I see community involvement as key when administering the Recreation Trails Program here in Vermont.

I think State Administrators should encourage their own communities to take part in public awareness efforts, share information with the public about local trails and trail projects and talk about the health benefits and environmental benefits of trails. Through our work we can encourage people in communities all over our State to "build local capacity" through trail work. Grassroots efforts can help with efficacy of the program.

Brad from Wyoming says that infrastructure improvements like light rail and bike routes don't work out West where there is a lot of open land between destinations.

As a group we reviewed the ideas which we came up with last year. Toward the end of the Federal-aid Highway Program Reauthorization 2009 handout we looked at which items should be left in the proposal and which can be removed. The results were:

The group agreed to "leave" the following proposals suggested in the last Reauthorization discussion:

Comments:

FHWA will propose making matching shares more consistent with the rest of the Federal-aid highway program under 23 U.S.C. 120. Some existing disadvantages for the RTP: a Federal land management agency sponsoring an RTP project may use funds to match other Federal funds up to 95%, but up to 100% under the rest of the Federal-aid highway program.

Sherry (Vermont) believes that the revenue model is wrong and that a percentage of tax from all gas purchased should be set aside for alternative transportation and trails and not just the gas tax collected from Off Highway Vehicle (OHV) use.

The States are encouraged to start a group to suggest changes from a coordinated State Trail Administrator viewpoint. This is being encouraged so we can understand your viewpoint. Provide comments to Christopher Douwes so he can determine and prove that the need exists. The group needs to be self-organized. Sherry from Vermont expressed interest in being involved.


Friday November 14, 2008

We started the morning with a brief presentation by Alex Weiss who invited everyone to the STAM in Gainesville, Florida in 2009. This meeting will be held in conjunction with the Southeastern Equestrian Conference in Gainesville.

Bob Richards described the wonders of the Chattanooga area where the STAM will be held in November 2010.

Open Discussion and General Questions and Answers

Facilitated by Mary Hanson (NPS, RTCA)

Mary Hanson introduced Rick Potts, head of the Conservation and Outdoor Recreation Program for the National Park Service (NPS) in Washington, DC. This includes the Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance (RTCA) program and the National Scenic and Historic Trails.

List of issues and questions from States:

ISSUE: Section 106 - Environmental Clearance

Flip Chart Notes
End Clearance & 106
Indiana - no Diff at DOT between roads, trails
Restrictive, Costly! (106)
TN - Pre-applications including CE, budget etc.
30-Day return on CE
PA gives CE sign-off to TN

Land Managers and volunteers
Quality Volunteers
Leave No trace
Water Trails
Accessibility Signage

Indiana
There is no difference in the way the State DOT treats trail and road projects; waiting periods, lengthy process; costly and restrictive. When they do a Categorical Exclusion the process can still take up to a year and a minimum of $10,000. What are some good examples that other States that have more streamlined measures?

Bob from Tennessee responds that they are on a 2-year cycle on giving out grants. In odd years the have a pre-application process and attempt to do Section 106 clearances and Categorical Exclusions during those "off" years.

Florida does workshops with environmental staff at Florida DOT to increase understanding and build relationships. They have a 45-day process for getting projects through an environmental clearance.

For projects which normally have no significant social, economic, or environmental effects, see:

ISSUE: Not enough demand for motorized projects in some States.

Flip Chart Notes
motorized on private land
OR long-term leases
FHWA part leases
Ty-requires site to be opened 1 year prior
open to public
TN-OHV growing
CD-RFP permits fund use States choice to find

In some States, there are few applications for motorized projects. This puts the program in jeopardy. What can States do to solicit and encourage applications or otherwise create a demand for motorized projects?

Editor's Note: here are several examples of ways that a State can use the RTP motorized funds, see:

Bob Richards from Tennessee asks if States grant RTP funds to private land-owners for motorized projects.

ISSUE: How does one determine Trail capacity?

Are there guidelines on surface and water, or buffer areas? Are there any formulas?
Some planning resources are available. See: IMBA, American Trails, Missoula Technology and Development Center publications. See the recently released Equestrian Guides which discuss the impact of horses on trails.

ISSUE: Nonprofit management

Flip Chart Notes
Trails 101
UTAP 102?!
OSI and States Combine dollars
IMBA
Trails Unlimited

How do we assess or increase skills? What does it take to get them through a project, agreements, and MOUs?

Jean (California) suggested using legal tools such as performance bonds or promissory notes. Would need to return money if the project is not completed on time.

In Oregon nonprofits have to be established for 3 years to get a grant; as a reimbursement program it weeds out the weaker organizations.

Rick Potts indicated that the RTCA is good at mediating consensus. Make your first step to do more planning and withhold funding until they're ready to go forward.

Michelle Vetter told us that a nonprofit group in North Dakota wanted administration money to go solicit landowners for cooperation. Michelle said "no" to the funding. The State wants to get trails on the ground rather than funding a planning grant. All phases are important, but there is not enough money in the RTP to fund administration.

Bob from Tennessee implemented a planning grant process. The product they are looking for is a comprehensive statewide trail plan. Christopher says you can use State administrative funds for this, but you can't use RTP funds for this type of use. The RTCA is available for planning.

[Editor's note: In further discussion after STAM, the Tennessee planning grant process is for project-specific trail planning, equivalent to construction engineering.]

QUESTION: Bill Luck from Alaska
I am curious as to how other States have expanded their programs?

Jean from California said that they have had to work to raise awareness. They put out materials at trade shows. The more they worked to increase awareness, the more applications they saw.

Mary Hanson said that when you have successful projects, you need to celebrate loudly and bring lots of media attention.

Alex Weiss said in Florida they put signs on the trail highlighting that funding comes from the Recreational Trails Program.

Moses from New Mexico sends out Press Releases for successfully completed projects to bring attention to the media and the public. In New Mexico they are trying to get some money embedded into next reauthorization for their State program.

Rick Potts said Washington DC likes it when there is a united request rather than having individual States fighting for their own piece of pie. We must have a united front. If we all come forward making the case that trails hold the cures for many of society's ills, we'll make a better case as a united front.

Overall, there needs to be an increase in efforts to explain about the benefits of the RTP. States can't lobby, but may help provide information to people who organize efforts. Schools can promote health and child safety. Health departments, hospitals, etc., should get involved too.

Apportionment Formula

Andy from Texas thinks the methodology for calculating apportionments is flawed.

Christopher Douwes said the new calculation affects far more than just the RTP. The changes affect the entire Federal-aid highway program. Christopher is well aware that there was no public involvement and that the change in available apportionments was sudden. The change in the RTP apportionments doesn't change how much money the State gets for all Federal-aid highway programs. However the new calculation is disproportionally affecting the RTP.

Christopher Douwes said: Money from nonhighway vehicle recreational trail use has dropped off significantly according to the new estimates. The CRT has been fighting for an increase of funding for RTP to 50% of OHV fuel use which was fine for old numbers, but now the number are far lower and we are close to funding the program at 100% of fuel use figures. The CRT will need to revisit its stance.


Breakout Session: Youth Corps

Co-leaders: Stuart Macdonald (American Trails) and Stephanie Davison (The Corps Network)

Stephanie Davison, The Corps Network, provided copies of "Conservation Corps and Transportation: Making the Connection." The publication was written by Stuart Macdonald under contract with The Corps Network. The publication has 10 case studies designed to help Corps understand how to obtain funding from transportation programs, particularly the RTP and TE, and to help States work with Corps.

The Corps Network is an advocate for conservation and service corps nationwide. It maintains a list of active corps organizations in each State.

Texas considered starting a State youth corps trails program but its ideas got focused on "emergency response" and got further and further from its needs. Instead it started using RTP funds to pay for youth crews to work during the season. Funding paid for camping at State parks and training. The time spent by rangers was used for match.

To make it easy, wrap all costs into crew hours. It wasn't cheap; it added up to $340,000 a year. Youth groups are doing smaller projects all over the parks system. They have good skills and are able to do a wide variety of work. The State allows non-bid contracts with nonprofits. Training for chain saws will benefit one of the parks where a lot of tree work needs to be done.

In-kind donations are very important to most Corps. The corps also values educational time.

In West Virginia, training for trailbuilding has been very successful. It has 10 person crews now. The program provides good job skill development. The West Virginia Citizens Conservation Corps has an "Adventure Center" where it will build a trail with a State grant.

One benefit in West Virginia is by training the youth corps in trail work, it now has a trained group to act as trouble shooters and come help finish projects for other agencies. They submit a cost estimate for the work and the State is willing to allow the expenditures.

In Jefferson County Colorado the Denver Metro Area hires over 100 high school age kids to work each summer on trails. The County conducts training in conjunction with the Statewide Outdoor Stewardship Institute. Having a park location where crews can learn and do actual work is essential. The Outdoor Stewardship Institute (OSI) is also a way to engage agency and organization people as instructors, by helping people overcome the perception that youth corps is just cheap, unskilled labor.

The Outdoor Stewardship Institute (OSI) was formed through a merger between VOC and the Colorado Outdoor Training Initiative (COTI). OSI continues the COTI tradition, delivering high quality training to volunteers and agencies. OSI functions as a coalition of partners who share a commitment to building volunteer stewardship capacity.

In Alaska, the corps program works four days and uses Fridays for training. Alaska has set aside $300,000 this year for Corps work. Alaska awards extra points for grant projects using corps resources. They use Student Conservation Association for some projects and train crew leaders. The Northwest Academy and California Conservation Corps groups like to exchange work with other States.

In Louisiana, a new conservation corps is starting work in four parishes in the New Orleans area. After June 2009, it will transition from Katrina recovery work to other projects. Participants in corps work receive a stipend. Project sponsors need to clearly define the work you want to do. Comprehensive project design should also be a criterion.

The Corps needs to get more recognition for the work they do. Stephanie suggests using signs to promote the accomplishments of the Corps organizations.


Breakout Session: Recreational Trails Programmatic Agreements

Co-Leaders: Robert (Bob) Richards (TN) and Andrew Korsberg (MN)

Two main types of agreements were discussed:

  1. Programmatic CE Agreements for NEPA compliance (MN);
  2. Programmatic Stewardship & Oversight Agreements for Program Administration (TN). The second type of agreement may include NEPA compliance, but also many other aspects of program administration.

Plenary Discussion: Use of Education Funds

Introduction of Marshall University OHV Recreation Courses

The Recreation and Park Resources program at Marshall University offers a Bachelor of Science degree with an emphasis in parks and conservation. Marshall University students will now be able to obtain a minor in off-highway vehicle recreation.

The goal of training is to raise the level of quality for trails. Youth Corps and Conservation Corps are good examples of where raising the level of education can help build skills in the industry which help increase the quality of trails.

Training

The Outdoor Stewardship Institute (OSI) was formed through a merger between VOC and the Colorado Outdoor Training Initiative (COTI). OSI continues the COTI tradition, delivering high quality training to volunteers and agencies. OSI functions as a coalition of partners who share a commitment to building volunteer stewardship capacity.

Outdoor Stewardship Institute (OSI)
Stuart introduced Kim Frederick, a longtime board member of the Outdoor Stewardship Institute (OSI).

The Outdoor Stewardship Institute (OSI) was formed through a merger between Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado (VOC) and the Colorado Outdoor Training Initiative (COTI). Through the Outdoor Stewardship Institute, VOC develops tools to help land managers and other nonprofits effectively manage volunteers and outdoor volunteer events. OSI continues the COTI tradition, delivering high quality training to volunteers and agencies. OSI functions as a coalition of partners who share a commitment to building volunteer stewardship capacity.

As a result of the merger, the mission has increased from training to providing an Internet based link between agencies, organizations, and volunteer opportunities. The website allows registrations for trainings as well.

The main focus continues to be training. The partnership trained more than 500 people in the last year. It has a well-established curriculum. Originally OSI thought that it would be training a lot of volunteers, but it finds that it is training a lot of agency personnel. There is a large need for more of this type of trail training as the demand for building good trails increases. In order to accomplish that goal the level of knowledge needs to increase. OSI wants to train trainers. In the past year it has trained 20-25 instructors.

OSI training offers volunteers and partners the chance to learn new skills and step into leadership roles.

There is a significantly high level of students who become agency personnel. They are not just volunteers. California for instance does a great job of providing training for State staff. The goal for agencies is to have confidence in the performance abilities of staff as well as volunteers working on trail projects.

"You can't build good trails if you don't know how." The idea behind OSI is training trainers. Teaching people how to convey information is a better investment and holds a potential return on funding if you can generate new skilled trainers. OSI trained 30-40 new instructors this year and about 25 remain as committed instructors.

In Colorado there are several youth corps organizations. OSI conducts week long skills and leadership training that draws up to 120 corps and crews leaders, from Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah as well as Colorado.

REI, Inc. provided funds to train some of their staff members to be more effective volunteers. Coors also has a corporate volunteer program, and OSI is working with them for a similar program to train their workers.

Kim Frederick of OSI recently taught an instructor workshop in Arizona. He was then able to provide support for the new instructors teaching their first crew leader workshop.

Missouri described its work with OSI and put on training as part of recent statewide trails conference. It used RTP education funds through Missouri State Parks.

Lori Malcolm described Colorado's State involvement. The real need was to develop a curriculum and teach a consistent type of training on the ground. Every year it establishes a new agreement to help determine what is needed. This year OSI conducted a survey to see what the agencies and organizations wanted.

In many States, it's very hard to put on training for an entire week during the busy season. For this reason, OSI offers one-day modular training units.

OSI is the recognized subject matter experts, collecting and repackaging existing training.

Some of the project accomplishments from the last year:

OSI has acknowledged that before it could meet the "statistical" needs of training, for example, so many people trained per year, that it will need to do some scoping to really determine needs and existing capabilities.

A question posed to the participants asked: How many support annual or biannual workshops? 20-30 people (75% of room) raised their hands agreeing the need existed.

Alex Weiss from Florida worked together with Stuart Macdonald to help determine how States are spending the 5% allowed for safety/education programs. The results from that survey can be found here: http://americantrails.org/nttp/StateRTPeducation.html

Other training resources include:

What training needs are not being met?

West Virginia has been holding a series of courses which include one-day classroom training and a second day in the field. The State has focused on building pedestrian bridges in coordination with the class. The classroom trainees will then help train additional volunteers.

Kim Frederick agreed this is a good example that every project provides opportunities to train additional folks.

Why do we not engage in more training?
There's a lot going on and training is not always the foremost priority. Many States are dealing with putting out current fires and not necessarily focusing on future needs.

In Wyoming, the majority of safety education funds go to support youth education. For example the State has developed a Safety and Education Interactive Training Trailer and ATV Safety Simulator designed to teach a variety of safety and ethics information to students ages six years and older.


Plenary Discussion GIS / Trail Inventory

Co-leaders: Amanda Lewis (MA) and Michelle Vetter (ND)

Michelle discussed her experiences with collecting trail data and using the Ricoh 500SE GPS Camera and Photo Link software.

Amanda Lewis discussed the MassGIS program. She indicated much of the data was collected by contractors and then post-processed in-house by Amanda or other members of her team. The data captured include both roads and trails on State lands and legal and illegal trails.

Introduction to GIS and MassGIS
(Referred to in presentation - Information below taken directly form Mass.gov website.)

What is GIS?
A geographic information system (GIS) is a computer system capable of assembling, storing, manipulating, and displaying geographically referenced information (i.e. spatial data). This system should include:

Geographic information systems belong to a family of mapping and drafting programs that includes computer-aided design (CAD) and automated mapping and facilities management (AM/FM). GIS is distinguished from CAD and AM/FM by its capacity to perform complicated analytical functions that often include combining information from different sources to derive meaningful relationships.

The Web has a vast amount of resources relating to GIS. For more general information on GIS you may want to visit the following sites:

What is MassGIS?
MassGIS is the Commonwealth's Office of Geographic and Environmental Information, within the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EOEEA). Through MassGIS, the Commonwealth has created a comprehensive, statewide database of spatial information for environmental planning and management. The state legislature has established MassGIS as the official state agency assigned to the collection, storage and dissemination of geographic data.

In addition, the legislative mandate includes coordinating GIS activity within the Commonwealth and setting standards for geographic data to ensure universal compatibility. MassGIS has implemented several ways of coordinating GIS activity in the Commonwealth. MassGIS staff are advised by the Massachusetts Geographic Information Council (MGIC). MGIC includes representatives from federal, state, regional, and local government agencies, GIS consultants, utilities, non-profit organizations, and academia.

Many States have been working on GIS and trail inventory projects. GIS data is useful for planning, construction, maintenance, education, and public awareness.


Trail Contracting and Using Professional Trailbuilders
Hybrid Contracting: Extending resources with trail contractors

Roger Bell, Bellfree Contractors representing Professional Trailbuilders Association

Hybrid contracting is a model for effective use of professional contractors in conjunction with other trail project labor: volunteers, youth corps, and staff trail crews.

In the traditional model, typical of work for the U. S. Forest Service, we follow the requirements of carefully-developed specifications and, under the watchful eye of government inspectors, seek to achieve the desired results while hopefully generating sufficient profit to keep the business afloat.

There is much to recommend the traditional contractor/owner model in building quality trails. It is true that not every project turns out as hoped, and there can be prolonged and painful disputes over the exact meaning of the written plans. But most contractors point with pride at what is achieved through this time-tested process.

Resources:

Woody Keene, Trail Dynamics
Woody Keene from Trail Dynamics discussed trail contracting and showed some examples of recent trail construction projects. For Woody, the main goal for any project is always sustainability. Many projects are often focused on solving drainage problems. For any trail contractor it is important to work as closely with State staff as with as your trail crew.

Building bridges was part of the learning process. Woody recently held a three day workshop with Forest Service including removing an old culvert and replacing it with armored crossings. He also recently completed a mechanized trailbuilding training with South Carolina staff. Training is often included in the trail improvement projects.

Woody showed several examples of failed trails, especially with crushed rock surfaces. Hiring trailbuilders who know what they are doing is important. In-house staff or landscape contractors may not have knowledge of trail technical requirements. With the downturn in housing construction, there are lots of builders with machines, but not experience, wanting to do trail work. The specifications may be at fault, construction techniques may be unwise, and materials may be chosen poorly. Experienced trail contractors can determine correct specs. Developing a good trail assessment management plan is also essential, especially for larger park trail systems.

Developing a good trail assessment management plan is also essential, especially for larger park trail systems. Often management decisions are made without any sense of priority. Instead too much focus of concern is given to risk management and existing maintenance problem areas. A more comprehensive approach which includes accessibility and sustainable building techniques will benefit agency as well as user.


Plenary Discussion: Fostering Relationships

Federal Highway Administration, Christopher Douwes

Christopher is also the TE Program Manager for FHWA. He asked the attendees in the room: Who [here] talks to your State TE person? Only a few hands went up. Next year Christopher wants to see more hands up. Everyone should get to know the TE person. See the fact sheet on TE activities. Also see the National Transportation Enhancements Clearinghouse.

Q: What percentage of TE funds go to trails?
About 55% of TE funds go to bicycle and pedestrian facilities, including trails; about one-third of TE funds are specifically for shared use paths or other trails. It used to that 75% of all bicycle and pedestrian funding came through TE, but it is now below half, because there are other sources, such as Safe Routes to School (SRTS) funds and "High Priority Project". Some projects use Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program funds and some are using regular Surface Transportation Program funds.

Things to consider:

There is a misperception that once NSHT trails become federalized that States don't need to have continued involvement, but the States should become involved in these trails.

National Park Service, Steve Elkinton

Steve Elkinton discussed National Scenic and Historic Trails and touched on the Wild and Scenic Rivers and National Heritage Area programs.

The Partnership for the National Trails System meets regularly to support goals in outreach and partnership building. Expect to see some new trails added to the National Scenic and Historic trails system, like American Discovery Trail, Mississippi River Trail, and East Coast Greenway. The trend is in non-federal managers, such as States and local jurisdictions.

National Trails System
The National Trails System is the network of scenic, historic, and recreation trails created by the National Trails System Act of 1968. These trails provide for outdoor recreation needs, promote the enjoyment, appreciation, and preservation of open-air, outdoor areas and historic resources, and encourage public access and citizen involvement.

See also:

Some exciting milestones:

NPS Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance Program
The Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance Program is the community assistance arm of the National Park Service. RTCA staff provide technical assistance to community groups and nonprofit organizations, community groups, tribes or tribal governments, and local, State, or Federal government agencies so they can conserve rivers, preserve open space, and develop trails and greenways. The RTCA program implements the natural resource conservation and outdoor recreation mission of the National Park Service in communities across America.

National Scenic Byways Program, Cindy Ptak (FHWA)

US Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration

The National Scenic Byways (NSB) Program was established under the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991. Under the program, the U.S. Secretary of Transportation recognizes certain roads as National Scenic Byways or All-American Roads based on their archaeological, cultural, historic, natural, recreational, and scenic qualities. There are 125 designated byways in 44 States. The FHWA promotes the collection as America's Byways.

The vision of the program is to create a distinctive collection of American roads, their stories and treasured places.

The mission of the National Scenic Byways Program is to provide resources to the byway community to create unique travel experiences and enhance local quality of life through efforts to preserve, protect, interpret, and promote the intrinsic qualities of designated byways.

Background:

Every State Trail Administrator should also be in communication with the State Scenic Byways program contact because there is a significant potential for overlap between the RTP and Byways. Most byways provide access to recreational areas, which often include trails.

The National Scenic Byways Program also has a grants program. This year it approved $43 million in grants. The program looks for projects that make byways more multimodal.

Highlights from Cindi's discussion:

National Scenic Byways Conference - Save the Date
Join us at the National Scenic Byways Conference, August 23-26, 2009, in Denver, Colorado.

Christopher said you can use RTP funds to go to the Byways conference if you can make the connection that it benefits RTP administration. State TE and Byways managers may use TE funds to go to Byways conference, see TE Guidance - Workforce Development, Training, and Education

The conference will have five learning tracks:

What's the benefit of All-American road designation?
It is the highest form of recognition although not necessarily only a marketing benefit. It shows greater intrinsic qualities and stronger partnerships.

To be designated a National Scenic Byway, a road must possess characteristics of regional significance within at least one of the intrinsic qualities. All-American Roads must possess characteristics of national significance in at least two of the intrinsic qualities.

6 Intrinsic Qualities

Archaeological Quality involves those characteristics of the scenic byways corridor that are physical evidence of historic or prehistoric human life or activity that are visible and capable of being inventoried and interpreted. The scenic byway corridor's archeological interest, as identified through ruins, artifacts, structural remains, and other physical evidence have scientific significance that educate the viewer and stir an appreciation for the past.

Cultural Quality is evidence and expressions of the customs or traditions of a distinct group of people. Cultural features including, but not limited to, crafts, music, dance, rituals, festivals, speech, food, special events, vernacular architecture, etc., are currently practiced. The cultural qualities of the corridor could highlight one or more significant communities and/or ethnic traditions.

Historic Quality encompasses legacies of the past that are distinctly associated with physical elements of the landscape, whether natural or manmade, that are of such historic significance that they educate the viewer and stir an appreciation for the past. The historic elements reflect the actions of people and may include buildings, settlement patterns, and other examples of human activity. Historic features can be inventoried, mapped, and interpreted. They possess integrity of location, design, setting, material, workmanship, feeling, and association.

Natural Quality applies to those features in the visual environment that are in a relatively undisturbed state. These features predate the arrival of human populations and may include geological formations, fossils, landform, water bodies, vegetation, and wildlife. There may be evidence of human activity, but the natural features reveal minimal disturbances.

Recreational Quality involves outdoor recreational activities directly association with and dependent upon the natural and cultural elements of the corridor's landscape. The recreational activities provide opportunities for active and passive recreational experiences. They include, but are not limited to, downhill skiing, rafting, boating, fishing, and hiking. Driving the road itself may qualify as a pleasurable recreational experience. The recreational activities may be seasonal, but the quality and importance of the recreational activities as seasonal operations must be well recognized.

Scenic Quality is the heightened visual experience derived from the view of natural and manmade elements of the visual environment of the scenic byway corridor. The characteristics of the landscape are strikingly distinct and offer a pleasing and most memorable visual experience. All elements of the landscape -- landform, water, vegetation, and manmade development -- contribute to the quality of the corridor's visual environment. Everything present is in harmony and shares in the intrinsic qualities.


Saturday November 15, 2008

Stump the Fed

Q. What do we do if we can't spend motorized funds?

A: You need to find a way to approach user groups. Apportioned funds are available for obligation for four fiscal years, so you if you have money you haven't spent, then do a big project, consider land acquisition, but get a project started.

As noted on the RTP homepage, "The money for the program comes from nonhighway recreational fuel use; fuel used for off-highway recreation by snowmobiles, all-terrain vehicles, off-highway motorcycles, and off-highway light trucks." The RTP legislation requires that States use 40 percent of their funds apportioned in a fiscal year for diverse recreational trail use, 30 percent for motorized recreation, and 30 percent for nonmotorized recreation.

A State does not need to meet the 40-30-30 minimums in each fiscal year's obligations. Any given year's apportionment must meet the minimum requirements within the funding cycle. See:

Editor's Note: There are several examples of ways that a State can use the RTP motorized funds, see:

Q. With the changes in Recreational Trails Program apportionments for Federal Fiscal Year (FY) 2009, compared to previous years, what percentage is now paid into the RTP by motorized groups and how has it changed?

A. It depends on whether the old numbers or new numbers are more accurate for off road light truck use. FHWA modelers determined that the U.S. Census Bureau's Vehicle Inventory and Use Survey (VIUS) was the best source of data to estimate the relative share of light trucks used off-road for recreational purposes. The results from the 1997 Truck Inventory and Use Survey (TIUS) and the 2002 VIUS reported that nonhighway vehicle use declined sharply from 1997 to 2002. Please see: Estimating Nonhighway Recreational Fuel Use for Recreational Trails Program Apportionments: Changes in Estimates for FY 2009.

The Office of Highway Statistics [http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/policyinformation/statistics.cfm] had held off on using the figures that showed the decline in off-highway light truck use, because this also affected estimates of revenue into the Federal Highway Trust Fund.

The decline is only due to light trucks, as ATV and off-highway motorcycle use is probably increasing nationwide. Snowmobile use tends to vary depending on snowfall trends.  Illinois has consistently declining snowmobile use, while in other States, their snowmobile registrations go up and down.

Why are people reporting less light-truck use use?
There is no clear answer for this, because the questions in the 1997 TIUS and 2002 VIUS were the same. A summary comparing the 1997 and 2002 surveys show a 61.3 percent drop in off-road operation mileage. Additionally, this is a "self-reporting error" survey. It may have overestimated use in 1997 or more correctly reported (or underestimated) in 2002.

Q. When you transfer funds into the RTP from another funding source, is it subject to the 40-30-30 requirement?
A. No, transferring funds into the RTP does not invoke the 30% motorized requirement; the 30% motorized requirement is for the apportioned funds, and does not affect funds transferred to the RTP. Tennessee transferred TE funds to the RTP to develop the Cumberland Trail, a recreational hiking trail. If a State wanted to, it could transfer funds from most of the Federal-aid Highway apportioned categories to other programs. [Editor's note: Be cautious with transfers from the RTP to other programs, because the State must meet the 40-30-30 requirements for the RTP apportionment even after a transfer.]

WINNER OF STUMP THE FED!!
Q. From David Claycomb, Idaho. Can horses be purchased as "equipment" for trails work?
Christopher honestly didn't know! What do the States think?

Susan (Delaware) said "Yes, it's a vehicle without an engine." Christopher was leaning towards agreement. Alex (Florida) said horses are "vehicles." In South Carolina, horses are used to move gravel for trail work. In Wyoming there are lands that are congressionally designated Wilderness where you can't use mechanized equipment like chainsaws. Horses are necessary for transportation and are used for heavy lifting. Sidenote: Do States fund tools? It is up to States to decide whether they want to fund equipment or tools. The point is not what it is, but what it does. Concerns about tracking use, maintenance, storage, longevity, and availability. David Cohen (FHWA) says in California the issue would be whether the applicant can document applicability to a trail project.
[Note to CD: Christopher will check on this topic for more specific guidance on eligibility.]

Q. Can a National Scenic or Historic Trails project be funded using a Transportation Enhancement (TE) grant?
A. For National Historic Trails, almost certainly Yes, because most NHTs are the equivalent of a historic highway program. For example, the Santa Fe Trail was the Interstate highway of its day. To interpret it, a visitor center may function as the trailhead. It could be considered for eligibility as a historic highway project. One of 12 eligible activities is "Scenic or historic highway programs (including the provision of tourist and welcome center facilities)". Applicants should show details of how trails are included.

Using TE funds for a National Scenic Trail would be less likely because Scenic trails are not typically transportation related. However, where trails cross highways or rivers would be considered a connection to surface transportation. Wherever possible, projects should go after Highway funds instead of RTP.

Can the State highway department spend more other Federal money on RTP in States that lost money?
Yes, because the RTP is included under the transferability provision of 23 U.S.C. 126. But it's a State decision.

Q: Do you see any more rescissions on the horizons? Question from California.
A: Possibly. The rescission notice from last year says any rescissions taken must be proportional for this fiscal year. Notice N 4510.673 so far only rescinded funds from earlier year funds.

But, a State does not have to rescind money from the Recreational Trails Program specifically. The amounts documented in the rescission notice are maximum allowable amounts, but the funds can be rescinded from any program.

Q: When do divisions obligate funds? Is it per project or all at once?
A: FHWA apportions funds to the States on October 1 each fiscal year. In theory, funds are available at that time; however, some States impose restrictions on obligation authority until the Congress passes a full year's appropriation act. But they don't have to wait: the RTP is a fraction of the Federal-aid highway program funds available. If funds are obligated early, projects are more likely to move forward.

More and more States are going back to project by project obligations. When obligations are grouped, if there is an issue with one project it can affect all other projects obligated at the same time. Or even, if after a few years most of projects in obligated bunch are completed but one is not, FHWA can't close out the entire obligation.

Q: How many States have used RTP money for paths along highways? Asked by Bob from Indiana.
A: There are no Federal laws or regulations that prohibit shared use paths along or near Interstate highways or other freeways. There are several examples of shared use paths along or within Interstate or other freeway rights-of-way. Nearly all have obvious barriers (walls or fences) or grade separation between the freeway and the shared use path. See: http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/environment/bicycle_pedestrian/guidance/design_guidance/freeways.cfm.


List of Common Abbreviations

AASHTO: American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials
ATV: All Terrain Vehicle
BLM: Bureau of Land Management
COTI: Colorado Outdoor Training Initiative
CRT: Coalition for Recreational Trails
FWS: Fish and Wildlife Service
GIS: Geographic Information Systems
IMBA: International Mountain Bicycling Association
GIS: Geographic Information Systems
MOU: Memorandum of Understanding
NASTA: National Association of State Trail Administrators
NEPA: National Environmental Policy Act
NOHVCC: National Off Highway Vehicle Conservation Council
NPS: National Park Service
NSB: National Scenic Byways Program
NTTP: National Trails Training Partnership
OHV: Off Highway Vehicle
OSI: Outdoor Stewardship Institute
PA: Programmatic Agreement
PTBA: Professional Trailbuilders Association
RTCA: Rivers, Trails, and Conservation Assistance Program
RTP: Recreational Trails Program
SRTS: Safe Routes to School
TE: Transportation Enhancement Activities
Updated: 04/02/2014
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