Stuart Macdonald introduced slides from a few States on their various trail projects. Each participant gave a self introduction along with a short State update.
Recreational Trails Program (RTP) Policy Issues
Project Eligibility Issues
Sidewalk Trails. If a proposed project is really a sidewalk rather than a trail, project sponsors should go after transportation funding. The RTP Guidance says (page 44) that RTP funds should not normally be used for sidewalks, but exceptions may be allowed. There may be Section 4(f) issues: if a sidewalk within a highway right-of-way becomes a recreational trail, it may make future highway projects subject to a section 4(f) finding. Section 4(f) of the Department of Transportation Act of 1966 prohibits conversion of public park lands for transportation purposes unless there are no feasible alternatives, and requires mitigation.
Awards to nongovernmental organizations and individuals. States may chose whether or not to award funds to nonprofit or for-profit organizations. States cannot fund individuals unless the individual is an organized entity (incorporated). Some States have decided not to fund nongovernmental organizations. Others see a benefit because for-profits can cut through government red tape. Alaska sees a benefit if there is public access and the trail is maintained. Some States say businesses don't deal with Federal agencies well, such as on environmental issues, or they are not organized or funded to deal with the required issues. A signed contract between the government entity and for-profit organization is needed.
Electric Bicycles. States or localities may allow electric bicycles on otherwise nonmotorized trail facilities when using Federal-aid highway funds (23 U.S.C. 217(h)). However, under the RTP, electric bikes are still motorized vehicles. Allowing electric bikes on a trail which was an otherwise nonmotorized trail prior to May 1, 1991, would make the trail ineligible for any RTP funds (23 U.S.C. 206(g)(4)), including funds for trailside or trailhead facilities.
Law enforcement, emergency services, and emergency service equipment. In general, law enforcement and emergency services are not eligible under the RTP. Nearly all State Trail Administrators opposed opening the RTP eligibility list to law enforcement and emergency services. However, emergency service equipment specific for trail purposes may be eligible, for example, purchasing an ATV for trail rescue use. Trail related facilities may be used by law enforcement and emergency services. See the RTP guidance.
Christopher Douwes reevaluated emergency equipment purchases after the meeting:
The Permissible Uses include "purchase and lease of trail construction and maintenance equipment". Some States have allowed purchases of ATVs and trailers to move trail construction and maintenance equipment. Some States may have allowed purchases of mountain bikes for trail maintenance patrols. A rescue vehicle does not qualify as trail construction and maintenance equipment. A vehicle purchased for a maintenance patrol, which could have incidental emergency use, could be allowed. But the vehicle would have to be used regularly on trails doing maintenance patrolling; not sitting waiting for emergencies.
The Permissible Uses also include "operation of educational programs to promote safety and environmental protection as those objectives relate to the use of recreational trails". This category permits safety education programs (limited to 5% of a State's apportionment), but does not include safety equipment. It's a stretch to use RTP funds to purchase equipment for search and rescue operations. If the vehicle could be incorporated into a safety education program, it would be more appropriate. Some States have allowed purchases of mountain bikes for safety patrols. But the funding would be limited to the educational funds.
Time limits on easements. The RTP Guidance allows States flexibility to determine time limits on easements (minimum lengths of time to remain open for public use). Suggestions: make the easement permanent, or get the longest term possible if there are physical improvements (such as 25 years). However, for snow trails, perhaps an annual agreement is sufficient. Written consent is required when dealing with private land and landowners.
"Hosting" staff and trail patrols. States may allow funding for trail hosts (people who provide information to the public) and trail patrols with environmental and safety education funds.
GPS and mapping trails. RTP project funds should not be used for general trail planning. Mapping should use State administrative funds. Using GPS could have an education and safety aspect. Some GPS and mapping may be considered part of preliminary engineering costs for a particular project, but should be only a small portion of the project.
Water trails eligibility. Several States have done water trails with RTP funding. Fish and game funding often can benefit water trails.
Trail maintenance crews are eligible for funding.
Maintenance of equipment purchased with RTP funds. RTP funds may be used for trail maintenance, and RTP funds may be used to purchase or lease trail construction and maintenance equipment. Can RTP funds be used to maintain equipment purchased under the RTP? After discussion, it was suggested the original agreement with the State should specify any maintenance agreement, including the long term maintenance and equipment insurance. The States will determine what is eligible in their States.
Caverns. Funding a trail in a cavern is eligible.
Fitness Trails. Fitness trails and fitness trail equipment along a trail are eligible. However, many States said they would rank these projects low.
Eligible Project Costs
Eligible project costs are found in the relevant OMB Circulars available on the World Wide Web: www.whitehouse.gov/omb/circulars_default (depending on the type of grantee). Note: the website given in the RTP Guidance doesn't work anymore.
Opposition to Trail Projects
There is opposition/scrutiny from environmental organizations to motorized projects. Some public agencies are reluctant to fund motorized projects. It is a land use issue and motorized issue for many opposing organizations, and not a trail issue. Money is being used for signs (to designate the legal users of specific trails) and management of trails to help address opposition issues. Building partnerships with environmental groups, and opening up communication with environmental groups about environmental damage is needed. Negotiation is needed on issues of land use, hunting, and wildlife. The Federal funding seems to be targeted in many of these cases, and not State funding. Land access is getting difficult, and trails (for many purposes) are being closed.
Trail User Group Issues
South Carolina and Idaho have good publications on trail etiquette. States should share good materials with each other.
Obligation limitation. Some administrators suggested legislation to guarantee that RTP apportionments and obligation authority are equal. About half the States have RTP annual obligation authority limited to the amount which the State DOT receives for the Federal-aid highway program (85% to 90% over the past several years). Funds may lapse if this continues over the next 7 to 10 years. Funds may lapse sooner for transportation enhancements in some States.
State administrative costs. Some States find the 7% limitation for administrative costs does not cover their costs. Most States are using their full 7%. Some States are concerned their own States would charge a higher overhead cost. But most States agreed there should be a funding cap to make sure the RTP funds get to on-the-ground trail projects.
States want higher RTP funding authorizations. The Oak Ridge National Laboratory fuel use study estimated more than 1.8 billion gallons of fuel used annually for off highway recreation. The Federal gasoline excise tax is 15.44 cents per gallon, which is $284 million attributable to nonhighway recreational fuel use. Christopher Douwes (FHWA) cautioned that the Oak Ridge report estimates light truck use is 79 percent of the nonhighway recreational fuel use, but no State study estimates that much. Total fuel use may be much less; if light truck use is only one third of total nonhighway recreational fuel use (closer to the State estimates), then the total nonhighway recreational fuel use would be 580 million gallons, or $90 million annually. States urged FHWA to conduct a more complete study to prove the $50 million annual authorized level was too low, but the estimated cost of the study would exceed FHWA's takedown.
Some States asked how the proposed Conservation and Reinvestment Act (CARA) might affect the RTP. CARA funds could be used for trails. Some States were concerned it might result in reduced funding for the RTP. However, the RTP is funded from a separate source.
Some States asked if the Transportation Enhancement Program could be administered by the State resource agency. In many States, project sponsors find RTP it is easier to work with the State resource agency under the RTP than with the State DOT for TE projects.
Youth Conservation and Service Corps
Mel Kreb of the California Conservation Corps spoke about youth conservation and service corps. Under Sections 1108(g) and 1112(e) of TEA-21, FHWA is required to encourage States to enter into contracts and cooperative agreements with qualified youth conservation or service corps to perform transportation enhancement and recreational trails program activities. Youth corps provide an opportunity for employment, education, and training for young people. Much activity is focused on trail building, primarily in back country. The trail building work is usually labor intensive, and working with tools is part of training. The National Association of Service Conservation Corps (NASCC) is the national umbrella organization. There are also State and local corps associated with NASCC. Partnering and cooperatives are formed between youth corps and agencies that build and fund trail development. Some States award points when ranking proposals for this type of partnering. Youth corps can help train staff and youths to develop, guide, and mentor the work force. The youth corps experience opens job opportunities because of the expertise developed working in the corps. States who have experienced problems working with youth corps are encouraged to talk to NASCC. Call NASCC at 202-737-6272, Kathleen Selz. E-mail: email@example.com; website: www.corpsnetwork.org.
National Trails Training Partnership
Deb Smith, Bureau of Land Management (BLM), spoke about the newly forming National Trails Training Partnership (NTTP). BLM sponsored a Trails Training Needs Assessment survey. It found a lack of training available for trail managers; this is a problem throughout the trails community. The survey found that most training comes from reading (82%), and trails are being maintained without training. Survey results can be found at www.ntc.blm.gov. The NTTP is developing a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to formulate a common vision for training. More information is at www.americantrails.org. The website will be a "one-stop-shopping" with postings of trail training courses, published materials, and trail expertise. The NTTP already includes 5 Federal agencies and 12 trail organizations. The trails community is welcome to participate to build the website information. Cam Lockwood, US Forest Service and Trails Unlimited (a new Forest Service enterprise unit), will be the convening leader for the NTTP in calendar year 2001.
National Trails System Act and related issues
Steve Elkinton, National Park Service, spoke about various trail topics. NPS is the lead agency to administer the National Trails System Act. NPS is developing a list of trainers with various trail expertise to go on the NTTP website. The newsletter Pathways, produced especially for the long distance trail community, offers networking opportunities for the trail community. Steve spoke about the National Trails System and the connection of the NTS within the States. He encouraged the integration of national trail planning with State trail planning. The National Scenic and National Historic Trails are becoming very popular. Buying land for historic trails is an issue in many States. Some States are using Transportation Enhancement funds to build visitors centers for historic trails. Many States are developing creative funding methods to meet their challenges. One major challenge is getting volunteer staff and energizing and motivating the staff; citizen involvement is very important. The White House Millennium Trails Program provided the opportunity to get recognition for trails in general.
Rory Robinson, NPS, discussed the revived National Recreation Trail (NRT) program, and the partnership between the National Park Service and other agencies. The NRT program recognizes trails of exemplary local or regional significance. The NRT designation cycle is tied to National Trails Day, a program of the American Hiking Society, held the first Saturday of June each year. The application deadline is November 1 each year. The trail must be open to public use, and designation must be supported by the landowner(s). The NPS Regional NRT coordinator will inform State Trail Administrators about NRT designation applications from their States, and request a letter of support from the States. The NRT program helps fulfill the vision of Trails for All Americans (1990 report). The NRT program acknowledges the accomplishments made by people at the State and local levels working on trails programs. For NRT brochures, contact the NPS at 202-565-1200, or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. The NRT brochure as well as applications for NRT designation can be downloaded from the web at: www.AmericanTrails.org/nationalrecreationtrails.
Recreational Trails Program Administration
There is an information breakdown problem with getting FHWA memos to the FHWA Division staff and to State administrators. Communication needs to be consistently good, and this is not happening across the board. Another problem is with revolving staff in some FHWA divisions; the new staff often do not understand the program issues.
The Coalition for Recreational Trails is asking States to submit RTP trail project information. So far, 30 states have responded on the types of projects and their funding sources. This information is important to show the benefits of the RTP to State trail programs.
Coordination and Environmental Clearance
Section 106 question: How to address the issue of crews working on various sites?
The FHWA New Jersey Division developed a Programmatic Agreement for the RTP to outline policy and procedures for environmental processing of certain Class II Categorical Exclusions under NEPA which normally are found to have no significant social, economic, or environmental effects. This was sent to FHWA division RTP contacts in November 1999. Many State RTP administrators didn't remember receiving a copy. It was sent again to FHWA division RTP contacts and to State trail administrators via email on 27 September 2000.
In Florida, the Office of Greenways and Trails, FHWA, and the Florida DOT worked cooperatively to develop / revise the RTP environmental process. It is based on the FDOT project development and environmental process, which is outlined in an FHWA/FDOT agreement.
The State DOTs and the RTP agencies need to work together. RTP projects need to be in the State STIP, and the transportation and recreational trail projects need to complement one another, so these programs should be integrated for the overall benefit of the public. RTP administrators would benefit from the NHI training course NEPA and Transportation Decisionmaking (NHI Course #14205). The target audience is FHWA, State DOTs (including consultants acting on behalf of the State), Federal and State environmental resource agencies, local governments, and MPOs who participate in the transportation decisionmaking process.
Programmatic exclusion (106). There is confusion whether the State should deal directly with the historic preservation agency (and not FHWA), generally the applicant understands the preservation issues (take out the middle person). Programming and project issues to need to be nurtured by the FHWA Division staff.
Consultation with the Indian tribes. Relationships between the Federal government, tribes, and the States with States and tribes is the issue. States with tribal reservations may have a DOT person who has expertise on tribal relationships and processes -- this could be an initial point of contact.
The working relationships between individual staff people are make the RTP work, but this should not be the driving force in getting things done. Relationships with State DOTs and RTP administrators are strained in some States. One problem may be that transportation agencies don't understand trail agencies. Some DOTs try to force transportation standards on trail projects, which can lead to overdesigning trails. In some States, the DOTs see the need to handle the RTP funds, but do not have trails issues as part of their mission. There are some good relationships when developing transportation enhancement projects possibly because there is a tie to transportation.
Research and Technology Development Topics
FHWA is working with the US Forest Service Technology and Development Center in Missoula MT to develop various tools and equipment to improve trail construction and maintenance. FHWA also is assisting to make USFS trail publications available to the public. These publications are listed at www.fhwa.dot.gov/environment/recreational_trails/publications/.
More work needs to be done to get information out and to develop links. The State Trail Administrators suggested several topic areas (listed below), and put their names next to topics which they considered highest priority. The list below is arranged in priority order.
|20||Evaluation of surface alternatives: urban, backcountry; what tools or machinery should be used; specifications, etc. Trail managers find that road mix on a trail doesn't function the same way as on a road. Trail equipment applies surfaces differently than highway equipment, so the application sometimes doesn't work. Engineers are not trained on trail application and design; often they want to transfer roadway engineering to trails.|
|18||Signage: standards, consistency, appropriateness for the environment, message, materials.|
|15||Best management practices for off highway vehicle use.|
|14||More basic trail design information, e.g., how to construct proper drainage. Could use both publications and videos.|
|14||Manuals for equestrian and motorized trails.|
|11||Sustainable trail design in highly erosive areas (for all trail uses).|
|11||Social research on user characteristics, behavior, etc.|
|10||We need a clearinghouse for "what's working" (best management practices, designs, etc.). NOTE: The American Trails website (www.americantrails.org) and the South Carolina website (www.SCTrails.net) both have a lot of resources.|
|9||Economic benefits of greenways and trails. Is there a formula?|
|9||Exploring design alternatives to get over physical barriers (such as highways, railroads). When it is appropriate to use bridges and tunnels?|
|8||Intersections and road crossings.|
|7||We need a clearinghouse for designs (e.g., bridges, cookie cutter designs). NOTE: FHWA already is working with the US Forest Service on this issue.|
|7||Trail user etiquette: consistent message and information for the public.|
|7||Different training outlets [Stuart: what does this mean? Is this what NTTP will do?]|
|6||Cross section design: both as policy and design specifications. How to optimize additional trail uses, future uses.|
|4||Update Trail Construction and Maintenance Notebook (Forest Service, 1998). NOTE: The 2000 version will be available in late 2000.|
|4||Trails training for engineers.|
|2||Snowmobile grooming equipment.|
|1||Disposal of old toxic materials and parts.|
|1||How landowners perceive land valuations; are there urban or rural differences|
|0||Getting rid of old railroad ties.|
Except for the snow grooming equipment (AK and ND being snow States), there were no significant regional patterns in any of the topic areas; topics were supported by a cross section of States across the nation. Christopher Douwes, FHWA, thanks the Administrators for these topic ideas. These ideas will help FHWA work with the Forest Service on the highest priority topics.
Accessibility and the Americans with Disabilities Act
Peter Axelson, Beneficial Designs, Inc., discussed accessibility issues: adaptive equipment, accessible design, and the Universal Trail Assessment Process (UTAP). He explained why it is important for trails to be accessible for people with disabilities. He explained findings and best practices which will be published in FHWA's report Designing Sidewalks and Trails for Access. Note: All State Trail Administrators will receive a copy of this report when it is available.
A summary of the accessibility proposals for trails and other outdoor recreation facilities is found at www.AmericanTrails.org/resources/accessible/index.html. The report of the Regulatory Negotiation Committee on Accessibility Guidelines for Outdoor Developed Areas is at www.access-board.gov. Click on Publications, and scroll down to find the report. The report includes a chart which compares the committee's recommendations with the AASHTO Guide for the Development of Bicycle Facilities. An updated chart was provided at the meeting.
Millennium Trails Program
Jeff Olson discussed the success of the Millennium Trails Program. The MTP brought positive attention to trails. This will be carried on through the revitalized National Recreation Trails program (discussed earlier).
State Trail Administrator Networking
The administrators discussed networking possibilities:
Forming an e-mail listserve. It was decided that the current e-mail network administered by Stuart Macdonald is sufficient.
Forming a trail coordinator professional organization. Barbara McMillen suggested looking into the structure of the Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals. No action was decided upon.
Meeting more than every 2 years. A majority of the administrators present agreed it would be a good idea to meet in conjunction with the Rails to Trails Conservancy's International Trails and Greenways Conference, which will be held September 26-29, 2001, in St Louis MO. The State Trail Administrators are likely to meet on September 24-25. Note: the State DOT Transportation Enhancement Coordinators also are likely to meet on September 24-25. One possibility is to have a joint session (or at least a lunch) with the TE coordinators.
Working to identify upcoming surface transportation and RTP legislative reauthorization issues. Dan Collins, MN; Dick Westfall, IL; Mark Mandenburg, MI; and Alex Weiss, FL volunteered to work with Stuart Macdonald, CO, to discuss legislative issues for the next authorization and to act as a committee to put the agenda together for the next meeting. Note: the Coalition for Recreational Trails also is beginning to discuss issues for reauthorization.
South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism has a trail bibliography with over 2000 references on their website: www.SCTrails.net.
Florida DEP has a website on trails and designs on their website: www.dep.state.fl.us/gwt/grants/.
FHWA has bicycle and pedestrian publications available at: www.fhwa.dot.gov/environment/bicycle_pedestrian/.
Other information is available from the Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center operated by the University of North Carolina Highway Safety Research Center at www.walkinginfo.org or www.bicyclinginfo.org.
Other Identified Needs and Issues
|California||Doug Wilbur, Bill Haas (FHWA)|
|Georgia||Trudy Davis, Joshua Grzegorzewski (FHWA)|
|Illinois||Dick Westfall, Mark Yergler, Dave Sellman|
|Kentucky||Buddy Renaker, Alan Ritchie (FHWA)|
|Maine||Mike Gallagher, Dick Spicer (FHWA)|
|Minnesota||Dan Collins, Tim Mitchell|
|Missouri||Deb Schnack, Steve Burdic|
|New Hampshire||Bob Spoerl|
|New York||Bill Gates (FHWA)|
|North Carolina||Darrell McBane, Michael Dawson (FHWA)|
|North Dakota||Marlina Walth|
|Oregon||Sean Loughran, Roger Skoe (FHWA)|
|South Carolina||Jim Schmid|
|South Dakota||Scott Carbonneau|
|West Virginia||Bill Robinson|
|Wyoming||Kim Raap, Teri Manning|
|Federal Highway Administration||Christopher Douwes, Barbara McMillen|
|National Park Service||Steve Elkinton|
|Bureau of Land Management||Deb Smith|