Skip to content U.S. Department of Transportation/Federal Highway AdministrationU.S. Department of Transportation/Federal Highway Administration
Office of Planning, Environment, & Realty (HEP)

2005 State Trail Administrators Meeting


Meeting Notes

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Introductions / State Show and Tell

Mary Fitch (OH)
Ohio has copies of a survey on State trail planning available. All responses are focused on nonmotorized users. There were a few responses on motorized uses but didn't include them since they were not many. You may contact Mary Fitch for a copy of the survey. Copies will also be made available on in the Planning section of Resources area.

Ohio has a new water trails program, but some local people are opposed to any designations while others are very interested. Ohio also has a new environmental checklist. They found that a lot of applicants were doing a lot of expensive work with consultants when they really didn't have any major issues while others had wetlands and other issues that should have been better addressed. She recently took a week-long National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) course and found it very extensive and useful []. You can find out more about Ohio's grant programs by going to

Alex Weiss (FL)
Alex is working with Bob Walker (MT), Wendy Coplen (formerly of SC), and NOHVCC as part of a national working group looking at issues of trail safety and liability which developed out of concern about insurance for recreation areas and Off Highway Vehicle (OHV) parks. She has created a survey which she wants to send out to all State RTP administrators. If you are interested in participating in the survey please contact directly. Alex will accept responses electronically as well as through the Postal Service. [Note: Christopher Douwes sent the survey to State Trail Administrators on October 6.]

The goal of the survey is to work with insurance companies and National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) on best practices for managing perceived high-risk recreation. Private and public land managers will be able to use management practices to make insurance more available and affordable. This strategy is modeled on what the snowmobile groups have done to address liability concerns.

Of particular interest is how different agencies are handling high-risk activities. Manufacturers of OHVs will not be able to participate in the working group due to liability concerns.

Florida had a major project pull out because the attorneys feared liability issues. Pennsylvania and Florida both tried to modify State statutes, but failed. The biggest concern is irresponsible use. Parks need to have rules, enforcement, and proper design. If they are able to prove that they can manage riding areas effectively then they will be able to get insurance.

Requested deadline for completing the National Association of OHV Program Managers (NAOPM) survey is Nov. 30, 2005 with hopes to present the results at the March 2006 National Off Highway Vehicle Conservation Council (NOHVCC - meeting in Alabama.

Florida has a contract with University of Florida to collect Global Positioning System (GPS) data on trails and greenways for several years and has updated all of its opportunity maps so the public can see trails on the Internet. All new RTP projects in Florida will require GPS data in the application and planning stages.

Florida is developing a trail user education program and developing interpretive master plan for trails as well as developing a program to address issues improving safety and protecting resources. If anyone has any good programs please share with Florida.

Bob Richards (TN)
Bob has copies of the 2003-08 Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan (SCORP) and Greenways and Trails Plan available and is working on a draft RTP application which will be made available on the State website []. He also has an executive summary of the program, brochures, and a newsletter called Greenways and Trails tidbits available online.

He is working on coordinating with others to get trails mapped with GPS. He would like to get GPS data which has already been collected by other agencies rather than paying for new redundant collections. He has organized an advisory group which is trying to set standards by land breakdowns such as Federal, State, and private.

In Connecticut a lot of GPS work is being done but in a jumble of formats and they are unsure about how to ask for data.

Potential topic for the next meeting: How can States develop trail data standards which match with the new National Trail Data Standards?

Michael Jackson (MD)
Mr. Jackson is the Bike/Ped program manager for MD DOT and focuses on paved trails. He is planning to do a trail managers summit to look at best practices. His main concerns are about crime and safety, better connections with the road network, and maintenance procedures that will help trails be more usable.

Michelle Scalise (OR)
Oregon recently developed a statewide action plan for trails largely modeled after Pennsylvania's. It includes information about alternative funding sources available and is on Oregon State parks website in the planning section ( Michelle also has a new water trails plan.

Bryan Alexander (GA)
Georgia was using a percentage of RTP education dollars to fund a trail education specialist employed by the local college. The trail specialist was giving courses on trail design and was consulting on trail projects statewide. The biggest challenge has been to get essential supervision of the position. Question from the group: Why not get person to work for the State? Answer: Too much work for the trails program. There are not enough resources to manage someone and it already had become a "maintenance headache". The person who used to have the position resigned in the middle of our efforts to work out issues of supervision. As of the beginning of October, a new hire fills the position. TN suggested hiring a person part-time through a local trail organization. This person would hopefully have some pre-existing knowledge of the subject and supervision through their organization.

Question: Can States use RTP funds for grants for trail safety and education?

Answer: Christopher Douwes said that the States need to decide what to do with their funds. They may either use them for a State-run program or give out grants. The intent of the SAFETEA-LU amendment was to clarify eligibility for many activities the States were already doing.

The education section has been amended to allow more activities such as development and dissemination of publications. Also, the monitoring of environment and trail-related training, as long as it is related to safety and environmental protection, is allowed. Law enforcement patrols are not eligible for funding, but paying for safety or educational patrols is allowed.

This allows planning, design, etc. Please see Section (d)(2)(G) in the legislation for more information.

Return to Table of Contents

Nongovernmental Organization Updates

Stuart Macdonald (American Trails)

We feel that the States are the vital link between Federal land managers, communities, and local trail groups. We want to be sure that States take advantage of opportunities to recognize trails and trail advocates through a variety of available resources and programs.

The National Trails Training Partnership (NTTP) encourage States to work more cooperatively with other agencies and organizations by making trails training more available. Please submit any training opportunities you may know about to NTTP by sending an e-mail to Stuart Macdonald [].

We encourage States to take advantage of opportunities to recognize trails through the National Recreation Trails program. National Recreation Trails may be designated by the Secretary of Interior or the Secretary of Agriculture to recognize exemplary trails of local and regional significance in response to an application from the trail's managing agency or organization. Through designation, these trails are recognized as part of America's national system of trails.

Every 2 years the National Trails awards are presented at the National Trails Symposium. The Spring 2005 Trail Tracks highlighted the winners. Every State can potentially receive an award in two categories: Trail Worker and Trails Advocacy. This year Deb Schnack (recently retired from Missouri State Parks) won a lifetime achievement award.

National Wildlife Refuges have nominated several of their nature trails recently. Designated NRTs can have a web page made for them and hosted on the NRT website. Several States have NOT nominated new NRTs in the several years since we have revitalized the program and we really encourage nominations from these States: Alabama, Delaware, Hawaii, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, and Utah.

The Coalition for Recreational Trails presents awards for RTP-funded projects annually. There are nine categories of awards. This year's award recipients are presented on the American Trails Website at

Scott Linnenburger (International Mountain Bicycling Association) (IMBA)

IMBA has been doing trail skills training for several States in 3-4 day formats, from basic skills to mechanized trail building courses. The Trail Care Crew trains volunteers and helps clubs get more involved. Trail Solutions is available for a fee to do training for staff.

Scott mentioned how times have changed from when they used to need to beg States to attend training sessions to now getting over 250 applications for training yearly.

Most IMBA training focuses on etiquette and/or sustainability by leading groups on how to build and maintain trails. One goal of building sustainable trails is to keep the long-term maintenance costs down.

Although IMBA was started to promote mountain bicycling they focus a lot of attention on shared use advocacy. Planning and building trails for all user types helps keep the focus on building good trails. Trails that fit in well with the surrounding environment and promote shared use help reduce user conflict and help keep trails open for everyone to enjoy.

The National Mountain Bike Patrol is a non-enforcement program fundable by RTP education funds. BLM says it would like to do more cooperative agreements. IMBA is currently revamping the program, working more closely with the national ski patrol. "National Take a Kid Mountain Biking Day" was recognized by Congress as the first Saturday each October. It is also a good way to get families involved together in physical activity and to show elected officials the importance of trails. It also emphasizes etiquette and good behavior on trails.

The Urban Hotspots Program is geared to increasing mountain bike access in cities. Also focus of greenspace and ways to get people living in cities outside. The program can also help prepare people to learn how to be a better trail user outside of cities.

Jeff Ciabotti (Rails to Trails Conservancy) (RTC)

The Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC) is an advocate for trails and trail friendly policy including the Transportation Enhancements program. Jeff learned about the complexity involved with working to get trails on the ground from working in Florida in the field and now also at national level working at RTC.

There are a number of training events the RTC sponsors such as Trails 101, Successful Trail Strategies, and other educational programs which you can get more information about by going to

RTC is looking to establish more partnerships with the State administrators and other nonprofits. They have some big goals for the next 5 years. They hope to help develop a regional, statewide, and national trails network. They hope that by the year 2020 everyone in the nation will live within 3 miles of a trail system.

Their biggest overall goal is connectivity. They have an in-house GIS person who is going through the info gathering process to map all open and project status rail-trails. They want to put all this data together with State GIS data to see how the systems are starting to emerge. RTC is interested in working with state administrators to identify criteria for what a "trail system" is and how to measure a successful system. Many questions predicted to arise from this conversation.

Another goal is to double Federal investment in trails and greenways. Not just RTP, but Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Health and Human Services (HHS), etc. Many agencies informally fund programs and they want to increase and formalize the process.

RTC is establishing new regional offices transitioning from their State based model. They expect new regional directors to get out and meet all State Administrators within their region and develop strong partnerships.

Rich Dolesh (National Recreation and Park Association) (NRPA)

NRPA is a national nonprofit service organization with over 20,000 members. They mainly work on conservation and park related issues. Rich Dolesh is the Acting Director of Public Policy.

Rich outlined an initiative for a series of State level trails workshops that NRPA will develop in cooperation with several other partners including State park and recreation associations. They will focus on trail planning, management, and education related to measuring gains in individual and community health from the use of trails. Rich emphasized the importance of setting goals and measuring performance in this initiative. Rich invited the State Trail Administrators, individually and collectively, to express their interest in participating in this developing initiative.

By way of background, Rich talked about the example of the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) [] State assistance program, which was proposed for termination in the 2006 budget, partly because it had no adequate performance measures and performance goals. In 2003, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) gave the LWCF a rating of "results not demonstrated" based on a perceived lack of national goals. The National Park Service disputed these findings with OMB, but gained little headway. OMB agreed it was a great program for distributing funds, but explained that the program didn't have adequate national performance measures and goals in place. The LWCF State assistance program makes matching grants to States that determine their own statewide goals.

The LWCF has been a great way to fund projects of State and local importance, but it has suffered because it was not adequately measuring performance. This need for performance goals and performance measures that show the program is contributing to national priorities is likely to be seen in other conservation and recreation areas that come under Federal scrutiny. One lesson learned from the experience of the LWCF is that States should consider strategic plans for their trails programs to show better ties to national priorities and goals that justify the Federal investment of RTP and other funds.

NRPA is trying to make the best connections of federally funded programs, especially those in SAFETEA-LU that are linked to positive outcomes for health. While we all intuitively believe that trails improve health, there are few performance measures that can show the use of trails is a way to meet national goals for reducing obesity and preventing chronic disease conditions, even though an increasing body of knowledge shows that trail use helps people meet daily physical activity recommendations. This initiative to develop a series of trails workshops with State park and recreation associations will attempt to build in a longer term research component that will try to quantify how the use of trails and parks can lead to improved individual and public health. NRPA is working on developing or adapting assessment tools that can be used by trail managers to measure health outcomes.

Nathan Caldwell from the USFWS will send information on "Conserve by Bicycle," which is funding pilot projects in several States in cooperation with National Science Foundation. A physical activity plan for Maryland is underway in cooperation with Bicycle and Pedestrian program.

Return to Table of Contents

State Assumption of Responsibilities - Christopher Douwes

Section 6003: State Assumption of Responsibilities for Certain Programs and Projects (Recreational Trails Program [RTP] and Transportation Enhancements [TE])

Section 6003 of the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU) established a pilot program for States to assume the responsibilities of the Secretary of Transportation for environmental reviews, consultation, or decisionmaking or other actions under the Recreational Trails Program and Transportation Enhancement activities.

The Pilot Program requires the following:


FHWA's initial assessment is that the Section 6003 pilot program is more documentation-intensive than currently existing environmental streamlining provisions, and may not be worthwhile to implement. States should first implement currently existing environmental streamlining options using existing authorities to enter into programmatic agreements. States interested in section 6003 should implement Section 6004 (Categorical Exclusions) before attempting to implement Section 6003. By implementing Section 6004, States may account for 75% to 95% of RTP and TE projects.

FHWA will assess State interest in the Section 6003 provision. If there is interest, FHWA will develop application procedures and more information after more immediate SAFETEA-LU implementation requirements are met.

States will have the ability to assume responsibilities of State Secretary of Transportation for environmental decisions. If enough States are interested than an application process needs to be developed.

States can already assume much responsibility through Programmatic Agreements. See examples at FHWA may amend the list of Categorical Exclusions in 23 CFR 771.117 by adding some kinds of trails and enhancement projects.

Christopher distributed handouts which contained the related legislation. They are available below.

Return to Table of Contents

Update on Reauthorization of Federal Transportation Funding - Christopher Douwes

Christopher is updating the RTP guidance and encourages input from the States. Everyone was given a draft paper copy of the updated guidance. The updates will be available on the RTP website [] when this revision is complete. The guidance document will continue to be updated when clarification is needed.

There were some changes in SAFETEA-LU. The Federal share is now according to sliding scale. The same sliding scale used for administrative funds is now applicable to all RTP funds. In Federal Highway Programs, western States typically have higher Federal Shares.

Planning and environmental assessment costs can now be counted as a non-Federal match assuming they have properly documented their expenses. State Historic Preservation Officer (SHPO) expenses could be eligible as long as it is a requirement for approval. There is a limit of 18 months prior to project approval for costs to be considered for eligibility. There is the potential that a project sponsor may exceed that limit, but the limit is in place to keep people from using environmental approvals from years ago, since the environment could easily have changed within that time. Project approval is when FHWA approves the project.

RTP funds can be used to match other Federal Highway funded projects, but still needs to conform to the 80-20 match requirement. All Federal Highway project funds can match RTP funds provided the project is also eligible under the other Federal-aid highway program category.

The 30 percent waivers have been eliminated.

State committee requirements have been revised. Also, Christopher doesn't plan on bugging States in the future for meeting minutes. He will send an official memo well prior to the deadline. The States know they are responsible for meeting this requirement. See the guidance on the State Recreational Trail Advisory Committee.

The reason the 2004 and 2005 apportionments are different is because 2004 funds were subject to a Congressional reduction. It appears the reductions initially affecting the 2005 funds were superseded through reauthorization. See for additional information.

Projects under budget: Don't deobligate funds in September and expect to reobligate in October. Funds need to be obligated within four years but don't have to be paid out for another 5 years. See the Program Guidance on Obligation and Spending Guidelines. Also, note that it is generally acceptable to deobligate and reobligate funds within the same fiscal year.

Assessment of trails for accessibility and maintenance is now "officially" an eligible activity. It is basically a clarification of an activity which was already eligible.

Educational projects: This is one item that has changed the most. One thing that didn't make the list is clarification that Youth Corps funding is eligible however, SAFETEA-LU repeated the requirement to encourage States to use Youth Corps. Development and dissemination of publications are now an eligible use of education funds. States are encouraged to share publications with other States for their use. For an example, see "The Greenways and Trails Journey" at

Another new item in the legislation is the clarification that the operation of educational programs to promote safety and environmental protection as they relate to the use of Recreational Trails and non-law enforcement trail safety/use monitoring is an eligible activity. Also, States can now fund trail related training, i.e. UTAP or trail assessment processes, or trail planning, design, construction, and maintenance. However club formation or grant writing training is not eligible.

States are encouraged to use Disadvantaged Business Enterprises (DBE) whenever possible. It is an aspirational goal though not a requirement. Do your best to use DBE.

Accessibility: Where specific activities like trails have no ADA regulations, we should use the best information available. Christopher suggests reviewing the 1999 Outdoor Developed Areas Report. More information and links to the report can be found at: Also see the USDA Forest Service Accessibility guidelines at

Return to Table of Contents


This discussion is based on the responses outlined in the Questions and Answers document prepared before the meeting. Below is a partial capture of the responses as they were presented at the meeting. Please refer to the Questions and Answers document for more detailed responses.

Eligible Facilities: Historical and cultural facilities could be funded as important features of a recreational trails project. States should involve their State Trail Committees and engage trails interests in identifying priorities for funding. It is up to the States to decide specifically what they will fund since the national committee was not very restrictive on allowable expenditures. See the quote from the committee in 1992.

Project Sponsors: At issue is a groomer on a cross country ski area, while operated by a for-profit company, is located on State park. Nevada attempted to lease it to private operator, but the FHWA division office decided that was ineligible. Perhaps the State could submit the project on its own behalf and own and operate the groomer while still helping the ski area. An issue which has come up in past years is spending money on privately owned areas.

Tribal government eligibility: Tribal governments may sponsor RTP projects. The question is whether a State can choose to not allow tribes to sponsor a project. In the Oregon case, the trail would be open to the public. Other reservations have invited the public to use ATV trails on their land. Oregon is waiting for an official answer.

RTP Fund Availability (40-30-30 requirement)
See the RTP Fund Availability in the Q&A.

Conformity Lapse: If a transportation improvement program (TIP) is incomplete (not in conformity with air quality requirements or not in effect, etc.) then no project can move forward, including RTP projects.

SHPO Project Review: A Nevada project is being held up by the local SHPO office. A categorical exclusion for trail maintenance does not eliminate SHPO review.

Allowable Costs: There are no specific guidelines for which trail crew expenditures are allowable or not allowable. Should project sponsors be less explicit about their exact expenditures, and concentrate more on the product such as building or maintaining so many feet of trail, just like a contractor would do?

Return to Table of Contents


Strengthening Partnerships Between States and FHWA Division Offices

Scott Carbonneau (SD)
It comes down to one word: communication. If anything doesn't work, it is due to the lack of a programmatic agreement. Currently FHWA requires an archaeological survey in South Dakota. The State asks applicants to budget $1,000 for an archaeological survey to be done after the projects are selected for funding. The State reimburses 80% of cost. There are similar concerns by the State Historic Preservation Officer (SHPO) in Nevada, where notice to proceed is delayed even further. In SD the hope is that a programmatic agreement will clarify and streamline these holdups in the process. Such an agreement for the LWCF program works well. There is a nationwide programmatic agreement for Transportation Enhancements (see Christopher will check to see if it is transferable to RTP. States should have two programmatic agreements, one for SHPO and one for FHWA (or one combined agreement among the three agencies). Kathy Dimpsey will check on Pennsylvania's agreement with SHPO.

[Post Meeting Followup]: The Nationwide Programmatic Agreement for Transportation Enhancements was developed in 1997. It was specific for Transportation Enhancement Activities, and was not transferable to other FHWA programs. Rulemaking from the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation on August 4, 2004 ( has made this programmatic agreement obsolete. However, all States may develop their own programmatic agreements among the State agency, the SHPO, and the FHWA Division. If States have examples available, please provide a weblink to, or send the example to him for posting on FHWA's RTP website.

Long term, FHWA should develop new nationwide programmatic agreements both for TE and the RTP.

It is also recommended that States include the Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, and other Federal agencies when developing program agreements. A concern in Nevada is that SHPO is requiring cultural and archaeological surveys of even very small projects. Project sponsors can't afford the additional cost, and SHPO could shut down volunteer trail work with this requirement. We would like to share information on environmental checklists from various States. There should be little or no difference in environmental clearance requirements for various land ownership. If States have examples available, please provide a weblink to, or send the example to him for posting on FHWA's RTP website. State work is needed for agency reviews that can be funded through RTP.

Prior to project approval an archaeological survey is eligible as a match; after approval it is eligible as a cost.

Including FHWA staff in State trails committee meetings is also helpful. They can get a better idea of the issues and how the decisions are made.

It is surprising that any FHWA offices find the time to micromanage RTP projects or create obstacles. The funds still have to go through the State DOT, where they have to handle the money but get nothing in return. The 106 issue apparently is handled very differently from State to State. It is likely that more States will have to deal with it as more SHPO staff talk to their peers. Should States begin talking to SHPO offices now? An ideal arrangement would be if SHPO would look at potential projects and determine where areas of concern are.

Endangered species: A good source of information for learning about NEPA is an intensive FHWA course. The course travels all over the country. While it is oriented for highway projects there is a three-day version that is very applicable for trails.

Compensation for advisory committee members: you should provide funding for their expenses from administrative funds. In California, committee members are signed on as volunteers that cover them for injuries and make it easy to pay their expenses.

You are required to follow the Uniform Act for acquisition of property. Every State highway department has a manual, approved by FHWA, that applies when you are using Federal funds to acquire land. The Acquisition Guide for Local Public Agencies (LPA Guide) is an FHWA publication. Your FHWA office can give it to you in print or on a disk. The basic rule is you have to determine the value of a property and then make that offer to the landowner. After that, the owner may choose to negotiate. A land trust organization may be excepted from that requirement. In addition, you cannot use RTP funds for purchase under condemnation, nor can you use the value of condemned land toward the match for an RTP project.

Allowable Costs

For the costs of a Use the principles in
State, local, or Indian tribal government. OMB Circular A-87.
Private, nonprofit organization. OMB Circular A-122.
Educational institutions. OMB Circular A-21.
For-profit organization. 48 CFR Part 31.


Notes are not available for this topic.

Return to Table of Contents

Sept 21 - Wednesday

White Clay State Park, Delaware - Bryan's Field Trail Loop

Delaware uses RTP funds to pay for the whole trail crew of five people; some seasonal, some contractual. They can work in State parks statewide as well as some technical assistance. Includes computers for Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and mapping, and mechanized equipment. Comment from Nevada: using RTP funds this year to hire a 10-person Americorps trail crew.

David Bartoo, Scott Linnenburger, and other DE State Parks staff took participants on a field trip around the trail system to discuss various issues related to trail construction, maintenance, sustainability, and environmental issues.

Trailhead parking: Remote location can cause problems in a suburban area. Putting a parking lot at the top of a hill is common; but drainage off the lot can affect trails, and all the trails go downhill, which tend to follow the fall line.

Return to Table of Contents

THURSDAY September 22, 2005
Bellevue State Park, Wilmington, Delaware

Session on UTAP, Accessibility, and Sustainability

Patti Longmuir

"It is better to anticipate and prevent than to clean up after the fact."

What is your definition of sustainable trail design?
- a trail that will be there 40 years from now
- a trail that will be used

One definition of sustainable design in the big picture: "Making choices that simultaneously enhance or maintain the well being of both people and ecosystems while not placing unbearable burdens-- environmental, economic, or social-- on future generations." -- The United Nations Brundtland Commission, 1987

The cost of trails: they aren't free and they have a cost over time: environmental, social, and economic.

Environmental sustainability:
- enhancing the ecosystem
- providing environmental education
- partnerships for environmental conservation and preservation
- trails as alternative transportation
- water and wastewater conservation

Social sustainability:
- are people of different ages and abilities going to be able to use the trail
- opportunities for recreation and healthy living
- respect for cultural diversity
- access to all communities, access by public transportation
- social impact on community
- heritage preservation and education

Economic sustainability:
- green building practices
- enhancing the capital base
- evaluation of trail costs and benefits
- demonstration of innovative and cost effective trail development
- planning your trail for all users

Plan designs for all users:
- know the range of abilities (e.g. speed, balance, coordination)
- design based on user abilities
- design based on intended user experience
- goal is a trail that's interesting and goes somewhere

The future:
- older adults are increasingly using parks and trails
- people with disabilities are increasing as baby boomers age
- Spanish-speaking populations increase
- unfit and obese people of all ages, including children, are typical
- tourists are a big part of visitation, many from overseas

What is the purpose of a trail?
- experience the environment
- recreation
- transportation

For the manager, an important point is that trails focus user impacts on a prepared trail tread. For a well-designed, sustainable trail: 90% of impacts from a trail happen during the construction, 5% after the first year of use, and after that user impacts should be minimal.

What causes trails to impact the environment:
- characteristics of trail and environment
- initial construction
- intensity of use

Accessible information:
- Know your trail conditions
- Key information: length, width, cross slope, grade, surface, features, and facilities
- Helps you manage, maintain, and protect your trail
- Helps trail users know what to expect

Indicators of Environmental Sustainability; examples include:
- percent of trail in forest cover
- percent of trail with vegetation cover
- change in number of non-native species
- change in the number of desired species
- change in trail width and surface characteristics

Indicators of social sustainability
- number of visitors to the trail
- accessibility of the park in all seasons to people of all ages and abilities
- trail use opportunities
- increased value of adjacent lands
- progress toward fundraising and nonprofit support for the trail
- high level of engagement by residents
- well known identify of the trail
- degree of investment by local business as well as land managers

Make your trail more sustainable:
- avoid laughable designs that make accessibility look silly ("design tragedies")
- expect the unexpected: new uses, people with disabilities
- if you can't make it accessible for a variety of reasons, don't ruin the environment
- signs to tell people what isn't accessible, especially if it's down the trail a long ways
- ensure your park or trail provides the best experience

American Trails is coordinating training
- one day overview
- two day UTAP workshop
- two day sustainable trail construction

Contact American Trails at or (530) 547-2060

Return to Table of Contents


Janet Zeller, USDA Forest Service, National Accessibility Program Manager - 202-205-9597

Bill Botten, US Access Board, Washington, DC - 202-272-0014

People with and without disabilities seek the kinds of experiences they desire. Well designed trails are more accessible for all kinds of users. So, what are the legal requirements from an accessibility standpoint?

Accessibility requirements go back to The Architectural Barriers Act of 1968 and Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Section 504. The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 stated that programs and facilities are to be accessible. New construction and alteration is to be accessible by State and local governments, including transportation. Department regulations implement Section 504 depending on which Federal agency has jurisdiction.

Under those laws and regulations all are required to follow legal standard accessibility guidelines for all new construction or alteration. They cover the built environment but not the natural environment, including trails.

USFS has been concerned about this for some time. In 1993 USFS wrote Universal Access to Outdoor Recreation, A Design Guide. In 1997 the US Access Board in 1997 convened the Regulatory Negotiation Committee on Outdoor Developed Areas to develop regulations for trails, beach access, picnic and camping areas. The Access Board has developed regulations for many other specific types of facilities. Recently did a revision of the architectural standards after 10 years in use. The Regulatory Negotiation proposal for trails would apply to newly designed and constructed pedestrian trails and to altered portions of existing pedestrian trails connecting to an accessible trail or designated trailhead. If you are "redirecting" the trail it is considered an alteration. A general approach is to assume accessibility when designing and constructing new trails.

Four conditions for departure from specific technical provisions where certain conditions exist:

  1. substantial harm to cultural, historic, religious, or significant natural features or characteristics
  2. substantially alter the nature of the setting or the purpose of the trail
  3. require construction methods or materials that are prohibited by Federal, State, or local regulations
  4. not feasible due to terrain or the prevailing construction practices

General exemptions:

Proposed regulations identify various trail technical provisions which need consideration when working towards meeting the accessibility standards. Those provisions are: Firm and stable surface, running slope, cross slope, resting intervals, openings, clear tread width, passing space, tread obstacles, protruding objects, signs, tread obstacles two or more inches high, create a passing space where the trail is less than 60 inches wide every 1000 feet, running slope can be no more than 30% of the trail length to exceed 1 in 12.

Resting areas:
1:20 any distance without resting interval
1:12 resting intervals required every 200 feet
1:10 every 30 feet
1:8 every 10 feet

Beach Access Route
The need for beach access routes are triggered where ever pedestrian routes are provided. ADAAG differentiates between new and existing beaches. Some people access fully assisted programs with large tired beach wheelchairs.

Other elements addressed:

The goal is to create a clear space of 28 by 48 inches around usable portions of elements. Consider reach range and operation requirements and make sure there is a clear space for drainage. California is now following the Regulatory Negotiation proposal in all new construction.

How long away is another regulatory assessment?
We don't know; at least a couple more years.

Where does that leave you in decision making?
You should use the best design information and practices currently available to incorporate into your design.

Why does USFS have their own guidelines for trails and outdoor areas? See
The USFS needed to develop its own guidelines so that it could continue to construct its recreation facilities without waiting for final Access Board guidelines.


The exception process allows a trail designer to depart from guidelines for conditions of extreme slope, loose soils, or other difficulties. Return to the guidelines for the rest of the trail or until the next difficult condition. The goal is to maintain a natural setting while providing accessibility routes.

The USFS and other Federal land management agencies will work with the Access Board in developing the final Access Board guidelines for outdoor developed areas, including trails, as they apply to Federal agencies only.

In summary:

Return to Table of Contents

Universal Trail Assessment Process (UTAP)

Mike Passo, American Trails Board Member

The greatest barrier to trail use is lack of knowledge about actual trail conditions. Accessibility is 80% information. All users and land managers need accurate trail data. Objective trail information typically is very limited. How can we improve on the usual posting of a wheelchair symbol on a sign. Don't make a general assumption about what is and isn't "accessible." What we need to convey is the actual experience, not just certify that a trail is built to indoor wheelchair standards.

Universal design is a process of making outdoor recreation available to as many people as possible. Principles include flexible use and simple and intuitive use.

What types of information do you have for your trail? Good sign systems and maps? Accessibility information? The whole idea of UTAP is to gather objective information and to not make judgments like, this is an accessible trails and this one isn't.

UTAP is suitable for any trail or path of travel in an outdoor environment. UTAP gathers objective information on many aspects of trail use that can help land managers. Information gathered should include data on access and use, construction and maintenance, mapping and interpretation, environmental protection and management, and compliance with design standards.

UTAP records typical and extreme values of trail measurements, such as:
- average grade
- maximum grade
- lets users know what is feasible for them

Surface: firmness category and surface type
A good natural surface trail can be very firm and stable. Softer surfaces require much more effort by wheelchair users. Rain and snow will affect the usability. Wood chips generally are not firm and stable, nor are they sustainable. Engineered wood fibers depend on the individual product; some are accessibile but some are not.

Two key tools are the digital smart level and the clinometer. The level can be used to check how steep short sections of trails are. The clinometer determines average grade or slope on longer sections of trail. The level also determines cross slope of the trail.

Features and facilities: location, type, description, dimensions. It would be good to know what is the main feature of a trail, such as scenic viewpoints or experiences.

Obstacles are the other key elements that determine whether a trail can be used. Height of rocks, clear width of the remaining trail, other obstacles.

Goal is to help people be informed and prepared with good signs, maps, detailed access information. See for examples on the web.

Users benefit from consistent information, increased independence, increased opportunities for enjoyment. Help people have more access to outdoor recreation.

Trail managers benefit from UTAP: budgeting, maintenance information, identify work priorities, identifying problem areas, monitoring environmental impact, increase user safety and satisfaction, providing more opportunities for more potential visitors. Information gathered can also mesh with GIS data.

Goal of American Trails is to make UTAP training more available, and to learn from others using UTAP.

Surveyed 47 State trail administrators
28% have been through the training
17% have not heard of UTAP
98% say UTAP would benefit their State

Agreement of how UTAP could benefit them, but how to make it a priority is the problem. Obstacles including having enough staff time to do the training, and then to do the actual assessments. A current project has been to enable a single person to complete the assessment. A wheeled device is being developed.

Suggestions from States:
Need more staff to coordinate projects Develop information resources for promoting UTAP to supervisors. Subsidize and offer training to people that need it, rather than just State trail administrators. According to FHWA, other people can be funded by RTP to get training.

Planned course of action:
- marketing UTAP
- restructure the UTAP course offerings to meet different needs
- work with FHWA to allow scholarships for people other than State trail administrators
- encourage Federal level adoption of UTAP

UTAP is a tool for understanding trail conditions and therefore is equally useful for assessing compliance with any design standard-- not just accessibility.

Return to Table of Contents

WALK and TALK on the Trails at Bellevue State Park

Small groups led by:
- Scott Linnenburger and Stuart Macdonald
- Janet Zeller and Christopher Douwes
- Patti Longmuir
- Mike Passo

CASE STUDIES and Questions and Answers

Sweetwater Boardwalk
The Division of Forestry developed this project. They used staff labor and other in-kind contributions, funded by RTP. Boardwalk was a way to develop accessible trail through an area that did not have trail connections before. Local business donated three outdoor-type wheelchairs which can be obtained from a ranger. School groups use the trail for environmental education. This is the first time any new recreational facility funding had gone into this State forest for 25 years. Encouraged additional recreational improvements. Built big suspension bridge as part of the project. Note that trail should be wide at each end of a long bridge for easy passing zones.

Emerson Point Preserve
Challenge is to preserve cultural and natural features. Archaeologist had to be on site through whole project to adjust the trail as needed to reduce impacts. Trail is firm crushed limestone surface. It took a while to stabilize. Horses can walk or trot, but not canter or gallop so they don't tear up surface. Permeable asphalt used on some roads which percolates better than a limestone road surface.

Missouri equestrian mounting ramp
Allows wheelchair users or others like short people to easily mount a horse by going up a ramp parallel to the trail.

High Country Trail, Michigan
Unique timber bridges on a remote backcountry hiking trail. Bikes are allowed to use it. Nearest road access a mile away so bridge was prefabricated. Current wood treatments require use of stainless steel fittings instead of galvanized. State will not build an obstruction, even where trail bridge is in a remote location. Total cost was $152,000 including all permits and services, bid out to contractors.

Florida is using steel and other materials in addition to wood. In Michigan they need to use wood.

Return to Table of Contents


For the next STAM, Christopher has decided we need to be at the National Trails Symposium in 2006. For 2007 there is an offer from Missouri, and a joint offer from California and Nevada at Lake Tahoe. Also received a proposal for Deadwood, South Dakota with an opportunity to visit the Mickelson Trail. Another opportunity is the Trailbuilders Conference in Reno sponsored by the PTBA. IMBA does a trailbuilding school there, a UTAP training, and NTTP meeting. Also the NOHVCC conference is in Alabama in March 2006.

USFS will have the new trail guidelines explained in plain language on their website. Equestrian book under development and backcountry book will be published and made available to the States. Long versions will be available on the web.

Return to Table of Contents

Updated: 10/20/2015
HEP Home Planning Environment Real Estate
Federal Highway Administration | 1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE | Washington, DC 20590 | 202-366-4000