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Meeting Notes

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Sunday, November 14, 2010


Saturday, November 13, 2010

Introductions / Show and Tell

Participants introduced themselves and provided brief overviews of current projects and efforts of trails programs in their States. 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 participants.

Key issues included:

Trail finder websites to enhance tourism:

State Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plans (SCORP)

Blueways and water trails

Health

Public Surveys

On the phone:
Chris Buckland and Bonnie Higdon, Missouri


Kim Frederick, Discussion on Training

Kim Frederick, of Chinook Associates, is also the Trails Supervisor for Jefferson County Open Space in the foothills just west of Denver, Colorado. He has worked on training issues for Colorado Outdoor Training Initiative as well as for Volunteers Outdoor Colorado (Outdoor Stewardship Institute). Chinook Associates works with organizations and agencies on trail and natural resource management plans as well as training programs. He shared an Excel spreadsheet which he created for the States that display factors of financial costs compared with the economic benefits of training. He also shared an example from a recent partnership in Arizona that showed how an investment in training can benefit volunteer effectiveness.

In the discussion several States mentioned Statewide trails conferences as an important way they provide training. For example:


Plenary Discussion: Federal-aid Highway Program Authorization

Facilitated by Christopher Douwes, FHWA and Terry Durby, Iowa Snowmobile Association and American Trails (Nonprofit Trail Organization viewpoint)

Federal-Aid Transportation Authorization

Terry Durby discussed efforts by Coalition for Recreational Trails (CRT) to showcase RTP projects and nationwide local support. In July, CRT members wrote a letter to Department of Transportation (DOT) Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, to support continuation of the program. CRT is working with over 350 (and growing) member organizations to express the value of program and interact with Congress to ensure continuation. There is a desire for and reasoning to increase funding. CRT also wants to simplify funding provisions on Federal lands.

Issues include:
- Eliminate the requirement for RTP projects to be included in TIP (Transportation Improvement Program) and STIP (Statewide Transportation Improvement Program).
- Land value and willing seller.
- Encouragement of youth and conservation corps involvement.

Christopher Douwes reviewed the background of the Recreational Trails Program (RTP), which can also be found online on the RTP Program Overview web page.

As of November 2010, RTP is currently running under extension of the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU). Previously, under the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21) and SAFETEA-LU, the USDOT had submitted recommendations about the RTP to Congress for consideration in the next reauthorization, and the Congress accepted most of recommendations made by Administration in consultation with States. However, the DOT has not yet developed a public proposal for the next Authorization.

As of this meeting [November 13, 2011], the only proposal for authorization in print is by soon-to-be-former Congressman Oberstar. In this proposal, the RTP would continue as is. Some want to consolidate programs and eliminate the "little" stand-alone programs like RTP. These programs could be lumped under one greater "Livability" program with many eligible project types including trails projects, but would not provide funding for individual programs like the RTP. Instead, projects may be eligible, but without specific funding. Others talk about focusing DOT funding for transportation projects only.

Q. What happens after December 31?
A. The current "lame duck" Congress must offer some kind of extension. Most people think they will extend to end of FY 2011 (September 30, 2011). Some think extensions will continue through 2012, hoping that a new President and/or Congress may be able to address funding solutions. [Editor note: Extension was enacted through March 4, 2011.]

Q. What happens if the program doesn't get extended or reauthorized?
A. Obligated projects can continue to proceed, but won't get reimbursed until State people get back to the office.

Q. How much influence does Secretary LaHood have in the process?
A. Secretary LaHood loves livability, but it is not certain whether he can effect change that would include continuation of the RTP.

Q. Has anyone come up with alternatives to funding?
A. Yes, but the Federal motor fuel excise tax (“gas tax”) is very unlikely to be raised. The level of the gas tax hasn't been increased since 1997 [see www.fhwa.dot.gov/infrastructure/gastax.cfm]. A question for Congress is: how do we fund surface transportation with declining Vehicle Miles Travelled (VMT) and corresponding less incoming fuel tax? Proposals have been developed that include fees based on miles travelled instead of fuel used.

Q. Has Secretary LaHood's position (outspoken support for multi-modal alternatives) marginalized him from people (Congress)?
A. It depends on who you talk to. The Administration strongly supports Secretary LaHood. The bicycle advocates strongly support Secretary LaHood. Others may have some concerns.

Q. Delaware's board that administers the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) program collects spatial and map data to show successes and needs and gaps. Can CRT also spatially demonstrate needs and gaps on a map to present to Congressional staff to help portray benefits of this program?

Stuart Macdonald discussed alerts he has sent to the States as the RTP looks less certain to continue. When he began his position as Colorado State Trails Coordinator in 1984, the RTP didn't exist. Colorado used other funding sources such as State Lottery for both the administrator position and for trail grants.

Stuart asked how many positions are completely funded by RTP? 70% of the participants raised hands. Chris Buckland (Missouri [via phone]) said Missouri has written into law that trails will continue to be supported for at least 25 years. So if the RTP fails. the State is required to continue some funding through alternatives such as LWCF. Laurie Giannotti said that Connecticut State Parks would continue but trail programs would fail. Jennifer Scanlon said that, without RTP education and safety funds, Nevada would see staff cut in half.


AFTERNOON MOBILE WORKSHOPS

Option 1: Lookout Mountain - Point Park, TN
History, Federal Lands, Interagency Cooperation, RTP funded trail projects. Best Management Practice. Technical design challenges. and;
Cloudland Canyon State Park, GA
Includes RTP funded trails. Will discuss technical design challenges with building trail on the side of a mountain. Best practices discussion.

Option 2: Raccoon Mountain, TN
This project is part of the 2010 Initiative which started in 2004 and the goal was to create 100 miles of trail within 10 miles of Chattanooga. Mostly mountain bike trail on Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) lands. Southern Off-Road Bicycle Association (SORBA) to discuss project challenges, successes; administrative and technical. Although this project was not funded by the RTP, it provides good examples of partnerships and effective project administration.


Sunday, November 14, 2010

State Presentations and STAM 2011 Suggestions


Training Update: Education / Use of Education Funds

Facilitated by Stuart Macdonald, American Trails

Coalition for Recreational Trails (CRT) board members select Annual Achievement Award winners from several categories of projects. Two awards for States have been added: "Outstanding State Trail Program" (won by Vermont for 2010) and "Outstanding State Recreational Trails Advisory Committee" (won by Tennessee for 2010). Nomination publicity was provided by CRT to encourage States and project sponsors to start thinking now to nominate a project by April 2011. Winners get good publicity on the American Trails website and in the American Trails magazine.

Nancy Matchett (CO): The Colorado Outdoor Training Initiative (COTI) has become the Outdoor Stewardship Institute (OSI) under the umbrella of Volunteer Outdoor Colorado (VOC). Volunteers of all ages and skill levels participate in outdoor stewardship projects in exciting places throughout the State. They help plant trees, construct and maintain trails, remove invasive weeds, and even restore historic Forest Service buildings.

Training represents an investment in your program. If you can get more volunteers trained, your trails will benefit.

Tennessee - volunteers are valued at Federal minimum wage. Actual worth to trails is a lot more. The value of volunteer labor is much greater than costs of State or local match requirements. Bob Richards of Tennessee is a major proponent of training. It would be nice if volunteers could be used for a bigger portion of the State match as their real value is worth much more than $7/hour. How can States better calculate real value of volunteer trail work?

Q. Does American Trails have a "boiler plate" basic training for States that don't have any training programs in place?
A. There are several trail workshops sponsored by American Trails that States can host locally. See: www.americantrails.org/nttp/ATworkshops06.html.
Also the Trails 101 (Federal Interagency Trails Course) is a good option. The course was started by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), and has since been taken over by the US Fish and Wildlife Service. They are trying to do one class on the east coast and one on the west coast each year. The future of the course is still uncertain because it is fairly expensive to run, however the course is usually full and is open on first come first served basis.

The Tahoe Rim Trail Association also has a good and inexpensive course every year.

The International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA) can also come out and do a weekend training where there is a local mountain bike sponsor.

Pennsylvania has solicited proposals from local sponsors for training and workshops and has provided training grants of up to $5,000. A total of over 1,000 people were trained through the program. All trainings were funded through RTP education funds. Sponsors are able to charge a fee to recoup some costs and ensure more buy-in from attendees. Christopher agreed that when people have to pay a fee versus the sessions being free, people will value the training more and actually show up. In California, however, training for grant applicants is always free since it's in everyone's interest to ensure better grant applications.

Diane Kripas, Pennsylvania: Webinars are another way to reach a wider audience.

Sherry Winnie of Vermont provided interactive televised educational sessions. Those sessions talk about projects and grants opportunities. Anyone who is applying for grants is encouraged to attend these workshops.

National Trails Training Partnership (NTTP): Stuart noted that he keeps adding resources to the NTTP website (www.NTTP.net). Water trails have been the important new hot topic. The "Cool Trail Solutions" area covers many key facilities and trail types with photos and project descriptions. The Trails by State area provides a page for each State with links to many organizations and State programs. Please check links and let Stuart know of any updates.


Plenary Discussion: Livability Initiatives

Background on Livability Initiatives in HUD, EPA, FHWA

Facilitated by Christopher Douwes (FHWA) and Beth Shumate (MT)

Topics include: Developing local, regional, and statewide livability coalition groups in Montana (Beth Shumate, Montana)

What causes changes in conditions, lifestyles, social, and working environments? How do broad conditions and policies affect the social-ecological model? What are the reasons for more livability programs? Obesity, mental health, and other physical and emotional conditions.

In some cases there has been a disconnect between the built environment and opportunities for health and recreation, and it's time to start providing more choices and promote healthier lifestyles.

What makes a livable community in one State may not work for another State. For example, in Montana they face transit challenges due to the rural landscape. People are forced into cars which provide door to door access to destinations, limiting opportunities to incorporate walking and / or biking into their daily commutes. Transit funding is also based on population need. Montana is one of biggest States but has small population centers so they don't qualify for transit funding, which makes driving necessary.

Planning and design for Livability


Stump the Fed

Q: Transparency Act - The idea is that grant recipients are supposed to report to a central location. What are we supposed to do about this?
A: It's an overall Federal government issue so the OMB needs to issue guidance on this, not FHWA.

Susan Moerschel, DE - There was a requirement that when a new bridge is being built or replaced, DOT requires you to look at the alignments and how they could facilitate access to water. Does that requirement still exist? Christopher had researched but did not find any current information. At some point in time, it apparently fell out of Federal highway legislation when laws were rewritten. Susan said "It makes it easier if there is something official that people can look at." Christopher notes that you could not use Federal highway bridge funds, but it may be possible to use regular Surface Transportation Program (STP), Transportation Enhancement (TE), or RTP funds to provide access at bridges. Bridges are now considered a security issue. In Montana, public access to waterways is an issue. If bridge crossings are within highway right of way they can allow public access.

Accessibility - Motor Driven Vehicles
We are relying on the US Forest Service explanation of the Department of Justice rule on "Wheelchairs and Other Power Driven Mobility Devices" (OPDMD). This is all a separate direction from the Accessibility Guidelines currently being proposed for Federal lands. The details, background, and legal language are on American Trails website at: www.americantrails.org/resources/accessible/DOJ-power-mobility-July2010.html.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) decided that the Segway Personal Transporter is not a wheelchair because the device is not designed primarily for use by individuals with disabilities. However, the new DOJ rule will require State and local governments to make reasonable modifications in its policies, practices, or procedures to permit the use of OPDMDs by individuals with mobility disabilities. However, under the DOJ rule, an OPDMD may not be operated where use of that vehicle class is prohibited due to a risk to safety, environmental, cultural or natural resources, or poses a conflict with Federal land management laws and regulations.

A public entity may ask a person using a power-driven mobility device to provide a credible assurance of the person´s disability such as the presentation of a valid, State-issued, disability parking placard or other State-issued proof of disability.

Rescissions

Rescissions are funds rescinded (taken back) from previous Federal-aid apportionments. The Federal government is trying to find ways to fund programs at the same time as other legislators say you can't fund Program A unless you take funds from Program B, C, and/or D. Therefore, the Congress has enacted several rescissions in the past several years. "Unobligated balances" of funds are at risk. If you have funds apportioned to your State that are available but not yet obligated, they are available to rescind and apply to other programs.

Transportation Enhancements are less than 2% of Federal transportation funds but accounted for 26% of all rescissions in FY 2010. The bridge program was number three. People criticize programs like the RTP and complain about bridges falling apart, but bridge funds are not even being fully obligated, so they too are liable for rescissions. If you've already obligated all your funds, you are not at risk.

The rescission in FY 2010 allowed the State DOTs maximum flexibility to rescind funds from any unobligated balances. DOTs are encouraged, but not required, to consult with programs before they rescind funds. So stay in contact with your State DOT and budget department as they may know about impending rescissions before they become official. A message came in recently about how a States' ability to plan is hurt by these giving and taking away moves. FHWA doesn't like the rescissions either because they hurt State programs. Should there be proportionality, i.e., should there be discretion by the state at taking funds from all programs and not just from a few?

Rescissions are a relatively new thing for the Federal-aid Highway Program. The first rescissions were in 2001-02. In 2006, there were three different rescissions. In 2010 rescissions came via a Supplemental Defense Appropriations Act. The Congress can enact rescissions at any time; once they are enacted, the States usually only have about a month to act.

Q: How do you deobligate funds? (Bill Luck, AK)
A. If you have funds originally obligated in 1998 that haven't been closed out, and want to deobligate, you have that year plus three fiscal years to obligate, then five years for reimbursement. Money in year one and not spent by year nine, you lose the money. A lot of people wait until October to obligate funds so you have a whole year. Talk to your FHWA finance person for assistance. You can never tell with this Congress or in future years. We may have people who want to literally eliminate the program, so you should obligate as fast as you can, and get the funds expended.


Performance Measures

Facilitated by Jean Lacher, CA and Jody Waites, AL

At STAM 2009, in July 2009, the Recreational Trails Program (RTP) State Trail Administrators created a team to develop performance measures (PMs) that could demonstrate the value of and the critical need for the RTP nationwide. These measures can demonstrate the benefits of ensuring ongoing, long-term local assistance through RTP funding as administered by the States to project sponsors.

We are developing these measures to help make the case for the value of RTP funds and projects. We need to be able to clearly portray the quality of life stories to Congress that show the real value of the RTP program. Adoption of these measures can also help Trail Administrators and other program leadership with project planning.

Greg Lovelady said Washington State's Salmon Recovery program provides a good example of tracking the effectiveness of a State managed funding program.

Development Process

The National Performance Measures Team used conference calls to brainstorm possible draft measures beginning with ideas generated during a discussion at the 2009 State Trail Administrators Training Meeting. See notes on FHWA RTP website at: www.fhwa.dot.gov/environment/recreational_trails/events/stam_2009/notes.cfm#rtpdb. Additionally, the team researched relevant term definitions and evaluated current performance measure methodologies such as those used in the State of Washington’s grant programs. The team identified outputs, which reflect quantitative results of RTP administrative processes. Members also identified outcomes, which reflect qualitative results or consequences of the RTP grant projects themselves. Using both output and outcome measures enable State Trail Administrators to assess both quantitative and qualitative aspects of the RTP.

As the team concluded its work on a first set of draft measures, FHWA suggested using “headings” that aligned with FHWA’s Livability Initiatives. Once the team obtained clarification on these initiatives, it proceeded to revise the first set of measures accordingly. Now the team is ready to share its second set of draft measures with other State Trail Administrators. Once State Trail Administrators collectively adopt final measures, Administrators should be able to measure the overall success of the RTP in their individual States and nationally.

Whatever measures we adopt may not be self-explanatory and will need documentation. So the Team created directions and explanations which have been made available to the State representatives. You may also contact Jonathan LeClere for copies of the Executive Summary and the recommended Performance Measures. In summary, the measures are listed below:

A. Recreational Opportunities
1. Number of trail miles
Desire to differentiate between new or rebuilt trails

2. Number of trail miles maintained
Part of agencies' programs

B. Human Environment
1. Support facilities developed
2. Support facilities rehabilitated

C. Economics
1. New jobs created
2. Matching dollars contributed
3. Using youth and service corps; participants and dollars

D. Safety/Education
1. Number of projects
2. Number of students

E. Community
1. Grantees by type
2. Dollars requested vs. dollars available
3. Proposals submitted vs. funded

F. National Environment
1. Acres of land made available through acquisitions or leases

Matching dollars: required match or additional sources of funding or both? Need to specify match, whether labor or in-kind. State by State value of labor will be different. We need to ensure labor isn't undervalued.

Susan (DE) suggests to put in all the match, not just the required 20% match, but all money leveraged.

Kathy Pritchett (KS) mentioned that in AmeriCorps reporting they don't calculate dollars, just miles, projects completed, rating etc. Dollars are recorded elsewhere. That is similar for the RTP program where dollars are recorded in FMIS.... but not leveraged funds. As a measure of performance, leveraged funds are a good measure to include.

Indirect benefits of building trails could include environmental education. For older youth it is job experience and trail building skills.

C3 - Number of labor hours vs. costs?
D2 - Take out student. Replacing with enrolled.
E3 - We considered only documenting eligible projects, but found it simpler to just capture all incoming applications.
F1 - Are RTP lands leased by Federal lands? Christopher says if it doesn’t change ownership it's not an acquisition.

Maybe use a more general word - maybe "license" rather than lease. Maybe "rights of land."

Would a linear measurement be better then acreage? (Jim Radabaugh)

Motorized vs. nonmotorized? Meant to be inclusive and not segregate uses.

Is this an upfront questionnaire? If this is to be an annual process, every year you would have incoming applications and apportioned dollar amounts, but only some of the numbers come at the beginning of the project. Perhaps this should perhaps be a living document that allows updates as data becomes available.

There is a requirement for ARRA (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act) projects that States report on jobs and dollars related to Federal funding. Talk about how a similar system could be expanded to other projects, not just Recovery Act projects.

Is this already similar to what CRT asks for? The CRT database has related information but not the same data is captured. There is potential for improving the database by including PM data. The project to maintain or update the CRT database will not be bid out until we know whether or not the RTP will be extended.

Anything that's not required by law will have to be voluntary. We can't actually ask for it, but States can voluntarily provide the information.

If the RTP program is continued, there will have to be some performance measures. We still need to work out how we are going to compile the information.

The program may not get any money for administration if some of the current suggestions are incorporated into reauthorization.

How are we going to move forward? Can it be an online process?
People would rather enter data rather then send spreadsheet.
Bob Richards suggested sending around an existing Excel spreadsheet have people add to it.
Existing FHWA systems used to report Recovery Act funding data may be replicable and opened up to State use.
DE - Even if FHWA doesn't adopt PMs, at least CRT could use this to help advocacy.
CO - Tom Morrissey - Does this data overlap with existing CRT project data? Answer, No.
Christopher – It is difficult for FHWA to ask for data without OMB (Office of Management and Budget) approval.


Working with Others: Community Support/Partnerships on trail projects

Facilitated by Sherri Winnie (VT) and Stuart Macdonald (American Trails)

Discussion Notes:

Other suggestions on public input:


Administrative Best Practices/Closing Out Projects

Facilitated by Bryan Alexander (GA) and Andrew Korsberg (MN). Notes taken by Nick Blendy (FHWA DelMar Division)

Five Broad Topics for Discussion

Working with Divisions

Is FHWA too demanding? Trail Administrators must realize FHWA Division staff work typically in a number of large and multiple programs, have various backgrounds and sometimes involve multiple staff. The RTP is not necessarily the top FHWA priority especially with recent ARRA and new EDC (Every Day Counts) initiatives. Conversely, several States have good working relationships with FHWA partners and RTP works well. States particularly benefit where FHWA, DOT, and/or DNR staffs have worked with other agencies.

Comments and discussions:

Efficiency of Program

The RTP in many States is now operating as “you need to do more with less”. FHWA is in same situation. RTP examples are Georgia, which maintains six types of documents and files to complete their process, and Minnesota, which maintains a comprehensive contact base and keep track of all questions and responses in files. Suggestions are to include good examples in your RTP to fall back on rather than reinvent the wheel.

Comments and discussions:

Comments and discussions:

Customer Service

Many States are now placing more emphasis on customer service. In Georgia, customer service is monitored by the State legislature following directives from the Governor. In other States, politically connected groups or communities don’t necessarily pay attention to the RTP selection process or listen to the RTP staff. Either way, it is strongly suggested to use surveys to track customer service for the program and new technologies and services like Survey Monkey are now available at a relatively inexpensive cost.

Comments and discussions:

Project Completion Timeline

States vary as to the time it takes to complete a RTP funded project. This involves the application process, completion of NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) documentation, project development and construction, and closeout. In Minnesota, this typically results in 5 to 6 grant years, whereas in Georgia some projects take as long as 7-8 grant years. This is why it is strongly suggested for States to include specific timeframes in grant applications and stick to them.

Comments and discussions:


Summary and Wrap Up

Everyone was fully engaged and participating. No notes taken at this session. Please join us in 2011!

Updated: 02/12/2014
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