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

2015 Recreational Trails Program Annual Report

FHWA-HEP-16-042

A report on the use and benefits of Federal Recreational Trails Program funds across the United States.

U.S. Department of Transportation

Prepared for:
U.S. Department of Transportation
Federal Highway Administration
1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
Washington, DC 20590

Prepared by:
KMS Enterprises, Inc.
Contract Number DTFH61-12-C-00029.

Publication No. FHWA-HEP-16-042

Download the PDF Version of 2015 RTP Annual Report (PDF 16 MB)

PDF files can be viewed with the Acrobat® Reader®

Photo of a father and his 3 children posing for a phot along a dirt trail.
Covers the period of Federal FY 1993-FY 2014

Notice

This document is based on work supported by the Federal Highway Administration under contract number DTFH61-12-C-00029 with KMS Enterprises, Inc. This document is disseminated under the sponsorship of the U.S. Department of Transportation in the interest of information exchange. The U.S. Government assumes no liability for the use of information contained in this document.

The U.S. Government does not endorse products or manufacturers. Trademarks or manufacturers' names appear in this report only because they are considered essential to the objective of this document.

The contents of this report reflect the views of the authors, who are responsible for the facts and accuracy of the data presented herein. The contents do not necessarily reflect the official policy of the U.S. Department of Transportation. This report does not constitute a standard, specification, or regulation.

Table of Contents

Executive Summary

Kayakers paddle on calm riverThe purpose of the Recreational Trails Program (RTP) Annual Report is to provide information about the program and the projects funded in Federal fiscal year (FY) 2014. This report serves as a useful guide to the RTP for trail managers and the public. It highlights program funding and administration, the RTP Database, and how States use funds for trail projects. It illustrates eligible project types along with award-winning examples from across the country. It documents the many benefits of the program and national trends and issues affecting trails.

Program Summary
RTP is a Federal-aid assistance program of the U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) to help the States provide and maintain recreational trails for both motorized and nonmotorized trail use. Since 1993, the RTP has apportioned over $1 billion in Federal funding to the States for local project funding. The RTP has been responsible for creating and improving over 20,370 trail-related projects nationwide, including urban greenways and horse, hiking, mountain bike, and motorized trails, as well as snow and water routes.

Funding and Administration
The RTP applies the “user-pay/user-benefit” philosophy of the Federal Highway Trust Fund. Trail users pay the Federal motor fuel excise tax for fuel used for nonhighway recreational trail use, and receive the benefit of the RTP through funds provided to the States for trail projects. This program implementation is consistent in practice with other expenditures from the Highway Trust Fund.

Use of Recreational Trails Program Funds
States may use RTP funds for a variety of project types and expenditures which fall under eight categories of Permissible Uses. The RTP legislation identifies these general Permissible Use categories:

RTP Database
The goal of the RTP Database project is to provide a central repository for RTP project data that is usable by the FHWA, Congress, the States, policy makers, RTP administrators, project managers, and the general public. The Database includes over 20,370 projects that have received over $1 billion in funding. These projects have been matched with $733 million. Access the Database at www.recreationaltrailsinfo.org. As of 2014, the Database has been developed so that data can be searched by State, County, Congressional District, Trail Name, Project Name, Permissible Use Category, and Year Awarded. Reports can be printed from the search results. In addition to the fields that can be searched, users can view a record of the project for more information.

National Trends and Benefits
A review of the RTP Database shows the diversity of local impacts of RTP funding. Like other Highway Trust Fund programs, the RTP provides benefits to virtually every county in the United States.

Projects using RTP funds illustrate a variety of trends with trails on public lands and in communities across America. Some key national trends are identified along with benefits and issues of national significance affecting trail use and development.


Funding and Administration

A woman and child walk a paved path through a forestThe RTP is a Federal-aid assistance program of the FHWA with funds provided to each State to provide and maintain recreational trails and related facilities and activities.

Each State:

States are required to use 40 percent of their RTP funds for diverse recreational trail use, 30 percent for motorized recreation, and 30 percent for nonmotorized recreation. (The 40-30-30 calculation takes place after accounting for State administrative costs. A small State exclusion exempts Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, and Rhode Island from 30 percent motorized and nonmotorized requirements.)

The specifics of how to apply this formula to project selection is up to the States, and varies considerably around the country. States with large Federal land ownership sometimes fund backcountry projects with both motorized and nonmotorized use to achieve diversity. Others may fund projects with adjacent paved and unpaved trail surfaces for diverse nonmotorized activities, or trails with winter snowmobiling and summer all-terrain vehicle (ATV) use.

The Federal funds will provide up to 80 percent of the project cost and require project sponsors to provide the remaining amount in matching resources (generally at least 20 percent). In many cases, the actual match from the project partners is 50 percent or more.

An ongoing goal of State administration is efficient use of RTP funds. This includes streamlining required reviews, clarifying financial accountability, improving project selection, and reducing project implementation costs for sponsors.

Managed Uses

Managed Uses include a wide variety of both motorized and nonmotorized trail activities that are appropriate to recreational trails. The RTP legislation defines the term “recreational trail” as “a thoroughfare or track across land or snow, used for recreational purposes,” and includes the following activities:

  1. Pedestrian activities, including wheelchair use;
  2. Skating or skateboarding;
  3. Equestrian activities, including carriage driving;
  4. Nonmotorized snow trail activities, including skiing;
  5. Bicycling or use of other human powered vehicles;
  6. Aquatic or water activities; and
  7. Motorized vehicular activities, including all terrain vehicle riding, motorcycling, snowmobiling, use of off-road light trucks, or use of other off road motorized vehicles.

Table 1 – RTP Apportionments: All States, All Years

This table shows RTP funding authorized by Congress for use by States each year of the program. Beginning under the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21), the States return one percent annually to FHWA for program administration: up to $841,600.

The funds were allocations in 1993, 1996, and 1997, but the funds were apportionments for 1998-2014.

Table 1 – RTP Apportionments: All States, All Years
Allocations (All States) RTP Funding Obligated
1993 Allocation $7,275,000.00 $5,696,543
1994 Allocation $0.00 $1,581,335
1995 Allocation $0.00 $0.00
1996 Allocation $14,688,000.00 $11,595,075
1997 Allocation $14,688,000.00 $16,256,403
1998 Apportioned $29,550,000.00 $14,691.339
1999 Apportioned $39,400,000.00 $33,750,926
2000 Apportioned $49,250,000.00 $44,161,037
2001 Apportioned $49,250,000.00 $44,826,248
2002 Apportioned $49,250,000.00 $47,586,188
2003 Apportioned $48,929,875.00 $44,915,197
2004 Apportioned $57,656,952.00 $43,957,595
2005 Apportioned $59,160,000.00 $43,459,118
2006 Apportioned $68,468,400.00 $57,983,555
2007 Apportioned $74,160,000.00 $65,913,964
2008 Apportioned $79,160,000.00 $62,787,840
2009 Apportioned $84,160,000.00 $81,113,236
2010 Apportioned $84,160,000.00 $52,908,922
2011 Apportioned $96,570,196.00 $88,649,335
2012 Apportioned $78,569,033.00 $68,360,434
2013 Apportioned $79,212,744 $65,371,220
2014 Apportioned $80,741,889 $64,842,044
1993-2014 Totals $1,144,300,089 $945,716,216
1993-2014 Obligation Rate   82.64%

----- NOTES -----

Table 1 and Table 3
The difference in the totals in Table 1 and Table 3 is due to the different “sources” providing the information (see the notes below) and the manner in which a State obligates its funding (e.g., some States obligate funds every other year). Additionally, the RTP database does not currently have complete data for all States; data collection and validation for the RTP database is an on-going effort. Data will be regularly entered into the database as it is received from the States and the District of Columbia.

The obligation rate represents the percentage of funds committed to projects compared to the funds available. The obligation rate for the overall Federal-aid highway program averages about 95 percent over time. The obligation rate for the RTP has trended in the 80 to 85 percent range. There are many reasons why the RTP has a lower obligation rate. The obligation authority for the Federal-aid highway program is lower than the apportionments, so some States give priority to other Federal-aid highway programs. Some States select projects on two-year cycles (even-numbered years tend to have lower obligation rates). Some States delay project selection and implementation when there is uncertainty about the reauthorization of the program, or take time to implement the program after each new authorization act.

(1) State has not yet provided a breakdown of the number of FY 2014 projects.
(2) State’s Governor opted out of the RTP but obligated past funds.
(3) State did not obligate FY 2014 projects.
(4) State’s FY 2014 projects are combined with an earlier or later fiscal year.

Table 2
FY 2012 apportionments were reduced from the $85 million authorized because of mandatory rescissions. States also must consider limitations on Federal-aid highway program obligations.

Sources
The source for the data in Tables 1 and 2 is the Federal Highway Administration's Fiscal Management Information System (FMIS). The source for the data in Tables 3 and 4 is information provided by the States for the Recreational Trails Program Database (www.recreationaltrailsinfo.org).

(1) State has not yet provided a breakdown of the number of FY 2014 projects.
(2) Florida opted out in FY 2014.
(3) State did not obligate FY 2014 projects.
(4) State’s FY 2014 projects are combined with an earlier or later fiscal year.

Table 2 – RTP Apportionments and Obligations by State for Federal FY 2014

This table shows the number of projects per State for Federal FY 2014. It shows RTP funds apportioned to each State for the most recent year of the program.

The funding is based on the amount each State received in FY 2009. In FY 2009, half of the funds were distributed equally among all States, and half were distributed in proportion to the estimated amount of off- road recreational fuel use in each State: fuel used for off-road recreation by snowmobiles, all- terrain vehicles, off-road motorcycles, and off-road light trucks.

This table also shows obligations by State. Obligations are the Federal government’s legal commitment (promise) to pay or reimburse the States or other entities for the Federal share of a project’s eligible costs

Table 2 – RTP Apportionments and Obligations by State for Federal FY 2014
State 2014 Projects FY 2014 Apportionment FY 2014 Obligation
Alabama 14 $1,732,289 $1,768,161
Alaska 31 $1,512,643 $1,164,638
Arizona 17 $1,915,514 $1,025,157
Arkansas 2 $1,479,029 $614,006
California 5 $5,698,627 $608,559
Colorado 9 $1,575,735 -$600,977
Connecticut 11 $952,594 $1,130,854
Delaware 5 $896,623 $845,513
District of Columbia (1) 0 $816,847 $969,165
Florida (2) 25 - $1,740,138
Georgia 0 $1,722,736 $902,995
Hawaii 112 $950,859 $1,200,000
Idaho 38 $1,693,454 $1,603,701
Illinois 6 $1,510,044 $1,834,445
Indiana 9 $1,189,692 $1,390,604
Iowa 7 $1,361,069 $1,495,349
Kansas 15 $1,370,407 $1,296,179
Kentucky 15 $1,410,151 $546,961
Louisiana 14 $1,502,467 $1,400,134
Maine 35 $1,428,314 $937,156
Maryland 56 $1,112,384 $1,112,384
Massachusetts 43 $1,174,862 $1,362,100
Michigan 25 $2,825,415 $1,525,373
Minnesota 34 $2,391,888 $2,272,293
Mississippi 16 $1,348,305 $133,000
Missouri 21 $1,646,765 $1,644,882
Montana 58 $1,590,638 $1,581,421
Nebraska 4 $1,205,213 $390,995
Nevada 15 $1,344,370 $1,084,043
New Hampshire 61 $1,255,265 $0
New Jersey (1) 0 $ 1,214,489 -$1,829
New Mexico (3) 0 $1,415,533 -$443,169
New York 37 $2,182,510 $228,363
North Carolina 27 $1,597,424 $1,597,424
North Dakota 14 $1,120,562 $1,008,506
Ohio 16 $1,655,132 $1,610,173
Oklahoma 10 $1,769,212 $3,267,318
Oregon 32 $1,594,051 $1,841,644
Pennsylvania 5 $1,971,353 $1,814,251
Rhode Island 12 $856,384 $1,369,448
South Carolina (4) 11 $1,199,108 $0
South Dakota 15 $1,125,821 $1,150,730
Tennessee 9 $1,624,207 $1,893,456
Texas 38 $3,954,874 $2,412,786
Utah 34 $1,546,233 $1,458,561
Vermont 87 $1,017,730 $1,417,867
Virginia (1) 0 $1,511,889 $3,008,506
Washington 53 $1,867,407 $1,867,407
West Virginia 16 $1,297,964 $2,000,336
Wisconsin 3 $2,146,076 $2,787,123
Wyoming 25 $1,459,731 $1,573,916
Total to States 1,147 $80,741,889 $64,842,044

Table 3 – RTP Database Projects and Funding - Federal FY 1993-FY 2014

This table shows the number of projects funded plus the amount of funding by State for Federal FY 1993-2014.

It shows the total RTP funds obligated by each State during the period. In addition the “Total Other Funding” column shows how much additional match was provided by project sponsors. Note that the matching funds are generally higher than the 20 percent minimum required by RTP. In 12 States the match is higher than the total RTP funds apportioned.

Table 3 – RTP Database Projects and Funding - Federal FY 1993-FY 2014
State 1993-2014 Projects Total RTP Funding Total Other Funding
Alabama 319 22,982,283 6,888,732
Alaska 396 13,022,490 4,523,429
Arizona 220 18,413,332 5,249,519
Arkansas 318 13,195,212 5,230,630
California 369 49,958,988 24,702,759
Colorado 406 13,914,143 23,622,282
Connecticut 336 13,357,846 13,357,846
Delaware 135 6,296,144 4,716,159
District of Columbia (1) 31 7,183,185 1,673,016
Florida (2) 196 23,743,486 18,541,056
Georgia (3) 254 21,621,840 21,144,537
Hawaii 1,144 10,622,009 2,702,554
Idaho 578 19,376,861 17,138,423
Illinois 275 25,846,993 11,596,642
Indiana 134 18,153,821 5,843,956
Iowa 111 25,449,251 6,403,714
Kansas 294 15,836,380 9,940,630
Kentucky 463 15,522,299 15,535,666
Louisiana 339 19,030,061 16,420,234
Maine 600 13,992,942 4,957,368
Maryland 768 17,891,064 7,124,779
Massachusetts 441 12,398,778 10,046,916
Michigan 304 38,380,501 26,583,670
Minnesota 417 25,472,654 39,326,885
Mississippi 252 19,409,85 6,690,364
Missouri 310 21,702,275 22,444,538
Montana 800 17,527,882 14,805,053
Nebraska 127 12,631,027 6,618,963
Nevada 315 13,492,158 8,731,538
New Hampshire 736 12,649,914 14,979,392
New Jersey (1) 783 16,826,488 40,510,888
New Mexico 183 14,124,852 5,958,016
New York 417 30,175,698 12,712,147
North Carolina 500 25,641,272 35,972,557
North Dakota 247 13,353,657 3,868,849
Ohio 288 22,419,910 22,035,351
Oklahoma 262 21,306,712 12,419,709
Oregon 415 19,270,538 19,958,731
Pennsylvania 371 30,470,082 19,073,704
Rhode Island 336 7,077,499 2,900,387
South Carolina (4) 240 14,731,795 5,286,180
South Dakota 347 17,411,733 10,287,728
Tennessee 248 19,394,996 5,917,566
Texas 464 52,998,698 18,833,804
Utah 427 21,263,395 22,897,016
Vermont 1,201 13,068,070 21,962,878
Virginia (1) 292 19,924,288 8,968,347
Washington 703 27,990,738 39,238,447
West Virginia 275 12,192,422 3,438,510
Wisconsin 550 23,191,575 32,229,531
Wyoming 434 18,445,504 13,812,870
Total: 20,371 $1,000,355,593 $732,932,936

RTP Database Project

A screenshot of the RTP database homepageThe RTP Database (www.recreationaltrailsinfo.org) includes over 20,370 projects that have received over $1 billion in funding. These projects have been matched with $733 million.

The RTP Database provides a central repository for RTP project data that is usable by the FHWA, Congress, the States, RTP administrators, project managers, and the public. To promote program transparency, FHWA seeks to know how States use RTP funds in a manner that provides sufficient information to the public without undue burden on State program administrators.

In 2012, FHWA contracted with KMS Enterprises, Inc. (which subcontracted with American Trails) to develop, operate, and update a searchable RTP Database to be available on a website, and to provide annual reports on RTP funding. New data is regularly entered into the Database as it is received from the States, District of Columbia, and other sources.

Updating the RTP Database is important because there are over 1,000 new RTP projects each year. American Trails also gathers photographs for the Image Library to provide good examples of permissible uses and managed uses for trails, related facility construction, and other project types.

Database users can search by State, County, Congressional District, Trail Name, Project Name, Permissible Use Category, and Year Awarded. Reports can be printed from the search results. Database users can view a record of the project for more information. A link to a brief webinar on how to navigate and utilize the RTP Database is located on the homepage.

Access the RTP Database at: www.recreationaltrailsinfo.org


Use Of Recreational Trails Program Funds

Project Example

Abbott Motocross Park, Nebraska

Abbott Motocross Park is part of Abbott Sports Complex, a sporting venue that includes a soccer and football field complex, a collegiate competitive soccerfield, indoor and outdoor tennis courts, and indoor volleyball facilities. The motocross park—which received over $255,000 in RTP funding—complements these traditional sports facilities by providing motocross facilities for athletes of all ages.

The tracks were professionally designed to provide safe and fun riding experiences, and are regularly prepped and maintained. The design also fully accommodates flooding issues associated with a nearby creek. In addition, an avoidance strategy was used to minimize impacts on existing wetlands.

* 2014 Coalition for Recreational Trails Award Winner

The RTP legislation identifies eight categories of permissible uses for how States may use RTP funds. The sections below provide details and examples for each use. The categories are:

A. Trail maintenance and restoration
B. Trailside and trailhead facilities
C. Equipment for construction and maintenance
D. Construction of new recreational trails
E. Acquisition of trail corridors
F. Assessment of trail conditions
G. Education for safety and environmental protection
H. Administration

See the text of the legislation defining the categories: www.fhwa.dot.gov/environment/recreational_trails/legislation/#permissible


A. Trail maintenance and restoration

The East Wilton tresle after resurfacingCategory A: Maintenance and restoration of existing trails: trail maintenance, restoration, rehabilitation, or relocation. This category may include maintenance and restoration of trail bridges, or provide appropriate signage along a trail.

Project Example

Whistle Stop Multi-Use Rail Trail, Maine

The photos above show before and after pictures of the redecking project on the East Wilton trestle on the 14-mile long Whistle Stop Multi-Use Rail Trail that runs from Farmington to Jay, Maine. This trestle is 350 feet long and is built on a curve. The project was completed by the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, Bureau of Parks and Lands, Off Road Recreational Vehicle Office, which provided the photos.


Project Example

Sawyer Trail Project - Russell Sage Wildlife Management Area, Louisiana

This 22,000-acre Wildlife Management Area is a popular destination for approximately 30,000 users annually due to its diverse wildlife populations and habitats. Users range from hunters and fishermen to sightseers, hikers, and birdwatchers. Sawyer Trail is an important trail that provides over two miles of all-terrain vehicle and utility terrain vehicle access on the northern portion of the Wildlife Management Area. Prior to department ownership of this property, this trail was an oilfield road that provided access to oil well locations within the property.

* 2014 Coalition for Recreational Trails Award Winner


B. Trailside and trailhead facilities

An interpretive sign at Falling Waters TrailheadCategory B: Development and rehabilitation of trailside and trailhead facilities and trail linkages for recreational trails. Typical eligible work includes parking areas, toilets, horse and vehicle unloading facilities, signs, and seating.

Project Example

Falling Waters Trailhead, Franconia Notch State Park, New Hampshire

Interpretive signs welcome visitors at the Falling Waters Trailhead in Franconia Notch State Park. The popular Franconia Ridge Loop uses the Falling Waters Trail and the Old Bridle Path Trail. Partners in RTP-funded work on the trails have included Squam Lakes Association, Student Conservation Association, Appalachian Mountain Club, and the New Hampshire Division of Parks and Recreation. Photo from New Hampshire Bureau of Trails.


Project Example

Millersburg Historic Park and Trailhead Michigan

Presque Isle County and the Village of Millersburg collaborated with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources to design and construct a four-season trailhead along the North Eastern State Trail. The trailhead facility provides parking, restrooms, a drinking fountain, benches, picnic tables, interpretive signs, and other amenities.

The trail extends 70 miles from Alpena to Cheboygan. It has a 10-foot wide packed crushed limestone surface and is open to all nonmotorized users year-round and snowmobiles from December 1 through March 31.

* 2014 Coalition for Recreational Trails Award Winner


C. Equipment for construction and maintenance

A snowplow with treads.Category C: Purchase and lease of recreational trail construction and maintenance equipment. Examples include snow trail grooming equipment, mechanized trail­building equipment, vehicles for trail maintenance, and other equipment to help maintain the trail surface, drainage, adjacent vegetation, etc.

Project Example

Alaska Trails Mobile Tool Trailers

Since 2007, Alaska Trails has fielded two mobile tool trailers that are rented by trail constructors or donated for use by nonprofits and volunteer trailbuilders. The trailers, one in Fairbanks and one in Anchorage, have supported trail building by local, State, and Federal agencies, service groups, and Girl and Boy Scouts. Both trailers are equipped with over 50 different hand tools and safety equipment. Alaska Trails was awarded an RTP grant in 2013 to replace the popular tool trailers and purchase new tools and equipment to out t them.

The trailers have been used by many youth trailbuilders including the Student Conservation Association, the Anchorage Youth Employment in Parks, and the Chugach Children’s Forest—a partnership led by Alaska Geographic and the U.S. Forest Service that provides life-changing expeditions and educational experiences for young Alaskans of all backgrounds. Photos from Alaska Trails.

* 2014 Coalition for Recreational Trails Award Winner


D. Construction of new recreational trails

A dirt trail leading to a river in the desertCategory D: Construction of new recreational trails. This is the largest category of expenditures in most States, and includes paved and unpaved trails, water trails, snow trails, and bridges. The needs of local communities, agencies, and trail users are reflected in the great variety of trail construction that has been accomplished. Urban trails, greenways, natural surface pathways, paddling routes, and recreational vehicle routes are all well represented in RTP funding.

Project Example

Elkin & Allegheny Railroad Trail Bridge, North Carolina

The Elkin Valley Trails Association (EVTA) two-phase project will add to the existing trail and install a second bridge over the Elkin Creek on the E & A Railroad Trail, a proposed section of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail (MST) route. The project will lay the ground work to connect 1.5 miles of existing trail to an existing trail that is a key section of the project to build a walking trail from Elkin to Stone Mountain State Park. Photo from EVTA.


Project Example

San Juan River Access Trail, New Mexico

Fishing enthusiasts from all over the world come to Navajo Lake State Park to fish the waters of the San Juan River below Navajo Dam. A new all-weather trail enables both anglers and hikers to descend the steep slopes from the dam to the wetlands and San Juan River Trail below. More than 2,000 modular retaining wall blocks and 43 pre-formed concrete steps were installed by hand to improve overall safety and sustainability of the trail. Photo from New Mexico State Parks.

* 2014 Coalition for Recreational Trails Award Winner


E. Acquisition of trail corridors

a trail running along powerlines in a rural area.Category E: Acquisition of easements and fee simple title to property for recreational trails or recreational trail corridors. This category may include acquisition of old road or railroad bridges to be converted to trail use. Acquisition of any kind of interest in property must be from a willing landowner or seller.

Project Example

Encinitas Recreation Trails Acquisition, California

This project enabled the acquisition of approximately 2.3 miles of the San Diego Gas & Electric’s easement that bisects the City of Encinitas, California for development of recreational trails under the City’s Recreational Trails Master Plan.


F. Assessment of trail conditions

A smartphone scanning a QR codeCategory F: Assessment of trail conditions for accessibility and maintenance, authorizes specific projects to assess trails to determine the level of accessibility for people who have disabilities, to develop programs to provide trail access information, and to assess trails for current or future maintenance needs.

States may provide funds for trail assessments through:

Project Example

Trail Assessments in Nevada State Parks

The lack of accurate information about the level of access on a trail is often the greatest barrier to trail use, especially by people with disabilities. Maps and Trail Access Information signs were developed for installation in 14 Nevada State Parks and Recreation Areas. Trail assessments were performed on the trails to create the signage, which includes allowed and prohibited trail use, distances, typical grades, maximum grades, typical cross slopes, maximum cross slopes, typical and minimum tread widths, surface types, surface categories, typical and maximum firmness, typical and maximum stability, and obstructions.


G. Education for safety & environmental protection

Poster with family says 'get trained first'.Category G: Development and dissemination of publications and operation of educational programs to promote safety and environmental protection.

A State may use up to 5 percent of its apportionment each fiscal year for the operation of educational programs to promote safety and environmental protection as those objectives relate to the use of recreational trails.

Project Example

Rutgers EcoPreserve Trails, New Jersey

Rutgers EcoPreserve, on the Livingston Campus at Rutgers University, is used as an outdoor laboratory and teaching area. Part of this project was to develop three trailhead information kiosks, along with signage and trail brochures. The project also purchased trail construction and maintenance tools and materials to restore and reroute the existing 4.5-mile informal trail system. In addition to matching funds from the University, volunteers provided 960 hours of labor for the project.


Project Example

Missouri State Parks Trail Book

In 2012, Missouri State Parks took on the project of creating a guide to help visitors who want to explore the nearly 1,000 miles of trails in Missouri’s State Parks and Historic Sites. An RTP grant funded the creation of “Trails of Missouri State Parks.” The 422-page, full-color book lists trails in 58 State Parks and Historic Sites.

The book is the result of a project begun in 2008 by Missouri’s State Trails Program. The goal was to create a database that would standardize trail information for consistent management, development, and maintenance of the State park trail system.

Staff members visited the parks to collect data on each trail, which was then entered in the database. The extensive field work collected and organized information, including GPS coordinates with a corresponding digital image, for the trails. Maps from the trail book are available online for visitors to print and take with them before embarking on a trail.

The database also is being used as a model to update connecting trail systems throughout the State, including those managed by cities, municipalities, and other government entities. The goal of the statewide effort is to have a comprehensive system that shares information on trails available through a website in the next couple of years. Graphic from Missouri State Parks.

* 2014 Coalition for Recreational Trails Award Winner


H. Administration

Group of people at conference tableCategory H: Payment of costs to the State incurred in administering the program.
In addition to Staff time to administer the program and grants, other activities related to recreational trails are eligible under this category, including:

Project Example

Vermont State Recreational Trails Program

Strong working partnerships and careful, accountable administration are key to the success that the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation has achieved with its RTP. The State RTP administrator serves as liaison with Federal and State officials, regional and local trail organizations, municipalities, and trail enthusiasts and interest groups.

Each year’s projects are widely solicited though public outreach, including grant workshops on interactive TV. RTP-funded projects must address key findings or desired conditions in Vermont’s Trails and Greenways Plan. Grant applications are carefully evaluated, selected, and tracked, even down to their GPS location. Trail design standards are required and documented, promoting trail construction or reconstruction being built to a high level of accessibility. Use of youth-service crews is actively encouraged and Vermont’s RTP is reviewed to ensure ease of process, compliance, and cost effectiveness.

Vermont encourages multiple-use trail development and reconstruction projects to ensure that it addresses its many trail interests effectively. The State gives extra credit in the grant application process to projects designed to minimize or resolve conflict. The Vermont Trails and Greenways Council plays a key role, providing advice and counsel on all trail-related matters, promoting public participation in trail planning, and making sure that all voices are heard within the trails community.


Table 4 – RTP Database Trail Project Work by Permissible Use Federal FY 1993-FY 2014

Data collection and validation for the RTP database is an ongoing effort. Data will be regularly entered into the database as it is received from the States, District of Columbia, and other sources.

Table 4 – RTP Database Trail Project Work by Permissible Use Federal FY 1993-FY 2014
Category   Total Projects
A. Maintenance and Restoration   11,372
Trail Restoration/Rehabilitation 3,819  
Trail Relocation 325  
Trail Grooming 1,726  
Trail Maintenance 4,048  
Bridge Restoration/Rehabilitation 823  
Bridge Relocation 57  
Bridge Maintenance 574  
B. Trailside and Trailhead Facilities   9,585
Trailhead Work 2,242  
Parking 1,543  
Signs 3,201  
Restroom 917  
Accessibility Features 509  
Access Ramps 408  
Other Trailhead and Trailside Facilities 765  
C. Equipment for Construction and Maintenance   2,242
D. Construction of New Recreational Trails   7,304
Trail 5,844  
Bridge 1,460  
E. Acquisition of Trail Corridors   331
F. Assessment of Trail Conditions   121
G. Education for Safety and Environmental Protection   2,230
Publications (Maps and Brochures) 459  
Safety Programs 798  
Environmental Programs 791  
Other Educational Programs 182  
H. Administration   512

----- NOTES -----

RTP funds may be used for projects within eight permissible use categories. The table shows the number of projects funded within each category since the inception of the program. Some categories are broken down further to specify the project type.

Many projects qualify under more than one category. Maintenance and restoration projects are the most common projects, followed by trail facilities, and new trail construction.

The source for the date in Tables 3 and 4 is information that the States provided for the RTP database (www.recreationaltrailsinfo.org).


National Trends and Benefits

Trail workers on a backcountry trail.

Projects using RTP funds reflect a variety of trends with trails on public lands and in communities across America. Some key national trends are identified along with benefits and issues of national significance affecting trail use and development.

Economic Stimulus

Many studies note that trails and greenways promote economic activity through direct spending as well as employment. Increased property values, tourism, and recreation-related spending on equipment, bicycles, food, and lodging are just some of the ways trails positively impact community economies. One major benefit of trail tourism is that visitors spend money in rural towns and in more economically disadvantaged areas.

Communities adjacent to public lands benefit from trails on those lands. Much of the investment in maintaining and creating trail systems comes from volunteers and donations from businesses. Many towns have been successful at identifying the recreation resources, creating systems of trails, and making them more available through maps, signs, marketing, events, and tours.

Ladders of Opportunity

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s “Ladders of Opportunity” initiative is “dedicated to enhancing opportunity for all Americans” by investing in transportation projects that:

Ladders of Opportunity projects typically include Transit Oriented Development, Transit Enhancement, Complete Streets Corridor Improvements, and a variety of public transit solutions.

The Santa Fe Rail Trail is part of the New Mexico Rail Runner Express Corridor. The multi-use paved trail provides access to commuter rail stations and bus transit and direct links to adjacent diverse neighborhoods.

The project increases availability of and access to multiple modes of transportation alternatives. It also contributes to increased transit access and reduces the need for automobile ownership for employment.

The Santa Fe Rail Trail is a true community project, built with funds from local government, State, and Federal sources, including the RTP, as well as private contributions raised by the Santa Fe Conservation Trust. The trail plays a critical role in the “Santa Fe Metropolitan Transportation Plan,” which aims to complete a city-wide network of high quality trails for bicyclists and pedestrians.

Sustainability

FHWA has been promoting sustainability in project development, through context-sensitive solutions, habitat restoration, ecological connectivity, and site vegetation. For trails, sustainability may mean better route planning, mitigation of impacts, using recycled materials, and reducing erosion.

To trail managers, sustainability is key to reducing expenditures on maintenance by better design of trails, and the use of appropriate materials and structures. Sustainable trails should also:

Youth Service and Conservation Corps

Youth Service and Conservation Corps are Federal, State, and local programs that engage youth and young adults in service and projects. Corps members receive training and mentoring, a modest stipend, and opportunities for education and career preparation.

Public agencies benefit because Corps provide cost-effective labor, and also provide training for a pool of potential employees to work in conservation and outdoor recreation. Federal transportation law allows States to sole-source contracts and cooperative agreements to qualified youth service and conservation corps for recreational trail projects.

Hikers walk planks of a bridge through a forest.

Project Example

Superior Hiking Trail near Duluth, Minnesota

The Minnesota Conservation Corps (MCC) has worked on the Superior Hiking Trail since 1992, using funds for development and maintenance. MCC projects have included construction and repair of trail tread, bridges, and boardwalks.

Accessibility

A long-term trend has been to make communities, trails, and recreation facilities more available to all. This means improving trails for persons with disabilities, but also understanding the needs of older people, families with children, and those who are new to trail activities.

The “Final Guidelines for Outdoor Developed Areas” under the Architectural Barriers Act provide specifications for accessible recreational trails and other components of outdoor developed areas on Federal lands or constructed by a Federal agency. According to FHWA, “Although the guidelines do not necessarily apply to Federal-aid projects (unless on Federal land), they provide best practices that States may adopt to ensure equivalent compliance under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).”


Multiple-Use Management

Project Example

Northern Rail Trail in Merrimack County, New Hampshire

This project involved resurfacing of the entire 34 miles of the Northern Rail Trail in Merrimack County to make a four-season trail. The previous surface of railroad ballast rock made a trail that could only be used in the winter by snowmobilers and cross-country skiers, because it was so difficult to walk, ride a bike, or use wheelchairs on the rocks.
* 2014 Coalition for Recreational Trails Award Winner


Project Example

Discovery Hill Community Trails, Idaho

The Discovery Hill Community Trails Project is a community-driven trail development project on Bureau of Land Management land near Salmon, Idaho. Discovery Hill had a long history of user- created conflicts and vandalism which were impacting important keystone wildlife species such as sage grouse.

The designated travel route system was clearly signed and mapped, with 35 miles of nonmotorized trails added to the network. The trails are immensely popular with mountain bikers, trail runners, hikers, and horseback riders. Off- highway vehicle users now safely and accurately navigate the motorized road and trail system, and Sacajawea Motorsports Park.
* 2014 Coalition for Recreational Trails Award Winner

An ongoing challenge faced by trail managers is to provide for a variety of trail users and experiences. Most trail systems can be defined as “multiple-use,” meaning that different modes of travel are allowed.

The goals for land managers are maintaining user safety, protecting natural resources, and providing high-quality user experiences. These challenges are interrelated and cannot be effectively addressed in isolation. To address these challenges, managers can employ a wide array of physical and management options such as trail design, information and education, user involvement, and regulations and enforcement.

Safety and Environmental Education

RTP funding has been used in every State for educational programs to promote safety and environmental protection. OHV safety training and educational materials have been the largest type of RTP expenditures for this category.

New safety issues have emerged with the popularity of boating and designated water trails. Safety is a key part of the training and resources provided by States and organizations for planning, managing, and promoting water trail facilities.

Trails and the natural areas they pass through are outdoor laboratories for schools as well as adults. For children active in natural settings, research indicates a number of benefits in better understanding of the environment as well as improvements in physical and mental health. Trail- related environmental education teaches about economic, social, and ecological interdependence while experiencing nature and the outdoors.


Climate Change

Project Example

The North Dakota Parks and Recreation Department

The North Dakota Parks and Recreation Department provides funding for a wide variety of Safety and Education programs, including media announcements, web-based information, workshops and training, and equipment. With partner Snowmobile North Dakota, winter trail signs are provided to clarify who takes care of the trail system, and to share key messaging on trail use such as respecting private property.

In “Strategic Issues Facing Transportation,” the Transportation Research Board states that “Climate change presents a fundamental challenge to engineering and planning practice given that transportation infrastructure has traditionally been planned and designed based upon historical climate data under the implicit assumption that the climate is static and the future will be like the past. Climate change challenges this assumption and suggests that transportation professionals might need to consider new kinds of risks in facility design and system operations.”

RTP funding can address concerns about climate change by building more durable trails that will withstand extreme weather events. In making efforts toward reducing greenhouse gases, new facilities and improvements to encourage bicycling and walking can reduce driving and emissions.

Trails also address climate change by preserving natural lands which absorb and store carbon dioxide. Trail and greenway corridors provide an opportunity for replanting trees as well as enhancing wetlands and other habitats. Trails often traverse former industrial areas that present opportunities for new plantings to create cooling corridors through our cities.

FHWA provides publications and tools that may help trail managers perform vulnerability assessments and address climate change resilience, see https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/environment/climate_change/.

Repair and Rehabilitation

Our trails and parks are vulnerable to major damage, just as our communities and transportation systems are. Extreme weather events in recent years have provided more visibility of damaged trails and parks. Whether or not these events could be categorized under “Climate Change,” a significant amount of funding is being applied to weather-related repairs:

As an example, RTP funds were used to repair trails in the Estes Park, Colorado area which were damaged by major flooding. The Homer Rouse Trail provides an important connection from Estes Park to Rocky Mountain National Park, while the Lake Estes Trail is the most popular trail in the area.

Habitat conservation

Trails promote natural resource management strategies that help ensure environmental quality. The positive contributions of trails include restoring degraded stream corridors and other habitats in the process of trail building, and guiding visitors away from sensitive wildlife habitat and into more adaptable settings.

RTP funding is also commonly used for projects involving acquisition of land for protection and reroutes to avoid habitat impacts. Often the environmental mitigation work is done by volunteers and conservation corps crews.

A family riding bicycles on a paved trail.

Safe and Livable Communities

Trails are an important part of our transportation infrastructure. Cities, suburbs, and towns all benefit from trails and greenways that make our communities more attractive to residents as well as employers. Trails also improve the economy through tourism and civic improvement, and provide opportunities for physical activity to improve fitness and mental health.

In addition, trails help our parks and open space by reducing crime and illegal activity through regular use and high visibility of users. Modest increases in property values near trails have also been documented.

Active Transportation

A significant amount of RTP funding is helping build transportation networks in cities across America. The term “active transportation” refers to bicycling, walking, and other nonmotorized transportation modes. Often these trail and sidewalk networks are well integrated with public transit.

Active transportation networks can also enhance recreation, and people will use attractive and safe trails as a way to get to school, work, or shopping instead of driving. Trails can be both efficient modes of transportation as well as linear parks and habitat corridors. The ultimate benefit is in increasing physical activity to reduce the rates of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and other chronic health conditions across the United States.

Project Example

Metropolitan Branch Trail, Washington, DC

The Metropolitan Branch Trail runs eight miles from Union Station in the District of Columbia to Silver Spring, Maryland. The trail is an important transportation route providing connections to homes, work, and play as well as access to seven Metro stations. The project has received four rounds of RTP funding.


Annual Achievement Awards for RTP-funded Projects

The Coalition for Recreational Trails (CRT), a federation of national trail-related organizations, hosts an annual achievement awards program to recognize outstanding trail projects funded by the Recreational Trails Program. The winners are recognized each year in Washington, DC during the American Recreation Coalition’s Great Outdoors Week in early June. The awards are part of the Coalition’s ongoing effort to build awareness of RTP accomplishments. Award winners are selected from projects nominated by public agencies, State administrators, organizations, or project sponsors.

Award Categories

Vehicles pass beneath a pedestrian bridge.

Maintenance and Rehabilitation: maintaining, repairing damage to, or upgrading the quality of a trail.

Construction and Design: planning and building a trail, portions of a trail, or trail-related facilities.

Education and Communication: enhancing trail use and enjoyment through increased environmental awareness, promotion of safety, and encouragement of trail-related outdoor recreation.

Multiple-Use Management and Corridor Sharing: facilitating and/or encouraging the use of a trail corridor by more than one type of trail enthusiast, particularly those enthusiasts that do not ordinarily share trails or trail-related facilities.

Environment and Wildlife Compatibility: enhancing the protection of wildlife and/or the general environment as part of trail development and use.

Accessibility Enhancement: facilitating and/ or encouraging increased access to trail-related recreation opportunities for people with disabilities.

Youth Conservation/Service Corps: making effective use of the services and skills of qualified youth conservation or service corps to construct and/ or maintain trails.

Read more about the CRT Annual Achievement Awards and see details of the projects that have been recognized since 2000: http://www.americantrails.org/rtp/crtawards.html

About the Coalition for Recreational Trails

The CRT members work together to build awareness and understanding of the RTP. The CRT formed in 1992 following the passage of the ISTEA to ensure that the National Recreational Trails Fund Act (now known as the RTP) established by that legislation received adequate funding. During the six years of ISTEA, CRT worked to ensure that program was continued and strengthened as part of the ISTEA reauthorization process.

Following the enactment of TEA-21 in 1998 and SAFETEA-LU in 2005, both of which increased RTP funding, the CRT focused its efforts on supporting the continued, effective implementation of the RTP. CRT efforts supported continuing the program under MAP-21 with a set-aside of funding up to $84.1 million for fiscal years 2013 and 2014.


Conclusions

RTP funding has been an essential ingredient in creating and improving over 20,370 trail-related projects nationwide, including urban greenways, nature centers, and horse, hiking, mountain bike, and motorized trails, as well as snow and water routes. States continue to add miles of trails as well as needed maintenance and improvements through grants to local project sponsors each year. Like other Highway Trust Fund programs, the RTP provides benefits to virtually every county in the United States.

A walker on a paved path leading to a snow capped mountain.

A review of RTP-funded projects also reveals many benefits to employment, environmental education, health, resource conservation, and community development. The program has encouraged productive cooperation among agencies and jurisdictions, facilitated healthy outdoor recreation, and supported badly needed economic activity in communities as well as rural areas.

The RTP is the foundation for State trail programs across the country. Every State has established its own initiatives with a designated administrator for assistance on trail issues and coordination of trail planning.

RTP funding is highly leveraged by community and State funds, as well as contributions from organizations and businesses. Of the projects completed between 1993 and 2014, total RTP funding was over $1 billion with additional funding of $733 million, showing that RTP dollars were matched by 73 percent in other funds. Further efficiencies are seen by the use of youth conservation and service corps working in cooperation with private contractors, agency or community staff, and volunteers.

In every State, equestrians and cyclists, hikers and snowmobilers, ATV enthusiasts and paddlers have joined in support of local as well as regional efforts to meet the trail needs of all users.

In searching through the RTP Database, it is clear that the variety of projects is highly diverse. Because the funds are distributed for both motorized and nonmotorized trail work, all trail interests have incentives to cooperate and learn from each other.

Photographs of many examples of RTP-funded projects have been gathered in the Image Library which is part of the online RTP Database. Photos from all 50 States and the District of Columbia are included along with examples of permissible uses of RTP funds for trails, related facility construction, and other project types.


Resources

For more information on many topics related to RTP funding as well as technical resources on trails of all types, see the following resources.

Recreational Trails Program

Recreational Trails Program Database: http://www.recreationaltrailsinfo.org

The Recreational Trails Program website for the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA): https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/environment/recreational_trails/

FHWA guidance and policies for RTP: https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/environment/recreational_trails/guidance/

For policies and funding in every State, see the State RTP Administrators List to find program contacts and websites: https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/environment/recreational_trails/rtpstate.cfm

The Coalition for Recreational Trails gives awards each year for outstanding projects funded through State RTP grants: http://www.americantrails.org/awards/CRTawards.html

Accessible trails

FHWA guidance to provide best practices for trail accessibility, and trail design, construction, and maintenance: https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/environment/recreational_trails/guidance/accessibility_guidance/

USDA Forest Service trail and outdoor facility accessibility guidelines: http://www.fs.fed.us/recreation/programs/accessibility/

More resources on accessible trails: http://www.americantrails.org/resources/accessible/index.html

Resources for trail planning, development, and management

For many resources on trail planning, design, construction, management, accessibility, funding, training, for both motorized and nonmotorized trails, see the National Trails Training Partnership Resources & Library: http://www.americantrails.org/resources/trailbuilding/index.html

Trail management and maintenance: http://www.americantrails.org/resources/ManageMaintain/index.html

Trail user protection, safety, and risk management: http://www.americantrails.org/resources/safety/index.html

Trail training resources: http://www.americantrails.org/nttp/default.htm

Online calendar of trail training and education opportunities: http://www.americantrails.org/Calendar.html

Youth and Conservation Corps

FHWA Youth Workforce Development Resources: https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/environment/transportation_alternatives/guidance/youth_workforcedev.cfm

MAP-21 Section 1524 - Youth Service and Conservation Corps Questions & Answers: https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/map21/qandas/qayscc.cfm

A guide to transportation funding programs for service and conservation corps: Conservation Corps and Transportation: Making the Connection (pdf 1.7 mb) http://atfiles.org/files/pdf/CorpsandTransportation.pdf

More about opportunities with Corps nationwide at The Corps Network: http://www.corpsnetwork.org


Technical Assistance

Recreational Trails Program Database Website: www.recreationaltrailsinfo.org

Technical Questions:
Call the number or send an email to the address below.

RTP Database Technical Assistance Section
American Trails
P.O. Box 491797
Redding, CA 96049-1797
(530) 605-4395
support@recreationaltrailsinfo.org

Website issues:
Write to webmaster@recreationaltrailsinfo.org.


Acknowledgements

The Recreational Trails Program Database project is funded by the Federal Highway Administration through the Recreational Trails Program under contract DTFH61-12-C-00029. The contractor for the RTP Database project and this Annual Report is KMS Enterprises, Inc., with American Trails as its subcontractor.

Updated: 1/31/2017
HEP Home Planning Environment Real Estate
Federal Highway Administration | 1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE | Washington, DC 20590 | 202-366-4000