Recreational Trails Program Overview

Americans for Responsible Recreational Access has played a leading role in the creation and expansion of the Recreational Trails Program (RTP).  Both as an independent association and as part of the Coalition for Recreational Trails, ARRA has actively pursued increased funding for the grant program included in Transportation Reauthorization legislation.  With the increased funding for the program secured through 2009, it is imperative that recreationists and groups take full advantage of the opportunity presented by the RTP to fund trail construction, maintenance and other trail related expenses.

What is the Recreational Trails Program?

The RTP is a grant program for motorized and non-motorized trail and trail related infrastructure that is overseen by the Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and funded through the transportation reauthorization process.  Every time you fill your vehicle with gas you pay a tax that is collected by your state and then sent to the federal government to be dispersed and spent on road and bridge construction and maintenance and other transportation related expenditures.  As part of the transportation reauthorization process in 1991 it was decided that the taxes paid by OHV riders at the pump were unfairly used to fund on-road priorities despite the fact that the OHV rider used the gas for off-road purposes, so the RTP was born.

How Much is Allocated For the Recreational Trails Program?

Initially in 1991 a total of $37.5 million was authorized for the program; however, the appropriation jumped dramatically in 1998 when $270 million in funding was made available over six years.  $30 million was available for 1998 $40 million for 1999 and $50 million per year for 2000-2003.  The program was flat funded at $50 million for 2004 through a series of legislative extensions of the 1998 reauthorization.  Finally, in July 2005 a new transportation reauthorization bill was passed that included $370 million over five years for the RTP.  $60 million was available for 2005, $70 million for 2006, $75 million for 2007, $80 million for 2008 and $85 million for 2009.  While this is still considerably less than the estimated $286 million in taxes annually collected from OHV users, it is a substantial increase and the industry will continue to support efforts to increase the amount allocated for the RTP.

How Are Recreational Trails Program Funds Apportioned?

RTP grants are administered by each state.  The allocation of the total RTP budget to individual states is based on a formula, mandated by law, that apportions half of the total funds equally among all states with the other half distributed in proportion to the estimated amount of non-highway recreational fuel use in each State.  The law also provides that except in approved circumstances states must spend 30% of their allocation on motorized uses, 30% on non-motorized uses and 40% on multiple use trails.  It is important to note that multiple use trails do not need to include motorized uses.  For example a dual use trail could include both mountain biking and horseback riding.

What Can Recreational Trails Program Grants Be Used For?

RTP Grants may be used for: maintenance and restoration of existing trails; development and rehabilitation of trailside and trailhead facilities and trail links; purchase and lease of trail construction and maintenance equipment; construction of new trails (with restrictions for new trails on Federal lands); acquisition of easements or property for trails; State administrative costs for the RTP (limited to 7 percent of a State’s funds); and operation of educational programs to promote safety and environmental protection related to trails (limited to 5 percent of a State’s funds).

Who May Apply For Recreational Trails Program Grants?

States may make grants to private organizations (including rider groups), or to municipal, county, State, or Federal government agencies. Some States, by policy, do not provide funds to private organizations. Projects may be on public or private land, but projects on private land must provide written assurances of public access.

How Do I Apply for Recreational Trails Program Grants?

As RTP Grants are administered by states each State has a different process.  Included in this guide (appendix x) is a list of the RTP administrators in each state.   ARRA encourages riders and groups to contact their individual state administrators to get started.

How Much is Each Recreational Trails Program Grant?

Again, this varies from state to state; however, awards typically range from $2,000 to $50,000.

Will Recreational Trails Program Grants Cover the Full Cost of a Project?

In general, the maximum Federal share of RTP funds for each project is 80 percent. A Federal agency project sponsor may provide additional Federal funds, if the total Federal share does not exceed 95 percent. The non-Federal match must come from project sponsors or other fund sources. Funds from any other Federal program may be used for the non-Federal match if the project also is eligible under the other program. States may allow a programmatic match: if some project sponsors in a State provide more matching funds than required, other sponsors in the State may be able to provide less. Some in-kind materials and services (donated equipment, volunteer hours, etc) may be credited toward the project match. Note: some States require a 50 percent match.

How Can ARRA Help?

ARRA will continue to press for increased funds to be allocated through the transportation reauthorization process.  In addition, recreationists can visit the ARRA website for detailed information and guidance on who to contact and on preparing successful applications for RTP funds.

Official Federal Highway Administration RTP site

A list of state RTP administrators is also available on the FHWA website.

To download an RTP grant application, click on your state.


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