What is the Recreational Trails Program?
The Recreation Trails Program (RTP) is a federal assistance program of the Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration that provides funds to develop and maintain recreational trails and trail-related facilities. Both motorized and non-motorized trail projects may qualify for assistance. RTP is administered at the state level through the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources, Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation, (FPR) in cooperation with the Vermont Agency of Transportation.
The Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21) reauthorized the Recreational Trails Program (RTP) through Federal fiscal years 2013 and 2014 as a setaside from the new Transportation Alternatives Program.
Federal RTP funds benefit recreation including hiking, bicycling, walking/running, in-line skating, equestrian use, cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, off-road motorcycling, all-terrain vehicular riding, or using other off-road motorized recreational vehicles.
Federal RTP funds come from the Federal Highway Trust Fund, and represent a portion of the motor fuel excise tax collected from non-highway recreational fuel use: fuel used for off-highway recreation by snowmobiles, all-terrain vehicles, off-highway motorcycles, and off-highway light trucks. The RTP funds are distributed to the States by legislative formula in proportion to the estimated amount of non-highway recreational fuel use in each State.
RTP rules require funds be allocated to trail projects so that 30% of federal funds are distributed for motorized recreational use, 30% are distributed for non-motorized use, and 40% are distributed for multiple-use recreation trails.
Who is Eligible?
Municipalities and non-profit organizations may receive a grant for up to 80% of the total cost of a recreation trail project.
How is funding received?
RTP is a reimbursement program: the project sponsor will not receive a cash grant at the time of project approval. Instead, the sponsor must pay for all the trail project expenditures and then submit a request to be reimbursed for the agreed upon percentage rate of eligible expenses incurred, with supporting documentation of invoices and payments made for project expenditures; Reimbursement is not permitted for work that takes place prior to project approval.
What is the required match?
Project sponsors must provide a match of at least 20% of the total project costs.
In the grant application, sponsors need to complete a cost estimate for the trail project, itemizing project expenditures. The sponsor must provide at least 20% of the total project cost as the sponsor's match. There is a Sponsor Match Summary Form in the grant application asking sponsors to show specifically where match will come from. Donations and volunteer labor, specific to the approved project, may be counted toward match, but not if donated prior to the project’s federal approval.
Match may consist of:
State Funds: (other state grants/funds)
Local Cash or In-Kind Contributions: Sponsor's direct monetary contribution; (i.e. cash from fund-raising efforts, organizational or municipal funds, local tax revenues, set-aside project funds, force-fund accounts of town/organizational labor forces, etc.);
Private Contributions: Other non-governmental grants (i.e. foundation grants, local non-profit organizational grants);
Non-Monetary Contributions: Value of volunteer labor or donations (i.e. donations of labor; in-kind labor contributions; or business donations of materials, tools, equipment/supplies needed for the project;)
Other Federal Funds: (i.e. other federal grants, funds, federal aid) might be able to be used as match. Please check with federal funding sources ahead of time.
Donations may be considered for match so long as the donations are items that fall under “What is eligible” according to RTP’s guidelines (summarized below);
Grant fund amounts: RTP will provide up to 80% reimbursement assistance for eligible projects. Project sponsors may apply for grants up to $20,000*.
*FPR may award additional funds to meet federal and state rules and policy;
What is eligible?
Below is a summary of what RTP funds can be used for:
- Construction, reconstruction, and/or re-alignment of single-use or multi-use recreation trails and trail linkages;
- Maintenance, restoration rehabilitation or relocation of existing recreational trails; (i.e. erosion control, improvements in trail design for future sustainability, stabilization, improved surfacing/grade, etc.)
- Construction of trail structures such as small bridges, railings, ramps retaining structures, and appropriate signage along a trail;
- Development and rehabilitation of trailside and trailhead facilities;
- Operation of educational programs specifically to promote safety, responsible trail use, and environmental protection (i.e. training or patrols; trail safety educational training, trail etiquette, trail-related environmental education/environmental interpretive information for a nature trail);
- Assessment of the current condition of existing trails for improve accessibility and future maintenance;
- Acquisition of easements and fee simple title to property for recreational trails or recreational trail corridors.
NOTE ABOUT EDUCATIONAL PROGRAMS:
Federal FTP rules allow only up to 5% of federal RTP funds to be used for educational projects; and, States may use less than this amount; Sponsors who apply for educational project funds should focus on public education efforts aimed at providing the public with information about appropriate trail use, accessibility/allowable use(s), and environmental protection for as many users and user groups possible. Sponsors need to address a key finding in the Vermont Trails and Greenways Plan of SCORP and describe how their educational project will maximize recreational benefits in Vermont while at the same time minimize environmental impact.
How and when do I apply?
Grant applications become available through FPR and will be made available on this website during the annual grant cycle.
During each grant round, FPR publicly solicits grant applications, posts a deadline for applications, and applications are then accepted by the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation.
Project eligibility is determined by FPR, and applications are then reviewed by a 5-member ranking committee of trail users and professionals from private, state, and federal sectors representing motorized, non-motorized, and multi-use trail user populations. This committee is nominated through the Vermont Trails & Greenways Council (www.vermonttrailsandgreenways.org) and appointed by FPR’s Commissioner to evaluate grant applications and make competitive funding recommendations to FPR.
RTP at work in Vermont
Since its inception in 1993 Vermont has received over $7,000,000 in federal RTP funds and has funded over 1400 trail projects throughout the state. It is anticipated that Vermont will receive an apportionment of approximately $1 million in RTP funds for 2013. Vermont uses half of its RTP apportionment for public trails and trail systems within Vermont’s State Parks and State Forests, and half of the funds, plus an additional $74,000 of state recreation trail funds are allocated to communities through RTP grants.
Recent Community Projects Funded
- VAST Winter Trail Maintenance & Grooming
- Vermont ATV Sportsmen’s Association’s ATV Safety Course
- Sections of the Cross Vermont Trail
- Adams Camp Trails in Stowe
- Kingdom Trails Association’s Nordic System Rehabilitation
- Moosalamoo Trails
- Local Motion’s Trail Finder
- Rutland’s Pine Hill Park Trails
- NorthWoods Stewardship Center’s North Woods Trails
- Northern Forest Canoe Trail’s Richford River Access
- The Nature Conservancy: Black Mountain Trail Restoration
- Williston Hill Trail
- Sharon – Royalton Community Trail
- Mad River Path Association Clay Brook Footbridge
- Green Mountain Club: Birch Glen Camp Repairs
- Fellowship of the Wheel – Hinesburg Town Forest Trails
- Irish Hill Trails Reconstruction
- Northfield Trails/Paine Mountain Multi Use Trail
- Pine Hill Park Trails
- St. Albans - Aldis Hill Trails
- VYCC Training Center Trails
- Long Trail Reconstruction: South of Bamforth Ridge Shelter on Camel’s Hump
- Cross Vermont Trail – U-32 School Forest/Winooski River Loop Trail
- Local Motion’s Trail Finder and Trail Finder Expansion Project
- Moretown Town Forest Trails
- Catamount Trails Association Relocation Project in Coolidge State Forest
- Chittenden East Creek Trails
- Millstone Trails Association Connector Trails
- Colchester Pond
- Tripp Hill Recreation Management Planning Project
- Reading Community Recreational Space Trail
- Vermont Trails & Greenways Council Statewide Educational Development
- Ellis-Bruce Trail in Calais
- NorthWoods Stewardship Center: Connecticut River Canoe Trail Guide