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FHWA funding improves 3,990 trails across America

From the Fall 2001 issue of Trails Tracks, the national newsletter of American Trails

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) announced November 13 that it has contracted with the Coalition for Recreational Trails and R. B. Lohr & Company to continue collecting information about trails projects funded by the Recreational Trails Program through January of 2004. The FHWA conducts the trail program, which applies gasoline excise taxes, and distributes funds to the fifty states and the District of Columbia. The database of trail projects first developed in 1998 now has information regarding trail construction and maintenance on 3,990 trails nationwide.

The Recreational Trails Program (RTP) funds the trails work on an 80-20 matching basis. Various organizations accomplish the trails projects and invest in a portion of the funding. Participating organizations are as varied as hiking groups, equestrian clubs, snowmobile clubs, cross-country ski groups, mountain bike associations, and local, state and national government land management agencies. Annually, RTP invests $50 million, which is divided up in varying amounts to the states. Trail projects range from installing signage or restrooms to grooming snowmobile paths and paving sections of long distance corridors that connect towns across various regions. Derrick Crandall of the Coalition for Recreational Trails commented, "Trails that take advantage of RTP across this country are largely small trails that connect communities to local parks and provide recreational outdoor activities."

The agreement between the FHWA, the Coalition and R.B. Lohr & Company will extend the information collection and reporting process, which has shown what the program has delivered though 2000. For example, the database reveals that while mandating only a 20% match of FHWA funds, the projects are actually matching more than 50% of their contributions from other sources. Thus the program, which receives $50 million of FHWA support becomes a $100 million investment in trails when all the matching funds are considered

This year, the database will be made Web searchable on the FHWA Internet site. This will allow trail user groups, legislators and other interested parties to gain easy access to the database information. Roger Lohr, owner of R.B. Lohr & Company said, "We've collected the most up-to-date list of trail projects from all the states and now we will make the information available to a much larger audience, who will become more aware of RTP and its significant contribution to all American trail users."

Christopher Douwes, FHWA Recreational Trails Program Manager, who meets regularly with state trails administrators, said, "Without RTP, there would be few state trails programs. It is the bedrock for the existence of the state programs." All parties that are involved agree that collecting RTP information will help to reinforce the value of the program and provide a basis of support for its continuation.

For the full report of the Coalition for Recreational Trails on nationwide funding and trail projects, visit http://www.funoutdoors.info/Report_10_30_2002.html.

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