Recreational Trails Program: Report on State Trail Projects
FINAL REPORT TO THE FEDERAL HIGHWAY ADMINISTRATION BY THE COALITION FOR RECREATIONAL TRAILS: DOCUMENTING ACCOMPLISHMENTS OF THE RECREATIONAL TRAILS PROGRAM.
Prepared as a cost-share project under FHWA Order Number DTFH61-99-P-00132,
Requisition Number 62-10-9040/0000 r
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Appendix B: Agenda for June 1999
Coalition for Recreational
A federal assistance program for recreational trail construction, renovation and maintenance was created under the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991. Under the program, funds were distributed to the States and certain other qualifying jurisdictions during three of the legislation's initial six years (a total of $37.5 million) as well as during the transitional period of October 1997 to June 1998.
The Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century
amended the program, most notably by significantly increasing funds
apportioned to the States (rising to $50 million annually for years
3-6 of the legislation) and providing contract spending authority for
such expenditures for the entire term of the legislation.
CRT proposed to undertake this project on a shared-cost basis, providing both in-kind and direct contributions to the project.
CRT regards it as essential that RTP projects can be readily identified and evaluated by the Administration, the Congress and program advocates. The increase in funding for RTP provided under TEA-21 demonstrated the support for trails programs in the Congress, but this support will be sustained only if sufficient accomplishments can be demonstrated. Moreover, FHWA has a need to monitor projects for compliance with statutory direction: this will become readily possible as the database becomes established.
Initiating the Recreational Trails Program Database
The Coalition for Recreational Trails, FHWA, the National Association of State Trail Administrators (NASTA) and leading and diverse national trails organizations have developed collaboratively a base-level means for collecting information about RTP funded projects and a structure for the data. Each project listing includes more than 30 data fields, for example, project name, name and organization of key contacts, project location and description, amount of RTP funding and of other funding, types of trail activities benefitting from the project, Congressional district(s) in which the trail project is located and a summary of the specific accomplishments of each project.
Beginning in March 1999, CRT and FHWA developed the mechanism for compiling the information into a database and initiated the solicitation of data from the States. State trail agencies submitted project information in a variety of formats, including e-mail, fax and mail. The information ranged from very detailed to very basic, and much more interpretation of the responses was required than initially anticipated. CRT then entered the information into a database allowing a variety of reports to be generated. A preliminary analysis of the data was completed for a well-attended briefing of FHWA staff, Members of Congress and their staffs and trail community leaders in June 1999 on the accomplishments of the RTP program. This report includes additional information compiled subsequent to that briefing as well as recommendations based on CRT's experience in developing the initial database, producing two exhibits on the RTP program and further discussions with state trail program administrators.
The collected information was supplied to those submitting data, both to allow states to review and correct information and to encourage those states supplying incomplete data to note the comprehensive information supplied by other states. Reaction was prompt from several states, leading us to believe that a regular database collection effort will enjoy an improvement in the quality and quantity of information supplied. Moreover, CRT has initiated conversations with organizations collecting information regarding other TEA-21 programs ranging from CMAQ to transportation enhancements to improve the ease and effectiveness of data collection. CRT was forced to enter all data manually; a permanent database operation may be able to create a way by which data can be submitted electronically by the states in a manner similar to that used by the National Scenic Byways Program for submission of nomination and grant applications.
Database AnalysisCRT's review of the information compiled in the database generated the following conclusions:
(1) federal dollars are being matched at least 1:1 nationally by state, local and trail enthusiast funding for projects;
(2) trail and bridge construction and reconstruction were the leading category of trail projects funded under the program;
(3) thirteen different trail activities were identified as beneficiaries of funded projects, with the preponderance of projects benefitting non-motorized activities;
(4) projects appear to be benefitting specific trail activities generally proportionate to overall public participation in each activity;
(5) the sources of matching funds are diverse and include federal and state land management agencies, specialized state trail funds and private sector contributions;
(6) the size of the projects varied tremendously in scope and cost. The average project received approximately $25,000 from the RTP program;
(7) the number of projects reported by the states varied tremendously, with Arizona reporting just five and Vermont reporting more than 150;
(8) the projects incorporated into the CRT database
represent a substantial portion of the total funding distributed under
ISTEA ($37.5 million total) and TEA-21 ($30 million for FY98 and a portion
of the FY99 monies, which total $40 million).
However, specific information regarding accomplishments
of the Recreational Trails Program have not been readily available to
government officials, the interested public and the media. The 1999
cooperative venture by the Coalition for Recreational Trails (CRT) and
the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) confirmed that information
on these accomplishments can be collected, integrated and made available.
Further, this effort has proven that the information is regarded as
valuable by Members of Congress, who welcomed the June briefing and
the information provided. Moreover, Members of Congress indicated that
information of the type available from the newly-created database would
be valuable in TEA-21 oversight efforts and in the crafting of the next
surface transportation legislation, now anticipated in 2003.
2) increase its outreach efforts to trail enthusiast organizations, again in cooperation with CRT and other organizations, and highlight accomplishments of the program through appearances and displays at appropriate forums, including Great Outdoors Week, National Trails Day events and the National Trails Symposium;
3) convene at least once each two years a meeting of state and federal trail program administrators and national trail organizations to review the accomplishments of the program and consider program revisions which might improve the program's effectiveness; and
4) prepare and disseminate in various forms an annual report or reports on program accomplishments. Especially cost-effective means for disseminating this information include publications of national trails organizations and a national program website.
Statistical Executive Summary of the Initial Database Findings
Total trail project funding provided by other sources (data was not obtained for all program years or for all States). Sources of other funding ranged from Federal agencies such as USFS and BLM to States, towns and counties to trail clubs such as mountain biking groups, equestrian councils and snowmobiler associations. $53,647,256Total number of trail projects obtained from the States listed above 2,524
Description of work done on trail projects (represented by a percentage of work done on all projects from which description data was obtained) included building new trails and adding trail connections, building restrooms, providing water fountains, developing and implementing educational programs, maintaining trails, resurfacing trail treads, providing accessibility to mobility impaired persons, etc. A categorical sample of some of the uses of the funding on trail projects is as follows:
Description of Work Done
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Updated March 18, 2007