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Arkansas faces a trails funding crisis

The benefits of working collaboratively with CRT, RTC, NRPA, and American Trails.

By Terry Eastin

Last year, Arkansas faced a trails funding crisis. Only the smallest of three funding sources ($250,000 per year state grant program), was still offering trail grants - 7 or so $35,000 grants a year. Where were the other two, Transportation Enhancement Funding and Recreational Trails? Nowhere on the radar scope. Transportation Enhancement (TE) funds had been diverted to the construction of badly-needed state welcome centers since 2002, and Recreational Trail funding (RTF) was sent back to the federal government as part of a 2006 funding rescission package.

An awareness campaign was developed with leadership, information, and assistance from the organizations above. Through this campaign, notification of the rescissions and a request for reinstatement was sent via letter to the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department (AHTD). Key organizations and political leaders were asked to call and inquire about the status of Recreational Trails funding. There was no ugly outcry - no, pitchforks and torches lighting the steps of the capitol, only a sincere and positive request to keep our trails funding programs alive and well. Equally important, recognition of AHTD's role in trail development was duly noted and a desire developed to thank and encourage the department for its future work.

This year, again, faced with extraordinary rescission requests, the Arkansas Highway and Transportation Department elected to spare Recreational Trails funding and to establish a grant round with more funding than usual.

The 2008 National Trails Symposium will be held in Little Rock, Arkansas. The Symposium, now in its nineteenth year, is helping to elevate trails programs everywhere, but, particularly, here in Arkansas where awareness may lead to new funding opportunities. Even with limited resources, the amount of innovative trail development (and, nontraditional funding) in Central Arkansas is stunning. Symposium attendees will long remember Arkansas' innovation and dedication.

In Arkansas, where we are vaccinated with hospitality, and bathed with gratitude, we offer our appreciation and recognition of the vital role played by our national organizations. Congratulations and thank you!

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