Recreational Trails Program


arrow Now available online: 2013 Recreational Trails Program Annual Report

arrow Download a large PDF (59 mb) of the complete 2013 Recreational Trails Program Annual Report


arrow Coalition for Recreational Trails maps out strategies for RTP reauthorization



Recreational Trails Program facts and status

 arrow See the Federal Highway Administration website for the Recreational Trails Program

 arrow See current legislation, issues, and action for news on RTP funding and program authorization


Outline of the Recreational Trails Program

●  The Recreational Trails Program (RTP) was created by the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991 (ISTEA), reauthorized in 1998 as part of the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21) and reauthorized again in 2005 through the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act:  A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU).  The RTP is included in the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21), the transportation-reauthorization bill signed by the President on July 6, 2012.

●  RTP applies the “user-pay/user-benefit” philosophy of the Highway Trust Fund, returning federal tax on fuel used for nonhighway recreation to the states for trail projects.  Program implementation is consistent in practice with other expenditures from the Highway Trust Fund.  Although the gas tax supporting the Fund is paid primarily by gas-using vehicles, resources are shared with other users of recreational trails to develop a balanced system.

●  Project categories eligible for funding are many and varied, giving states the flexibility they need to administer state trail programs.  Eligible projects include:  maintenance and restoration of existing recreational trails; development and rehabilitation of trailside and trailhead facilities and trail linkages for recreational trails; purchase and lease of recreational trail construction and maintenance equipment; construction of new recreational trails (with specific requirements when federal land is involved); acquisition of easements and fee simple title for recreational trail corridors; and assessment of trail conditions.  State administrative and educational program costs are capped at 7% and 5% respectively.  States are encouraged to work with qualified youth conservation or service corps.  

●  Half of all funding is apportioned to the states equally.  The remaining 50% is apportioned among eligible states based upon nonhighway recreational fuel use in each of those states during the preceding year.

●  Thirty percent of funds are to be spent for uses relating to motorized recreation; 30% are to be spent for uses relating to nonmotorized recreation.  In addition, 40% shall be used for projects that facilitate diverse recreational trail use within a recreational trail corridor, trailside or trailhead.

●  Over 20 years, RTP funding has grown to represent a more equitable portion of the total fuel taxes paid by nonhighway recreationists, although that portion is still less than 42% of the total taxes paid annually by nonhighway recreationists.  More than 16,000 funded projects have been documented nationwide. 

●  Since 2006 the program has received:

  • $70,000,000 for FY 2006
  • $75,000,000 for FY 2007
  • $80,000,000 for FY 2008
  • $85,000,000 for FY 2009
  • $85,000,000 for FY 2010
  • $85,000,000 for FY 2011
  • $85,000,000 for FY 2012
  • $85,000,000 for FY 2013

●  RTP is the foundation for state trail programs across the country.  It leverages hundreds of millions of dollars of additional support from other sources for trails, encourages productive cooperation among trail users, and facilitates healthy outdoor recreation and associated, badly needed economic activity in countless communities. 



The Coalition for Recreational Trails (CRT) is a federation of national and regional trail-related organizations. Its members work together to build awareness and understanding of the Recreational Trails Program, which returns federal gasoline taxes paid by off-highway recreationists to the states for trail development and maintenance.  CRT was formed in 1992 following the passage of the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA) to ensure that the National Recreational Trails Fund (now known as the Recreational Trails Program or RTP) established by that legislation received adequate funding. During the six years of ISTEA, CRT worked to ensure that program was continued and strengthened as part of the ISTEA reauthorization process. 

Following the 1998 passage of the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21) and the 2005 approval of the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU), both of which significantly increased RTP program funding, CRT’s efforts have been focused on supporting its continued, effective implementation and its extension and enhancement through the next round of transportation legislation and resulted in the reauthorization of RTP with dedicated annual funding of $85 million for Fiscal Years 2013 and 2014 in the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21).

COALITION FOR RECREATIONAL TRAILS 1200 G Street, N.W., Suite 650, Washington, D.C.   20005
(202) 682-9530   Fax (202) 682-9529


National Members

All-Terrain Vehicle Association
American Council of Snowmobile Associations
American Hiking Society
American Horse Council
American Motorcyclist Association
American Recreation Coalition
American Trails
Americans for Responsible Recreational Access
Back Country Horsemen of America
Bikes Belong
BlueRibbon Coalition
The Corps Network
Equine Land Conservation Resource
International Association of Snowmobile
International Mountain Bicycling Association
International Snowmobile Manufacturers Association
Motorcycle Industry Council
National Association of State Park Directors
National Association of State Trail Administrators
National Off-Highway Vehicle Conservation Council
National Recreation and Park Association
Partnership for the National Trails System
Professional Trail Builders Association
Public Lands Service Coalition
Rails-to-Trails Conservancy
Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association
Recreational Off-Highway Vehicle Association
SnowSports Industries America
Society of Outdoor Recreation Professionals
Specialty Vehicle Institute of America
Sports and Fitness Industry Association
Student Conservation Association
Tread Lightly!
United Four Wheel Drive Associations


Background on the Recreational Trails Program


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