Recreational Trails Program



Trails advocates across America agree that the Recreational Trails Program is an essential part of the the support network for trails of all kinds. We're urging every group and individual to join this effort to keep RTP working for every state.




arrow See "Key reasons for a state NOT to opt out of the Recreational Trails Program"

arrow See "California's Active Transportation proposal"

arrow See the list of California Projects funded through the Recreational Trails Program since its inception (pdf 278 kb)

arrowCalifornia's Great Outdoors Month Proclamation by Gov. Jerry Brown (pdf 363 kb)


California likely to opt out of Recreational Trails Program

It is our understanding that, pursuant to the Governor’s proposed budget, the California State Senate and Assembly are considering the consolidation of a number of individual programs, including the Recreational Trails Program (RTP), into one Active Transportation Program to be administered by the California Department of Transportation. The following letter drafted by the Coalition for Recreational Trails was sent to the Governor April 20, 2013: 




Dear Governor Brown:

We understand that your Administration has proposed in its 2013- 2014 budget to consolidate a number of individual programs, including the Recreational Trails Program (RTP), into one Active Transportation Program to be administered by the California Department of Transportation. We further understand that this initiative has been undertaken to accomplish a number of worthy transportation-related goals, including streamlining program operations, improving public health, safety and mobility, and protecting the environment. Without detracting from these goals, as representatives of hundreds of thousands of Californians who enjoy trail-based recreation, we respectfully request that the RTP not be included in the new consolidated Active Transportation Program. We ask, instead, that the RTP be allowed to retain its discrete funding and distinct identity as a program, administered by the California Department of Parks and Recreation, that provides outstanding recreational opportunities for California’s millions of trails enthusiasts. We are greatly concerned that, if this action is not taken, the California trails system will lose its foundational program, abandoning the state’s trail enthusiasts – nonmotorized and motorized alike – who need – and have paid for – well designed and maintained trails where they can enjoy many kinds of trail- based recreation, from hiking and biking to ATV riding and snowmobiling.

RTP is not just another funding program. RTP is a user-pay/user- benefit program that derives its funding from the Federal gas taxes paid by off-highway recreation vehicle owners. The RTP receives only a small portion – $5.7 million – of the Federal recreation fuel taxes paid annually by California residents, which amount to almost $22 million. Accordingly, these funds should continue to be used to benefit the taxpayers who pay those taxes. By Federal statute, 30% of the funds are to be used for motorized recreation, 30% for non-motorized recreation, with the remaining 40% to be used for multiple-use projects. RTP was created by the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991 (ISTEA) and has been subsequently included in each succeeding transportation reauthorization legislation, including the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21) signed by the President in July 2012. And it is important to note that, amid all the program consolidation that characterized MAP-21, the U.S. Congress made sure that the RTP retained its distinct identity and its discrete funding – because this program works!

Beyond acknowledging and honoring the RTP’s status as a user-pay/user-benefit program, the RTP should be maintained as a stand-alone program in California for a number of additional compelling reasons – many related to the spending guidelines that apply to the Federal government’s non-RTP Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP). TAP spending guidelines, which will still be in force, are far less flexible than those governing the RTP.

● California will lose access to millions of additional dollars in partner funding, including additional funds from non-DOT Federal partners, as well as in-kind services, donations and local matching dollars – and the invaluable work of volunteers – that RTP funding has traditionally leveraged to support RTP-funded projects.

● Recreational trail projects in California will no longer be exempt from treatment as projects on a Federal-aid highway, which will mean increased costs.

● California will no longer be able to spend funds directly on state-managed trail projects or provide funding directly to nonprofit and other private-sector partners, limiting options for cost-effective project management.

● California will lose the RTP focus on encouraging the use of youth service and conservation corps for trail-related projects.

● Funding of trail maintenance and program administration will no longer be authorized.

Over the last two decades, California has funded hundreds of excellent projects with its RTP funding. A list of those projects, maintained in the RTP national database, is attached. Those projects have facilitated healthy outdoor recreation for California’s residents and visitors and have also supported associated, badly needed economic activity in numerous communities across the state. Work for these projects is primarily done by youth corps, volunteers, and small businesses, providing employment opportunities for many hardest hit by the recession.

The RTP and Environmental Enhancement Mitigation Program (EEM), also slated for consolidation under the Governor’s proposal, are the only sustainable and dedicated funding sources available to the state for recreational trail use – often cited as the most popular outdoor activity in the state. A publication produced by the California Department of Parks and Recreation in 2005 found that recreational trail activities including walking, wildlife viewing and trail hiking are listed among the top five outdoor activities in the state. Moreover, in 2010 the Outdoor Industry Foundation produced a survey that reinforced the popularity of unimproved trails, listing trail use as the most popular active recreational activity in the state. The popularity of these programs cannot be overstated as they are routinely over-subscribed to by as much as 6-1 in a given year.

According to a report prepared by the Outdoor Industry Association in 2012, more than $85 billion is spent each year on outdoor recreation in California, supporting 732,000 jobs. Trails are absolutely essential to sustaining this economic activity.

The economic impact of trails can be demonstrated by the example of mountain biking, a multi-billion dollar industry in California that means economic survival for certain rural communities like Downieville. The National Bicycle Dealers Association reported in 2011 that in California alone there were over 300,000 unit sales of mountain bikes. In addition, mountain biking is a destination activity, encouraging expenditures on food and lodging that significantly bolster local coffers.

Aside from the economics, a strong argument can be made in terms of the health benefits associated with trail use. At a time when there is a growing occurrence of youth and adult obesity and climbing rates of diabetes in the state, California can ill afford to eliminate or marginalize programs that help address this crisis in public health by encouraging healthy outdoor activity.

Increasing opportunities for safe and popular outdoor activities for Californians is an important dual goal of active transportation. Eliminating the RTP will actually undercut efforts to meet this goal.

Since 1993, California has spent more than $45 million in RTP funds, supporting important investments in trails. These investments, in turn, are an investment in the future of both communities and public lands, connecting people of all ages and backgrounds to the environment, which is good for them and good for the world that surrounds them. The RTP has been administered by the state in such an exemplary fashion that the Coalition for Recreational Trails, based on the recommendation of the Awards Committee of the National Association of State Park Directors, awarded its National RTP Achievement Award for Outstanding Trail Program to California in 2011.

Over two decades, the RTP has proven itself to be a flexible, responsive, effective program that leverages millions of dollars of additional support from other sources for trails and encourages productive cooperation among trail users while providing essential recreation facilities and catalyzing trail-related tourism and related economic activity.

We believe that, under the proposed Active Transportation consolidation, the Recreational Trails Program and the support it has provided for recreational trails will essentially disappear. As organizations representing hundreds of thousands of trail enthusiasts across California, we ask that you retain the RTP as a discrete program, with its own defined user-paid funding, administered by the California Department of Parks and Recreation.


Ambrose Recreation and Park District
American Motorcyclist Association
AMA District 37
American Trails
Americans for Responsible Recreational Access
Arcade Creek Recreation and Park District
Auburn Bike Works
Back Country Horsemen of California
Back Country Horsemen of California, Shasta Trinity Unit
Bay Area Ridge Trail Council
Bicycle Trails Council of the East Bay
Member of the California State Legislature
Bicycling Events
Bike San Gabriel Valley
BlueRibbon Coalition
Caletti Cycles
California Campaign to Save Rec Trails
California Central Coast Bike Patrol
California Off-Road Vehicle Association
California ReLeaf
California State Parks Foundation
California Trails and Greenways Foundation
Castro Valley Cyclery
Central Valley Rails to Trails Foundation
City of Anderson Community Services Parks & Recreation
City of Beverly Hills Community Services Department
City of Carpinteria
City of Chino
City of Colton
City of Covina
City of El Centro
City of Encinitas
City of Monrovia
City of Ontario Community and Public Services Agency
City of San Dimas
City of San Pablo
City of Santa Barbara
City of Twentynine Palms
City of West Sacramento
Coalition for Recreational Trails
Concerned Off-Road Bicyclists Association
Cosumnes Community Services District
County of Los Angeles Department of Parks and Recreation
County of San Luis Obispo, Parks Department
East Bay Bicycle Coalition
East Bay Regional Park District
Friends of Greenhorn
Friends of Stevens Creek Trail
Fulton-El Camino Recreation and Park District
Gold Hills Posse 4x4 Club
Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy
Greater Vallejo Recreation District
Groundwork Richmond
Hangtown Electric, Inc.
Highlands Recreation District
Hubbell Group
International Mountain Bicycling Association
Jr. Posse Youth Equestrian Program
Jurupa Area Recreation and Park District
Lafayette Hiking Group
La Mesa Community Services
Lassen Land and Trails Trust
Lassen Motorcycle Club
Light & Motion Industries
Livermore Area Recreation and Park District
Local Government Commission
Marin County Bicycle Coalition
Marin County Parks
McCloud Local First Network
Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District
Missing Link Bike Shop
Monterey Off Road Cycling Association
Mount Shasta Recreation & Park District
Mountain Bikers of Santa Cruz
Murieta Trail Stewardship
Napa County Bicycle Coalition
The Nature Conservancy
Nisene 2 Sea
NorCal FJS – FJ Cruisers of Northern California
North Bay Motorcycle Club
North Highlands Recreation & Park District
Oklahoma Dirt Riders
Orangevale Recreation and Park District
Outdoor Afro
Over the Bars Mountain Bike Club
Pedestrian Friendly Alameda
Pleasant Hill Recreation & Park District
Redwood Community Action Agency
Responsible Organized Mountain Pedalers
Sacramento Jeepers
Santa Ynez Trail Riders
Santee Lakes Recreation Preserve
Save Burney Falls
Save the Trails
SHARE Mountain Bike Club
Sonoma County Regional Parks
Tamalpai Community Services District
Tehachapi Mountain Trails Association
The Thacher School
Town of Windsor
Tuolumne County Recreation Department
UC-Berkeley Cal Cycling
WALK Sacramento
Walk SanDiego
Wandering Wheelers Jeep Club
Wrench on the Roll Cyclery
Wrench Science
Xtracycle Inc


Background on the Recreational Trails Program

arrow See "Two States "opt out" of Recreational Trails Program Funding"

arrow See "Indiana Gov. Daniels announces continued Recreational Trails Program funding"

arrow See "States announce trail funding after opting out of RTP"

arrow See "California's Active Transportation proposal"

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