Outstanding State Trail Program

 

Arizona State Parks and Trails

The Arizona Program reflects a dynamic cultural shift that includes all of the components of a model program which is user driven.

The CRT is very pleased to present an Achievement Award for Outstanding State Trail Program. The winner was chosen by members of the National Association of State Park Directors, which is particularly appropriate because, in most states, the state park agency administers the RTP.

We greatly appreciate the assistance of both the NASPD’s Awards Committee, chaired by Kris Marek, Director of Oklahoma State Parks, and NASPD’s Executive Director Lewis Ledford.

This year’s Achievement Award for Outstanding State Trail Program goes to Arizona, specifically to the RTP Grants Program of Arizona State Parks and Trails.

In 2014, the RTP Grants Program was not close to a model program. It was recovering from significant recession-related cuts in staffing and support. The team was behind in their work. Project sponsors struggled with an extremely complex grant process. And trail-community partnerships were in terrible shape, hampering any ability to enhance trail-based recreation in the state.

The transformation began under the guidance of the new Grants Lead, Mickey Rogers, a 30-year veteran of the Maine State Parks system, who brought his skills and experience to Arizona at a crucial time. This award recognizes that transformation.

Youth crew working on an Arizona trail project; Photo by Kathleen Fitzpatrick, CVL Hike Club

Youth crew working on an Arizona trail project; Photo by Kathleen Fitzpatrick, CVL Hike Club

Here are just some of the important changes that were made:

  • The grant process— described as a nightmare— was simplified. The grants manual went from 200 pages to 40. Reimbursements went from paper to electronic format.
  • Outreach was expanded. One or two annual grant workshops in just one city became five workshops in four different sites, augmented by webinars.
  • After 15 years of trying, the entire grants management system was revamped in one year with the development of a new online grants system— known as WebGrants— that went live last April. Simplicity, transparency, efficiency, accountability have been brought to the grants process.
  • Communication now goes way beyond formal contacts. Grant applicants aren’t left on their own to navigate the system. Face-face meetings, site visits and standard communications— well before the deadline— are all used to help each applicant succeed. Grant staff regularly attend community meetings and events, including work/trail day events with grantees.
  • Policy changes have been implemented to ensure timely completion and close-out of RTP projects.
  • Other policies focus on reaching communities that have not participated in RTP previously and on encouraging the continual development of new trail-group leaders with new ideas, who help guide the program.
  • A three-member GIS AmeriCorps Team was created to help inspect and close out RTP projects and to start collecting trail data to help all trail users to identify appropriate trails for their interests and skills.

From left: Marianne fowler, CRT; Mickey Rogers, AZ State Chief of Grants and Trails; Sean Hammond, AZ State Grants and ADA Coordinator; Derrick Crandall, CRT

From left: Marianne fowler, CRT; Mickey Rogers, AZ State Chief of Grants and Trails; Sean Hammond, AZ State Grants and ADA Coordinator; Derrick Crandall, CRT

The result? Prior to 2015, Arizona State Parks was obligating 75% of apportioned funds. Aggressive outreach and a sizeable increase in quality applications requesting more funds than were obligated led the Arizona DOT to increase the obligation authority in 2016 to 94% of apportioned funds.

And in March, during Arizona State Parks’ 60th anniversary celebration— to recognize the extraordinary number of volunteer organizations and individuals building and maintaining trails— Arizona State Parks officially changed its name to Arizona State Parks and Trails.

We would like to share the message we received from the NASPD Awards Committee when they announced their selection: “The Arizona Program reflects a dynamic cultural shift that includes all of the components of a model program which is user driven. There is great energy, enthusiasm and creativity in the Arizona operation which is extremely desirable for staff, sponsors, program beneficiaries and advocates.”

More on Arizona State Parks and Trails

More on Arizona's Grant Programs


More winners of this award

2019: Vermont

2015: Montana

2015: Washington

2013: West Virginia

2012: Tennessee Greenways and Trails Program

2011: California

2010: Vermont

2009: Oregon