The Indiana Trails Advisory Board includes both motorized and nonmotorized users who represent their constituents, not industry or agency, interests in trails to the board as well as sharing important trail information to them.
This year’s award for Outstanding State Recreational Trails Advisory Committee goes to the State of Indiana, recognizing its very effective Trails Advisory Board. Since its founding in 1994, the Indiana Trails Advisory Board— also known as TAB— has always included both motorized and nonmotorized trail users as well as members representing groups with strong interest in trails.
Indiana has one of the most inclusive advisory boards in terms of trail user representation that includes four motorized activities (ATV Users, Four-Wheel Drive Users, Off-Road Motorcyclists, and Snowmobilers), six nonmotorized activities (bicyclists, equestrians, hikers, mountain bikers, pedestrians, and water trail users) and a member representing users with disabilities.
In fact the well-balanced makeup of trail users on the Indiana TAB has been used as model for other state’s advisory committees. Rounding out the current membership, are four members representing groups with both an interest in and support for trails (environmental groups, health, parks & recreation agencies, and trail support groups).
Fifteen current members are responsible for representing their constituents’, not industry or agency, interests in trails to the board as well as sharing important trail information to them.
Each TAB member is charged with communicating the interests of their respective user group to the TAB. All members are able to report on the user groups at each meeting as well as introduce or voice opinion on policies and programs. Each of the 15 members also get a vote when it comes to making recommendations to the DNR Director on policies, programs, and other issues.
A measure for recommendation is passed if at least 8 members vote on behalf of it. Additionally, the DNR often looks to the TAB to help them get feedback from their respective user groups on plans and policies. For example, the Division of Outdoor Recreation invited all the TAB members to provide feedback through surveys and at a charrette for the latest State Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan (SCORP).
The TAB goes beyond the minimum once a year meeting to meet Indiana’s requirement for RTP funding eligibility and actually meets four times a year. Although the DNR Division of Outdoor Recreation manages the RTP funds, the TAB is a valued partner as they ensure our state’s funding as well as provide feedback on the RTP program.
Additionally, the TAB reports back RTP related news to their constituents helping to promote the RTP program to potential applicants as well as alerting them of threats to the program.
At the quarterly Indiana Trails Advisory Board meetings, members can formally communicate with each other at the meeting, where they can report on their respective user groups and weigh in on plans, policy, and other issues.
Although originally designed to provide feedback to the DNR about these things and the RTP, the TAB has blossomed into something more. Pre-meeting activities such as hiking, biking, paddling, or off-roading also provide a fun shared experience that promotes networking and a better understanding of each other’s activities and issues. Meetings also often feature a guest speaker, in which members are educated on a specific trail project or policy.
These activities have spurred discussion on resources, strategies, funding, sustainability, shared use, programming, and much more. Finally, the TAB has also assisted with trail partnerships and allies between member groups. In particular, a partnership formed in part because of the TAB are responsible for RTP grant projects, such as those in O’Bannon Woods State Park and Southwestway Park. Additionally, our motorized TAB members have meet separately recently to discuss the special issue surrounding motorized trails.
All TAB members are educated in the Recreational Trails Program, including the funding measure and requirements of the federal program as well as how Indiana distributes its funds.
Additionally, TAB meetings are held at a variety of different locations throughout the state to introduce members to different trails, many of which have received RTP assistance in the past. The goal of this is to show members what has been accomplished with, and what is possible with the Recreational Trails Program.
TAB members all are notified of upcoming application deadlines to further help the DNR in promoting the RTP program to their continuants and potential applicants. The TAB can provide feedback in which the criteria for RTP applicants are ranked. The DNR writes the criteria, considering any input from the TAB, and then scores applicants based upon it. After evaluating the applicants, the DNR provides their findings to the TAB at their annual June meeting for review. If the TAB agrees with their evaluation, they ultimately recommend that the DNR Director approves the list of projects.
The DNR Division of Outdoor Recreation invites the TAB to provide valuable input for both the development of the Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan (SCORP) as well as our Trails Plan through surveys, questionnaires, and charrettes.
The TAB was also tasked in helping us get additional feedback for these documents by helping to spread the word about them to their constituents. The DNR also passes on relevant policy meetings open to the public to the TAB, such as open houses for the DNR Division of Forestry or the Hoosier National Forest.
The TAB stays abreast on important trail legislation such as those tied to RTP, LWCF, the state trail maintenance fund, and others so they can alert constituents to contact legislators if need be. TAB members also encourage their respective organizations to participate in National Trails Day every year. Some TAB members have helped the DNR create a series of Trail Etiquette videos and Helmet PSA. Others have helped in videos featuring Redbird SRA, a DNR off-road property that has utilized RTP funds. Lastly, in the past year the TAB has made two recommendations to the DNR Director in support of trails. They recommended that DNR support the designation efforts of the Kankakee River to become a National Water Trail. They also recommended the DNR support and provide any necessary technical support for a comprehensive study of the Mounds Greenway project.
Indiana Trails Advisory Board: www.in.gov/dnr/outdoor/4094.htm
Indiana's Recreational Trails Program: www.in.gov/dnr/outdoor/4101.htm