Submit Your Trail Infrastructure Projects for CARES Act Funding

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, signed into law by President Donald J. Trump on March 27, 2020, provides the Economic Development Administration (EDA) with $1.5 billion for economic development assistance programs to strengthen communities.

by Liz Thorstensen, Vice President of Trail Development, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC)

Iron Ore Heritage Trail - Marquette County, Upper Peninsula of Michigan; Photo by J. Birdie

The team at Rails-to-Trails Conservancy and American Trails is closely tracking relief and funding opportunities related to COVID-19 that may be appropriate for trail development.

On May 7, the Economic Development Administration (EDA) announced the availability of $1.5 billion in CARES Act funds in response to the pandemic. This funding will provide investments that support construction, non-construction, planning, technical assistance and revolving loan fund projects under EDA’s existing Public Works program. The funds are intended to aid regions across the country experiencing severe economic dislocations and hardship brought about by the pandemic.

The EDA’s funding announcement encourages “initiatives that present new ideas and creative approaches to advance economic prosperity in distressed communities.” While EDA programs are not a traditional source of trail funding, we believe trail and active transportation applications that make a strong economic impact and recovery case could very well be competitive in this program. EDA will accept applications for grants to support a wide variety of assistance, including:

  • Planning and technical assistance.
  • Capitalization and recapitalization of revolving loan funds, which provide access to capital for businesses.
  • Construction of infrastructure and other economic development projects.

We encourage you to explore this funding opportunity by:

  1. Reviewing EDA’s frequently asked questions and their funding addendum to determine eligibilities and requirements.
  2. Review your regional Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS) to ensure your project can articulate the economic development needs and objectives outlined in the CEDS or equivalent EDA-accepted regional economic development strategy. We would also encourage you to reach out to your local or regional economic development organization and discuss how your project idea supports the CEDS.
  3. Reach out to your state’s EDA representative to educate them about your project and seek their input before going through the steps of formally applying. Please note that EDA is encouraging this step.

While the submission timeline is on a rolling basis, our expectation is that these funds will be granted on a first-come, first-served basis. Similar to other programs implemented under the CARES Act, demand will likely be very high. We encourage you to explore this opportunity as soon as possible.

If you do decide to formally apply, please email RTC to let us know so that we can track the success rate of trail-related applications and share that information with the trails community.

Published May 13, 2020

About the Author


Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to creating a nationwide network of trails from former rail lines and connecting corridors to build healthier places for healthier people. RTC’s mission, and its value, is magnified in urban areas, where one mile of trail can completely redefine the livability of a community. Where trails are more than just recreational amenities, creating opportunities for active transportation and physical activity—improving our health and wellbeing—as they safely connect us to jobs, schools, businesses, parks, and cultural institutions in our own neighborhoods and beyond.

Contact: [email protected]

More Articles in this Category

Oregon, California, Mormon Pioneer, and Pony Express National Historic Trails Comprehensive Management and Use Plan / Final Environmental Impact Statement

This Comprehensive Management and Use Plan / Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Oregon, California, Mormon Pioneer, and Pony Express National Historic Trails is shaped, in part, by the planning requirements found in section 5(f) of the National Trails System Act. It focuses on the trails’ purpose and significance, issues and concerns related to current conditions along the trails, resource protection, visitor experience and use, and long-term administrative and management objectives. Elements of the proposed plan have been developed in cooperation with federal, state, and local agencies, as well as nonprofit trails organizations — the entities that form the core of any partnership for national historic trails.

Old Spanish National Historic Trail

The strategy described here provides guidance for the administration of the entire trail and a vision to be fulfilled through future, specific resources studies, and site and segment management plans. Much of the basis for the “Comprehensive Administrative Strategy” was developed during the earlier comprehensive management plan efforts.

National Scenic and Historic Trails Strategy and Work Plan

The Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) National Landscape Conservation System Office is pleased to provide you with the National Scenic and Historic Trails (NSHT) Strategy and Work Plan. The purpose of this national-level strategy is to provide a 10-year framework for the development of program guidance and direction for improved management of the BLM’s NSHT Program.

National Scenic and Historic Trail Administration

This manual provides the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) policy and program guidance on administering congressionally designated National Trails as assigned by the Department of the Interior within the National Landscape Conservation System (NLCS) and this manual describes the BLM’s roles, responsibilities, agency interrelationships, and policy requirements for National Trail Administrators