The Recreational Trails Program provides funds to rehabilitate and maintain recreational trails and facilities that provide a backcountry experience.
Every 6 years, Congress passes the nation’s surface transportation bill. Since 1991, this massive funding authorization law has included provisions for cooperative, state-administered grants called the Recreational Trails Program.
In Washington State, these grants support a backcountry experience, which means that the trail’s physical setting, not its distance from a city or road, should be predominately natural. For example, a backcountry trail can provide views of cities or towns. Backcountry also means that the user will experience nature as opposed to
seeing or hearing evidence of human development and activity.
This grant program provides for trail-related facilities for both non-motorized and motorized trail uses. Under limited circumstances,
new “linking” trails, relocations, and education proposals are also eligible.
Principal uses include:
- All-terrain vehicle riding
- Equestrian or stock use
- Four-wheel driving
- Motorcycling off-road
- Skiing cross-country
- Water trails
- Clearing overgrown brush and fallen trees from trails
- Repairing trail damage from floods and fires
- Replacing bridges and drainage structures
Funding comes from federal gasoline taxes.
Who can apply?
- Local agencies
- Special purpose districts, such as park and recreation districts, public utility districts, and port districts. These districts must be authorized legally to develop, operate, and maintain recreational facilities.
- Native American tribes
- State agencies
- Federal agencies
- Trail-related, non-profit organizations
Local agencies, special purpose districts, tribes, and non-profit organizations must provide 20 percent match for each project, and at least 10 percent of the total project cost must be from a non-state, non-federal contribution. Federal agencies must provide at least 5 percent from non-federal sources. Match may include, but is not limited to:
- Appropriations or cash
- Donations of cash, land, labor, equipment, and materials
- Federal, state, and local grants
- Applicant’s labor, equipment, and materials
Planning RequirementGrant applicants must show documentation of compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
- General projects: $150,000 for each project
- Education projects: $20,000 for each project
Funding Anticipated (Average)
$1.8 million annually.
- Development and renovation projects. Renovation means the extensive repair needed to bring a facility up to standards suitable for public use. Renovation is undertaken after a facility has deteriorated to the point where its usefulness is impaired and no longer meets public health, safety, or other requirements. These grants cannot be used for new construction projects, except when the new construction is closely related to an existing trail.
- Maintenance projects. Maintenance means the regular upkeep needed to avoid an impaired condition and keep a trail or trail facility open for use.
- Education projects. Recreational, trail-related educational programs to promote safety and environmental protection. Eligible elements must directly convey a safety or environmental message.
- New trail development not directly related to an existing trail
- Land acquisition
- Projects facilitating motorized use on national forest or Bureau of Land Management land unless the land is not designated wilderness and construction is consistent with the management direction in the forest or Bureau plans.
- Projects facilitating motorized use on or access to recreational trails on which, as of May 1, 1991, motorized use was prohibited or had not occurred.
- Planning, feasibility studies, master plans, and wildlife impact studies
- Roads or bridges unless specifically designated for recreational trail use, not accessible to or maintained for cars, or closely associated with a campground or trail head project.
- Sidewalks and other paths that provide an urban trail experience
- Law enforcement
- Those on property bought under a conditional sales contract, unless the grant applicant has title to the property.
- Those that severely restrict public use, such as deed provisions that have a significant negative impact on public recreational use of the property; projects may be on public or private land, but must provide written assurances of public access.
Grant recipients must provide the facilities developed with RTP funds for 25 years after the date of the last grant payment. Sites and trails that are maintained with RTP funding only need be open and available during the active period of the project agreement.
Grant Application Schedule
Generally grant applications are accepted in even-numbered years. See this year’s schedule.
Grant Evaluation Process (6 months)
- Applicants submit an online application. See requirements.
- Applications and written materials are reviewed and scored by staff and a panel of trail experts.