The news that the Recreational Trails Program (RTP) survived the reauthorization of the transportation bill this year and remain fully funded should be really good news, right? Now we in the trails community can kick back and begin to write new grants for more trails and wait for the projects to begin.
Not quite. This program that has benefitted so many trail users including mountain bikers may not be there for you since each state, maybe yours, can now opt out of the program. So advocates for RTP funded trails need to keep apprised on the status state-by-state.
Trail users themselves fund RTP. It is important to keep in mind that RTP funds come from the Federal Highway Trust Fund, and represent a portion of the motor fuel excise tax collected from non-highway recreational fuel use: fuel used for off-highway recreation by snowmobiles, all-terrain vehicles, off-highway motorcycles, and off-highway light trucks. The RTP funds are distributed to the States by legislative formula: half of the funds are distributed equally among all States, and half are distributed in proportion to the estimated amount of non-highway recreational fuel use in each State. Trail projects have been funded through this program since 1993. A major concern is that if states opt out of the very successful program is what sources of trail funding would then be available? As far as I know, there are no state level programs that would do for trails what RTP has done.
In case there is any doubt as to what extent mountain bikers benefit from RTP, here is a partial list of trails funded fully or partially through RTP. But RTP hasn’t only funded trail building directly. In Georgia the money has supported the Trails Education Program, a joint project with Gainesville State College. This program has educated hundreds of trail professionals and volunteers for a decade in design and maintenance of trails. RTP has provided tools for volunteers and trailers for moving the tools from site to site for trail work days. In Tennessee and Alabama, RTP funds have helped mountain bikers and other users groups gather for trail education seminars.
Mountain Bike projects funded by RTP is the Southeast:
Lake Lurlean SP
Desoto State Park
Oak Mountain State Park
Tannehill Ironworks State Parks
Chief Ladiga Trail
The Cadillac Trail, Lafayette Heritage Park
Cloudland canyon/5-Points Trail System
Indian Springs State Park
Lake Norman SP
Lake Crabtree County Park
North wake landfill District Park
Brunswick Nature Park
Fork Area Trail System (FATS)
Paris Mountain, SP
Hickory Knob SP
Knoxville Urban Wilderness
Norris State Park