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National Recreational Trails Program holds funding workshop

Trails Coordinators and representatives of 21 states attended the meeting held at the National Trails Symposium, Washington, DC.

Notes from the RTP Funding Workshop

Christopher Douwes discussed how the Program worked in 1993:

  • Over $1 million of funds went to USFS.
  • Other federal agencies got funded; they can be applicants, and make good partners.

Problems encountered during administration of 1993 NRTF funds:

  • The program was originally intended to go to Dept. of Interior; so it didn't fit, and didn't get contract authority; so it didn't go over well in some States;
  • When law written, supposed to be 30-30-40 with the 40 being for both ; people have tried to separate the 3 categories, not realizing that categories can overlap; e.g. a diversified project can also be motorized (or entirely non-motorized); it doesn't have to be such a tight formula.
  • Some States say this is an "unfunded federal mandate" and didn't want to appoint advisory board;
  • Still an issue: who has to be represented on the SRTAB? One State put some on State park people, some transportation people, and some land trust people; without trail user representation this is not acceptable;
  • You have to have trails people, and both motor and non-motor; you can also have any other agencies or interests represented;
  • The law doesn't state exactly how many of each; NRTAC urges states to appoint fair committee based on your state's needs; adding one motor person to a non-motor board may be legal, but doesn't look good.
  • Getting federal partners to get geared up and participate; timetable.
  • Just document costs and submit for reimbursement
  • Need to get FHWA regional offices geared up

Eligibility and Certification

  • The 1991 NRTF Act stated that by the end of 1994 states have to have State Recreational Trails Advisory Boards (SRTABs) in place; because no funding was allocated since, some states haven't established a SRTAB. FHWA went to lawyers and asked if they could be flexible on SRTAB requirement; states need to tell FHWA they are complying by June 4 to qualify for this year.
  • In 1993 you could get funded w/out SRTAB, but now you have to have it first before you can get funding.
  • For certification, 1-2 page letter is fine; keep it simple as long as you meet those very basic requirements; e. g. Ohio wasn't eligible, but simply set up a SRTAB and now they will be eligible.
  • Certification means states can spend the money.
  • Assumption on allocations is that all states would be eligible; FHWA will redistribute any money left if some states don't certify.
  • Will FHWA wait until June 4 to apportion? Answer: No, FHWA is in process of announcing;, but will first contact the congressional offices to make the announcement for the first 20 states.
  • P. 3-4 in Guidance: certification requires
    • designation of agency that administers NRTF Program:
    • name of responsible State official;
    • that the SRTAB is in existence;
    • that the funds will be used on a plan identified in a SCORP;
    • that the state will meet 30-30-40 requirement (diversified means more than one trail use on each project),
  • If you don't make June 4 deadline, you can't get 1996 money but you can get it in 97; once you're certified in 96 you don't have to reapply for 97.
  • Hope to announce that 20 states have received certification [this was done during the Symposium].
  • State comment: need FHWA to be flexible, and if requirements are held to more strictly, then get with states to help us understand changes and provide input.

Coordination with federal agencies and FHWA:

  • Program needs to be user driven, put the heat on the agencies
  • How can we get State DOTs to help us understand the process, even though they aren't actually involved in most states; some have been helpful, some aren't interested;
  • Problem is coordination: FHWA has Division and region offices as well as D. C.
  • Balance is needed between a program that is so driven by the states that you can't get decisions made, and one that is too driven by the feds in D. C.

Discussion of allocation to States:

  • Half of total is evenly split among states; other half is allocated by off-highway fuel use by Oak Ridge National Lab formula. Concerns: it's not perfect, have had some criticism.
  • $141,000 is amount each state gets, plus fuel use formula allocation; not part of federal aid so it doesn't hurt their Federal allocation (some states haven't participated in Scenic Byways and were concerned it would affect their unrestricted funds [it doesn't]).
  • Allocation for 1993 had good snowmobile and motorcycle information but very limited data on four-wheel drive and truck usage; new study resulted in quite a shift to several states like Texas, New Mexico, New Jersey;
  • Oak Ridge study included 1992 truck survey, updated Motorcycle Industry Council data, and new snowmobile registration data: truck use far outweighs snowmobile and motorcycle use; truck study is very detailed but which states do people from New Jersey go to to use trails?
  • Minnesota, for instance, gets less for snowmobiles but found they had a lot of four-wheel drive use they didn't know about;
  • Question is what is a trail, exactly? it isn't stated in the Act. What may be OHV recreation still takes place on roads that are funded through other means;
  • Funding for 97: authorization level is still $30 million; so in addition to the $15 million of contract authority, Congress could appropriate an additional $15 million.
  • Don't spend 97 money yet, but plan for it.


  • Concerns about guidance not being out has delayed some states in asking for applications.
  • States get obligation limitation each year; if you don't use it you lose it; FHWA will try to get it rolled over, but strongly urge states to obligate their funds by Sept 30 or as soon as possible.
  • How long will obligation hold? Answer: nothing in Federal law states a deadline on when you actually have to spend or complete funding of projects.
  • Page 10 of the Guidance on environmental mitigation: states should give consideration to mitigation, etc.; this is a new change.
  • Another change: now 12 voting members to NRTAC; added additional representative for disabled and made it a voting position.
  • Also gave permission to contract with other land management agencies. USFS and BLM still need to approve projects on their land.
  • SCORP requirement: generally pretty broad; a lot can be under the umbrella but make sure the trails are in it; e.g., Delaware's SCORP identifies strong need for trails in linear corridors.
  • The legislation refers to SCORPs; FHWA added language to refer to SCORPs. Also, coordinate recreation and transportation planning; e.g., new highway cuts across a trail corridor: get on that transportation plan..
  • What about federal lands? Answer: meet broad, general goals but refer to a State trails plan that has specific trails; however, FHWA will not force the issue.
  • States know their trail needs but you don't know which group's project will submit the best application, so you can't be held to a specific plan in advance;
  • Accounting procedures: Division offices are supposed to know them; Washington office isn't as familiar.
  • What about two-stage projects between the two fiscal years? Answer: yes.
  • Information Collection
  • You do have to supply enough information to FHWA so they can get it into the information system; FHWA gets inquiries from lobbyists and others who want specific project information;.
  • Information needed: kind of project, how much money, miles of trail, kinds of facilities, sponsors, etc; but some states just didn't provide the information.
  • Need to discuss what information do we all agree is important to the public and which States are willing to give without making it burdensome.

Time Period

  • This year funds are coming from FHWA administration funding so they doesn't have a time limit.
  • No requirement for time frame, but instead of delaying, States should take funds away from projects that aren't moving and give to others; while no Federal date, States can set their own.
  • Reporting should show performance; get the money spent, choose projects that are ready to go.
  • If a project changes, work with FHWA Division offices to modify if it's minor;
  • If funds left over from several projects, lump them together and fund a new project;
  • If you know that you're not going to use the money, you should turn it back in by August and you may be able to get it reallocated back to you for 97.

State Administration Expenses

  • What expenses qualify? do they have to be matched? Answer: no; just document your salary or other State-funded program expenses. Use CFR part 8 (Common Rule).
  • What about programmatic match&emdash;can whole obligated amount be matched? Answer: each project has to be matched separately
  • States should be developing a proposal of administration expenses and submit that as a project; state what you're going to do with it, like program travel.
  • If you don't need the 7%, apply it to projects; it's a maximum, not a requirement; same with 5% education; not a requirement.
  • You can set aside administration funding first, then if you don't use it, put it into projects.
  • What about 93 funds? Answer: you can use them to pay for this meeting if you have some funds left over; but you can't use the 96 funds.

Matching fund policies

  • New ISTEA regulations say you can have donations of private land, services
  • National Highway System Act: idea was to allow private group to donate materials or services or cash; that was supposed to be for Enhancements Program only, but it's been opened up for whole Federal-aid highway program;
  • Don't call any match, including state funds a donation; before NHS Act, we couldn't use funds except that came from state programs. Just don't use word donation, it's a match.
  • What you can't do is count state or public donations of any kind.
  • Does each project have to come up with the match? Answer: it's up to the state.
  • 50/50 match is a little unusual for FHWA projects; 80/20 is usual.
  • Question from California: will you have requirements for valuing match, ie different kinds of labor? Answer: there are federal rules for allowable costs and wages; should be same as Land & Water conservation Fund (LWCF); FHWA has folks working on it.
  • Question from Arizona: funded NPS project in 1993&emdash;can they work directly with FHWA to get money up front? Answer: yes, they should contact FHWA, there is a procedure for a federal agency (only) to get up-front money after state has received allocation authority.
  • Can accept state or local government cash, but not materials or services;
  • How about new acquisitions? if project is for land acquisition, and you do have a state source of funds for acquisition, then OK if it follows federal regulations;

Matching funds for projects

  • Any State funds may be used for the match, e.g. motorized registration funds.
  • State could come up with match for each of the projects.
  • You can lump the project together for approval by FHWA, but can't lump the match for the whole statewide program.
  • FHWA doesn't care where the non-Federal match comes from, as long as each project has its own specific, identified match with costs identified during the project period.
  • If materials and services are used, costs have to be documented; eg, State owns timber it wants to be used for bridges: need to document its cost as part of an approved project.
  • Sometimes, State may have a pre-existing supply of a material; may not be allowable.
  • Document fair market value using cost principles from FHWA;
  • How do you document: charge to project with time sheets; just don't call it a donation; same with volunteers.
  • It just has to be specifically identified as tied to the project and documented.
  • Look at it as a reimbursement;
  • Non-profits' donations must be documented by the state.
  • Talk to your division FHWA person because they have to sign off on these matching requirements. Your relationship has to be with the region; Christopher won't look at and approve all of these matches.
  • What about prison labor? Answer: see title 23; not a standard answer. Probably best to say no.
  • What about youth programs? Answer: depends whether federal money is involved..
  • The problem with non-profits: can money be given up front? Answer: can use progress payments but not an easy way to do up front funding. The law still requires a 50% match-- is this a good idea for reauthorization
  • Discussion: does this prevent non-profits from applying? Answer: people need to be able to come up with the match, but they can build up to it; they can start with a small project.
  • What about engineering? Is it still part of the project like LWCF and part of the project period? Answer: there is some flexibility tied to some time period of prior planning. Christopher will add a section on pre-agreement costs (plans, survey, engineering, NEPA, etc).
  • If a land trust owns land along a greenway, can they use the land value as a match? Answer: use LWCF policies. But unless they give the property to the state or other applicant, it can't match as a match.

State Administration Costs

  • What are allowable costs: Answer: whatever you need to do administration of this program, not specific projects.
  • NEPA? this can be the majority of the project cost. Answer: not an administration funding cost.
  • What if feds use their time to do NEPA work? Answer: not sure what federal expenditures will be allowed.
  • Arizona wants to add a surcharge onto the local projects as with LWCF grants; there is a precedent; state charges applicant, so it's not a FHWA issue. Could be how the state meets its match on the 7%.
  • 5% for education: if it's part of a real on-the-ground project, doesn't have to be limited; but if it's brochures, videos, it does have to be limited to 5%.
  • Trail seminars could be allowable for 5%
  • You don't have to use it; not all states do.

Permissible Uses

  • Urban trails: if you can show it has transportation benefits, go after other ISTEA sources.
  • It is recommended that you give emphasis to environmental issues; it is also good for the program nationwide to show that it's helping fix up OHV (and other) problems.
  • Funds are intended for recreational trails, not auto roads or other clearly transportation routes; e.g. a sidewalk along a road, unless it is a connector to a trail; however, SRTAB should make the decision, they're your partner.
  • Should have a sign crediting NRTF (from NRTAC) but no standard for signs; States can do their own; FHWA can't require a sign, but States can require local projects to do it.
  • What about sign requirements from FHWA? theoretically, have to use approved roadway signs; Good issue for National Recreational Trails Advisory Committee; Bob Walker (Montana) is also working on it.
  • Can design costs be made more specifically allowable? Christopher needs language to include in final guidance.
  • Attachment E: suggests manuals for construction

Environmental and Historic Requirements

  • If some new Federal project comes along that affects your NRTF-funded project, they have to fix it; but you can apply 6-f selectively where it applies; notify NPS (see attachment F in guidance. You can still submit all of your projects at once to FHWA, but you may apply to NPS for 6-F protection.
  • Does 4-f apply to historic requirements? e.g. Pennsylvania delayed approval for one historic concern in one project.
  • Problem with time in getting from FHWA to SHPO; problem is that SHPO won't accept it directly (California) but in Georgia and Nebraska went directly to SHPO.
  • Most trail projects would qualify as categorical exclusions; can agree with feds on what is excluded; Minnesota going through whole federal environmental impact process went way too far; other states just do their own environmental review process.
  • You still have to follow other federal requirements.
  • What about motorized use in non-attainment areas: Answer: will have to find out what the general conformity requirements are; OHV projects may be exempt.

Access for People with Disabilities

  • Disabled: goal of program is to improve accessibility , but not be destructive or inappropriate. not every single trail has to be accessible, provide equivalent access.;
  • But ADA doesn't require recreational trails to meet standards for ramps and buildings; however if it's a 4WD route, the rest area should be accessible since disabled people may be travelling in a vehicle. Use common sense: improve access but don't constrain projects to fit ADA since it's not an actual requirement.
  • Levels of accessibility; good faith effort, like using rolling drainage dips instead of water bars; use USFS recreation opportunity spectrum.
  • Provide better information on difficulty levels with maps, etc.
  • If your SRTAB feels this is best expenditure of funds, it's OK.

Federal Partners

  • Any federal agency is a potential partner; but you can't match Federal funds with federal funds. Now that we require a 50% match, federal agency can't be the sole partner.
  • Federal agency can participate, just not as the sole sponsor.
  • Are there Federal programs which can specifically be used as a match? Answer: a few, like gas overcharge, Community Development block Grants' , possibly Americor. Mary Mae will ask Tom Ross if there's a list of eligible federal match.

State Recreational Trails Advisory Boards (SRTAB):

  • SRTABs: no legal standing, no real specific requirements except to have at least one motorized person.
  • No excuse this year for less than 30% motorized, etc.
  • Function of SRTAB is to define what diversified use is; e.g. in DC motorized still needs to be included on the SRTAB even though there is no OHV use in DC.
  • Even if your state doesn't like SRTAB providing guidance on grant programs, the SRTAB's role is to work with states to decide how to make grants even though they don't necessarily have to actually choose the projects. You can still accept or reject their recommendations, but you do have to work with them.
  • Key is that they are advisory, but states can choose to give more authority to the SRTAB.

State Trails Program Discussions

  • Arizona: for 1996 money, analyzing the alternatives&emdash; their director is concerned about starting a new program, so looking at using existing grants programs.
  • North Carolina: set up an allocation to give OHV 40% to USFS; have first OHV person on SRTAB, also included a canoeist and local government person.
  • New Jersey: with $300,000 this year will make state and local agencies (600) eligible. SRTAB will help with allocations based on state trails plan for priorities as part of the state trails system&emdash;a benefit of being included in the state plan. Will work with State land trust to do a trails project.
  • Tennessee: most of funding will be in greenway development and acquisition. SRTAB meets in two weeks.
  • Idaho: State reauthorized SRTAB as an ad hoc committee using the national model. Grant applications have been sent out with June 1 deadline. Will use State OHV fuel tax program to match motorized projects.
  • Georgia: SRTAB is reviewing the program proposal now. Want to announce grants on National Trails Day.
  • South Dakota: getting certification together; in 1993 funded a variety of state and federal lands projects. Haven't finalized 1996 program but it will be similar; will publicize and provided information to local governments and trails groups.
  • Wyoming: Past emphasis has been snowmobiles and historic trails. Started certification; lot of interest in new State trails committee, had first-ever statewide trails conference.
  • Delaware: small state but has a 19-member state trails and greenways council established last year. Will advise on use of funds. Receive $6 million from trust funds to total $10 million, generates $700,000 per year. State will keep NRTF funds for their own projects since they aren't eligible for the trust fund money. Also has a DE conservation corps which will be involved in some of these trail projects.
  • Maryland: Pat Oliva (representative from American Endurance Horse Council): wants to get people to discuss and plan trails to solve problems ahead of time.
  • California: In 1993 all of the money went to local governments; State parks will try for some of it this time. SRTAB includes representatives from variety of governments with members from OHV Committee and State Trails Committee. Interested in Year 2000 National Trails Symposium.
  • California: Paul Slavik (American Honda) extended invitation to all State administrators on the 25th anniversary of the California green sticker program. NOHVCC will also be sending their partners. Intent of NRTFA was to encourage other states to provide funds from fuel tax for trails like California.
  • Massachusetts: Gave out grants to smaller municipalities and volunteer groups; not much Federal land. 50% match will be a challenge&emdash;don't have dedicated State funds for trails.
  • West Virginia: John English (consultant): huge support for the Hatfield-McCoy trail in West Virginia. Looking for $3 million to finish development of the project.
  • Jim Williams: (National OHV Conservation Council): Will continue to run OHV training programs to teach people how to ride and manage ATVs and trail motorcycles; bring vehicles and do whole program. Working on plans for next series of workshops. Try to associate the program with existing user groups. Alabama, Oregon, and New York will be next sites.
  • Missouri: SRTAB represents all major uses, and is composed of trail users only. Open up program to anybody interested. Good response in 1993, plenty of applications. Using NRTF opportunity to try to establish bigger trails program through legislature.
  • Alaska: sent out over 1,000 applications, received over 100 applications. Grants to non-profits and local governments. Creating a State Trails Coordinator position, and just hired a new person: Carmen Denny. Got 30 responses from states on continuing funding for trails. Implementing TRACK program: Trails and Recreation for Alaska. Citizen advisory board: 13 members, OHV and non-motorized, to oversee program.. Cooperative program of four state agencies: Fish and Game, Parks, Tourism, and DOT; rolling together all sources of funding that deal with trails to get them to mesh better together.
  • Maine: successful program in 93. will be able to add license plate funding to the program.
  • Colorado: Uses one application form for trail grants regardless of type of use or source of funds.
  • Michigan: Several funding sources, several components to the state trails program. If NRTF is reauthorized, will establish a grants program that everyone can participate in. Has a proposal on allocation for States that do a better job of providing trail opportunities should get more of the funds, especially motorized. Concerned that there is no credit given for trail mileage: some states have few or no OHV trails, and their residents go to another state to use their trails.
  • Indiana: Trails 2000 statewide trails plan approved by State Trails Committee. Good thing NRTF passed because it vindicated having OHV members on State group. State DNR doesn't allow any OHV use on any public lands in Indiana. Used some of NRTF in 93 for project planning, another program. Now may end up with grants program, but concerned about small amount of money and cost of administration.
  • Illinois: Have existing greenway and trails council. Will use money in-house; other programs have more money for trails, like $7 million for bike paths, and a State companion program for LWCF. Will mainly address OHV issues to get users to come forth with proposals for at least some scramble areas on strip-mined areas.
  • South Carolina: Jim Schmid recently moved back to South Carolina. Has new statewide trails groups; NRTF is good opportunity to start a new program and build the trails constituency. Set up new statewide trails committee, 25 members, half users and half agencies, to figure out the trail needs. Brought in new people like canoeists, outdoor retailers. Has time budgeted to do a State trails plan.

Reauthorization of NRTFA in ISTEA

  • Coalition for Recreational Trails formed to support funding for NRTF. CRT is comprised of 25 very diverse national organizations. Formed to help bring diverse trail interests together, similar to state advisory boards.
  • NHS Act included language to reauthorize NRTF; CRT has not laid out strategy, but is working to try to get key legislators on our side to find sponsors. Went to authorizers since appropriators weren't supportive, and that has been successful. Will coordinate with efforts of ISTEA proponents, as with "Show Congress your Trail."
  • People working with Senator Kempthorne had a lot to do with getting funding. But a lot of efforts by many various people made a difference. Need to keep everybody working together.
  • Model is Wallop-Breaux with over $300,000,000. We should be able to make the case for a higher level of funding.
  • Need to work with AASHTO: concept is user pays. In this case, user is not even getting what they pay.
  • CRT has discussed allowing some flexibility to permit averaging over several years of the 30-30-40 formula rather than exact match each year. One concern: will a State's program that is out of balance end up at 5th year having to make up a big deficit in one area?
  • We all need to promote recreation in a broad way&emdash;not just trails, but get the interests involved that need to know about NRTF and how it can benefit them and local communities.
  • CRT works with NRTAC in a variety of ways.

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