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From parks to playgrounds, wilderness to wetlands, bicycle paths to hiking trails, LWCF has helped communities nationwide acquire nearly seven million acres of parkland, water resources, and open space.

x Read more opinions and news on the Land and Water Conservation Fund

x See LWCF projects organized by state or county:


States apply Land and Water Conservation Fund dollars to trail grants

By Stuart Macdonald, American Trails Magazine and Website Editor


photo of people on trail

Tidewater Park Trail, part of the Bay Trail through Oakland, CA
Funded with $183,000 Land and Water Conservation Fund Grant

A concise summary of the program from Sen. Charles E. Schumer (NY):

For over 40 years, the LWCF has used revenue collected from offshore oil and gas development to purchase lands from willing sellers for the purposes of conservation and to provide grants to states for recreation planning, acquisition of lands and waters, and facility development. It is authorized at a spending level of $900 million per year. However, Congress has fully funded the program only twice since its inception and rarely has the fund come close to matching the full amount authorized. Appropriations over the years have varied wildly and have been a mere fraction of the total amount authorized. The result is a program that moves forward in fits and starts, to the detriment of our parks systems.

Senator Schumer also notes the importance of LWCF funds to his state: "At its high point in 1979, New York State received roughly $24 million from the LWCF, which was used to provide grants to municipalities to undertake State Park development and land acquisition projects. Since 1965, the LWCF has partially funded 1,250 projects within the state. Virtually every community in New York has acquired and/or developed outdoor recreational facilities with the help of the LWCF."


States administer LWCF funds for trails as well as parkland

The actual LWCF funds are handled by the state natural resources or parks agencies alongside other funding sources such as the Recreational Trails Program. Typically funds are allocated as competetive grants to units of local government such as towns and counties. It is a matching grant program based upon a 50% reimbursement of the total cost of the project. Eligible expenditures include:



Every state has a program in place to contract with local governments on LWCF funds. Because the federal program is fairly specific, the state grant programs are quite similar. Following are some examples of specific goals, procedures, and requirements from a variety of states drawn from current programs;


Local funding sources used to match the federal assistance may be derived from appropriations, tax levies, bond issues, force account labor, gifts, and donations of land, cash, labor, materials and equipment. Other federal funding sources cannot be used as the local share of a project, except revenue sharing, Community Development Act funds, and Farmers Home Administration loans. LWCF applicants may request amounts ranging from a minimum of $10,000 up to a maximum of $200,000. Only park and recreation boards established under Indiana law are eligible. The park and recreation board must also have a current 5-year master plan for parks and recreation on file, approved at the Division of Outdoor Recreation.


Because LWCF is a federal program there are many specific legal requirements. The Maine Bureau of Parks and Lands has developed over a dozen forms that clarify inspection, certification, and other legal matters, as well as sample maps and cost estimates. Download forms in pdf format from


Minnesota allocates one half of each annual apportionment to state agencies for statewide facilities including state parks, historical interpretive sites, state trails, wildlife management areas, and water access sites. Most of these state grants have been used by the MN Department of Natural Resources though some have also been used by the MN Historical Society, the University of Minnesota, and the MN Department of Transportation. Projects funded by these agencies include Itasca State Park, the Mississippi Wild & Scenic River, and the North West Company Fur Post historical site along the Snake River near Pine City. The other half of each apportionment is used to supplement state funding for three grant programs available to local units of government through the DNR's Local Grant Initiatives Program: Outdoor Recreation Grants, Regional Park Grants, and Natural & Scenic Areas Grants. These local government grants have been awarded to counties, cities, and townships throughout the state.


When developing a project for LWCF assistance an assessment of outdoor recreation needs, including the needs of special populations, and the activities to meet those needs is required. It is necessary to hold one or more public meetings and take other action deemed appropriate to obtain input from the interested and affected public on recreation needs. The applicant shall make any proposed project available to the public for review and comment prior to submission for funding. Applications shall contain a description of this process as well as the records and minutes of public meetings and/or formal public comment periods. For projects involving floodplains and wetlands, the public meetings and notices of the meetings must specifically indicate that the project is proposed for a floodplain or wetland.

New Hampshire

The competitive process of project selection is designed to make the best use of the limited funding available. A project evaluation criteria system is used, giving priority to the recreational needs identified in the current State Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan (SCORP). Emphasis for awarding LWCF grants is placed on projects with the greatest possible impact: projects that cover a broad geographic scope, include service to special needs populations, increase recreational areas and facilities, protect critical natural or cultural resources, and provide access to water-based, public recreation opportunities. Combination Acquisition and Development Projects often score the most points. High-impact projects can include:

Development Projects

Acquisition Projects



While a lot of attention has been placed on conservation and acquisition of open space, as well as major park complexes, a significant amount of LWCF funds has been spent on community trail and greenway systems. Following are some recent examples indicating the variety of trail types, project sponsoring agency, and grant total dollars from several states:


Cold Creek High Trail Acquisition in the Santa Monica Mountains - California State Parks - $136,097

Del Valle Trail - Development Department of Water Resources - $92,054

Lake Oroville Mountain Bike Trail - Department of Water Resources $38,022

Los Vaqueros Trails Development - Contra Costa Water District $152,850

Oak Creek Canyon Interpretive Trail - City of Thousand Oaks $39,938

Point Wilson Trail - East Bay Regional Park District $114,300

Tidewater Park Trail, Completing the Bay Trail - City of Oakland, CA - $183,000


Hillcrest Park & Bike Path - City of Montrose - $132,016

Mule Deer Trail at Golden Gate State Park - Colorado State Parks - $15,000

Swan Mountain Recreation Path - Phase 1 - Summit County - $100,000


Morgan Mill Trailhead - Carson City Parks and Recreation - $150,000

North Carolina

Project Eno River State Park Acquisition includes two-mile river frontage, three miles of stream frontage, and five miles of existing roads that will enhance the park’s trail systemNorth Carolina Division of Parks and Recreation - $1,590,000


Great Allegheny Passage, ehabilitation of the 3,300-foot Big Savage Tunnel - Allegheny Trail Alliance - $2,000,000


Dash Point State Park Providing Access to Puget Sound, includes 140 campsites, and 11 miles of trails for hiking and mountain biking - Washington State Parks - $319,000

x For More Information on LWCF: LWCF projects organized by state or county can be viewed at:



x Read more about current funding for trails, parks, outdoor recreation, and federal land management on the American Trails website:

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