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Trails receive major funding from many federal sources

New federal funding for trails, greenways, parks, and bike/ped projects, FY05-09

By Stuart Macdonald, Trail Tracks editor, American Trails

Federal funding for programs that affect trails has been a long and political process in recent years. However, with the passage of agency budgets and the big federal transportation funding bill, we can report on a wide variety of funding for trails and outdoor recreation. Note that some programs we report on indicate funding for Federal Fiscal Year 2005, some for FY06, and others for multiple years.

See the links to several of the programs below for more details. Here is an outline of funding that directly, or potentially, benefits trails, parks, and bicycle/pedestrian projects:


USDA Forest Service Recreation: $265.2 million

USDA Forest Service Trails: $72.5 million in FY06 (down from $75.9 million in FY05)

USDOI Bureau of Land Management Recreation Management: $66.1 million (up from $60.6 million in FY05). Three National Scenic and Historic Trails (Iditarod NHT, Continental Divide NST, and Pacific Crest NST) received specific money in the BLM budget.

Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) provides funding nationwide for federal land acquisition and state outdoor recreation grants:

  • $30 million for LWCF state assistance in FY06 (down from $92.5 million in FY05)
  • $115 million for federal land acquisition in FY06 (down from $166 million million in FY05)

National Park Service Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance (RTCA) program: $8.135 million in FY06 (down from $8.3 million million in FY05)

National Park Service operation: $60 million increase for FY06 includes $500,000 for 18 of 24 National Scenic and Historic Trails.

Recreational Fee Demonstration Program: creates a new national, interagency "America the Beautiful" pass, and extendes the program to five agencies for ten years adding the Bureau of Reclamation.


Mired in the reauthorization process for two years, the "Safe, Accountable, Efficient Transportation Equity Act— a Legacy for Users" (SAFETEA-LU) authorizes spending for a six-year surface transportation program. It covers fiscal years 2005 through 2009 and replaces the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century, or TEA 21. A great deal of funding has been provided through this program since 1991 for a variety of projects that encourage walking, bicycling, and recreational trails.

Recreational Trails Program (RTP): $370 million over six years (up from $270 million under TEA-21, a 64% increase). Fifty state grant programs continue to fund motorized and nonmotorized trails and education programs; see how FY05 funds are apportioned to states.

Transportation Enhancements (TE): $4.79 billion over the next six years (up from $3.33 billion under TEA-21). Continues as 10 percent set-aside; approximately $3.5 billion over six years. Approximately 55 percent of enhancements funding in previous years went to bicycle/pedestrian trails and rail-trail conversion projects.

Safe Routes to School initiative: $612 million over six years to encourage children to walk or bicycle to school. Funding will be distributed to states in proportion to the number of primary and secondary school students in the state, with no state receiving less than $1 million annually.

Nonmotorized Tansportation Pilot Program: $100 million is provided through FY 2009 to support construction of a network of nonmotorized transportation facilities and infrastructure. The four pilot program communities are Columbia, MO; Marin County, CA; Minneapolis-St. Paul, MiN; and Sheboygan County, WI.

Special Projects ("earmarks"): SAFETEA-LU is also packed with individual special appropriations: 6,400 special projects worth $24 billion in the $286.4 billion. Trails advocates along with many other interests have used this process to fund special projects. Here are just a few examples to show the variety:

  • $1,500,000 Construct a bridge for the Paul Bunyan Trail over Excelsior Road (Mitchell, MN)
  • $1,600,000 Construction of the Montour Trail (Great Allegheny, PA)
  • $400,000 Construct Mississippi River Trail and Bikepath (New Orleans, LA)
  • $200,000 Develop trails, bike paths and recreational facilities on Cumberland Trail State Park (Morgan, TN)
  • $1,300,000 Construct recreational visitor center on the Mesabi Trail (Virginia, MN)

Congestion Mitigation & Air Quality program: $8.6 billion over six years. Some CMAQ projects can be eligible to incorporate bike and pedestrian trail construction as a way to reduce air pollution.

Sport Fishing Restoration and Boating Safety Trust Fund ( Dingell-Johnson): Provides $570 million a year for fisheries management and research; fishing and boating access facilities such as trails, piers, and boat ramps; and education and safety programs for anglers and boaters.

Transit in the Parks: Demo program for federal public lands to promote alternative access to National Parks and federal public lands by trails, bikes, or people movers.

Federal Lands Highways program: Park roads and parkways, $1.06 billion; refuge roads, $180 million.

Scenic Byways: $174 million over six years.

Complete text of SAFETEA-LU is available at


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