The U. S. Dept. of Transportation proposal for ISTEA reauthorization includes $7 million a year for the Recreational Trails Program (Symms Act). Just as important, it takes the funds out of the annual appropriations process. Supporters from many national trails and recreation organizations are trying to convince Congress to increase this funding for trails.
U.S. Senator Dirk Kempthorne (R-ID) has issued a clear message of support for the National Recreational Trails Fund. At a February 26 Senate transportation subcommittee hearing, Sen. Kempthorne challenged the Clinton administration's proposal to decrease spending on the recreational trails program when ISTEA is reauthorized this year. Pointing out that the DOT's proposal would increase funds for other recreational/environmental programs, Sen. Kempthorne asked Transportation Secretary Rodney Slater to explain the 53% decrease from current funding levels recommended for the Recreational Trails Fund.
"I would like you to help me understand why in this proposal you decimate recreational trails, which is the only user-pay program in the entire category," he said. The Trails Fund returns a portion of federal taxes paid on fuel used in off-highway recreation&emdash;estimated at over $160 million annually-- to states for construction and maintenance of recreational trails.
"The Senator has proven himself a real friend of the recreation community through his advocacy of the National Recreational Trails Fund," said Derrick Crandall, Co-Chair of the Coalition for Recreational Trails. "We look forward to working with him to ensure that the program is funded at a level that reflects both its value and its user-pay status." The Coalition for Recreational Trails, a federation of trail-related organizations, was formed in 1992 to support the implementation and continuation of the National Recreational Trails Fund.For more information, contact Denise Coulter at NRPA, 703/578-5546 or e-mail: Dlccoulter@aol.com