Major funding for trails?
By Stuart H. Macdonald, Chairman, National Association of State Trail Administrators
With the passage of BESTEA, we have a chance at some major funding for the Recreational Trails Program. The bill proposes $270 million in funding for trails, over and above Enhancements and other transportation-oriented bike/ped programs.
BESTEA as passed by the House raises funds for the Recreational Trails Program (also known as the Symms Act) to $270 million over six years. It also guarantees that states will actually receive the funds each year, since it grants contract authority-- the same automatic funding enjoyed by other transportation programs. ISTEA authorized $180 million for recreational trails, but only $37.5 million was appropriated.
Here is the BESTEA funding proposed by the House for Recreational Trails nationwide:
1998 -- $30 million
2001 -- $50 million
1999 -- $40 million
2002 -- $50 million
2000 -- $50 million
2003 -- $50 million
The Senate ISTEA 2 bill proposed less funding for Recreational Trails:
1998 -- $17 million
2001 -- $23 million
1999 -- $20 million
2002 -- $24 million
2000 -- $22 million
2003 -- $25 million
By comparison, only $15 million was appropriated in 96 and 97 and allocated to the 50 states. Funds are divided among the states by a formula based on fuel used, roughly proportional to population. With ISTEA 2 funding levels we would get slightly more; with BESTEA we would get twice that. Funds are administered in most cases by the State Parks agency in each state as a competitive trail grants program, with the input of a state recreational trails board.
Funding has gone to a wide range of trails, from paved, multi-use greenways to hiking trails to ATV and snowmobile facilities. Environmental improvement projects as well as safety and education programs are also eligible expenditures. Finally, seven percent of the allocation may be spent by states in administering the trails program, supporting a statewide advisory committee, trail planning, and other essential functions.
Here are some examples of how states will benefit:
At the lower end of the state allocations, Wyoming got $ 190,000 in 96 and 97. With BESTEA they would get:
1998 -- $ 380,000
1999 -- $ 507,000
2000 -- $ 633,000
At the higher end of the state allocations, Pennsylvania got $ 393,000 in 96 and 97. With BESTEA they would get:
1998 -- $ 786,000
1999 -- $ 1,045,380
2000 -- $ 1,309,476
Remember that this is money taken from fuel taxes paid by off-highway vehicle users that now goes into the Highway Users Trust Fund. Users includes everything from snowmobilers to picnickers driving down a dirt road in a National Forest. The Rec Trails Program enables us to use it for trails instead of roads.
The next step is a Conference Committee between House and Senate representatives to resolve differences-- including funding levels for Recreational Trails-- between BESTEA and ISTEA 2. For a list of the Conference Committee members, see the "News and Action" section of the American Trails Web site at www.outdoorlink.com/amtrails/
For more information on the Recreational Trails Program, contact Denise Coulter Obert, National Recreation and Park Assoc. (703) 858-2184; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Land And Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) has a long history of helping acquire open space as well as developing trails and park facilities. But even though the program is authorized at $900 million annually, only $270 is proposed for federal land acquisition and none at all for the states. An ambitious effort to fully fund LWCF and revitalize the state side matching grants program is being promoted through the Interior Appropriations bill.
For more information on LWCF contact Jane Danowitz, Americans for Our Heritage and Recreation (202) 429-8444. To receive e-mail bulletins, send your address to email@example.com