RTP Frequently Asked Questions
What is the Recreational Trails Program?
The Recreational Trails Program (RTP) is a Federal-Aid assistance program of the U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). The Recreational Trails Program helps states develop and maintain recreational trails for both motorized and non-motorized recreational trail use. Examples of trail uses include pedestrian (hiking, walking, running, wheelchair), bicycling paved and non paved, in line skating, equestrian use, water trails, off-road motorcycling, all-terrain vehicle riding, four-wheel driving, or using other off-road motorized vehicles.
The U.S. Congress first authorized the Recreational Trails Program in the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991. It was reauthorized in 1998 under the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21).
Who administers the program?
Although the U.S. Department of Transportation manages the RTP through the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), the administration of the program lies at the state level. On January 5, 1992, the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks (MDWFP) was designated as the agency to administer the RTP. An RTP Advisory Committee, where both motorized and non-motorized trail users are represented, is tasked to advise the MDWFP on the criteria for administering the state's RTP grant process.
How are funds distributed?
Funds are distributed each year through a competitive grant process. RTP guidelines mandate grant funds be allocated by the following categories and percentages: Motorized - 30%, Non-motorized - 30% and Diversified - 40%. The RTP is a reimbursement program. Successful project sponsors must pay the approved project costs up front and apply for reimbursement demonstrating proof of payment for each request for reimbursement. Cash advances are not given.
How much money is available?
The exact amount of funds varies from year to year. Each year the Federal Highway Administration notifies the states of RTP appropriation. Half of the funds are distributed equally among all states, and half are distributed in proportion to the estimated amount of off-road recreational fuel use in each state: fuel used for off-road recreation by snowmobiles, all-terrain vehicles, off-road motorcycles, and off-road light trucks.
What kind of projects are eligible?
Recreational Trails Program funds may be used for:
- maintenance and restoration of existing trails
- development and rehabilitation of trailside and trailhead facilities and trail linkages
- construction of new trails (with restrictions for new trails on Federal lands)
- facilitating access and use of trails by persons with disabilities
- operation of educational programs to promote safety and environmental protection related to trails (limited to 5% of a state's funds)
Which projects are not eligible?
Recreational Trails Program funds may not be used for:
- property condemnation (eminent domain)
- constructing new trails for motorized use on National Forest or Bureau of Land Management lands unless the project is consistent with resource management plans
- facilitating motorized access on otherwise non-motorized trails
These funds are intended for recreational trails; they may not be used to improve roads for general passenger vehicle use or to provide shoulders or sidewalks along roads.
A project proposal solely for trail planning would not be eligible. However, some project development costs may be allowable if they are a relatively small part of a particular trail maintenance, facility development, or construction project (design and engineering fees are limited to 8% of total construction cost).
Who can sponsor a project?
Grants may be awarded to nonprofit (501(c)(3)) conservation organizations, municipal, county, State or Federal government agencies, and other government entities. This includes public education institutions, public utilities, state universities, state tribal governments and more...
How does project funding work?
In general, the maximum Federal share eligible for reimbursement for each project from the Recreational Trails Program funds is 80%. A Federal agency project sponsor may provide additional Federal funds, provided the total Federal share does not exceed 95%. The non-Federal match must come from a local project sponsor(s) or other fund sources. Funds from any other Federal program may be used for the non-Federal match if the project is eligible under the other program.
Project payment takes place on a reimbursement basis: the project sponsor must incur costs for work actually completed, and then submit vouchers for reimbursement. Request for reimbursement must contain supporting documentation of expenses incurred matched with invoices or receipts. Reimbursement is not normally permitted for work that takes place prior to project approval.
As a project sponsor, you should:
Develop a workable project.
- What are your trail needs?
- What can you do realistically?
Get public support for your project.
- How does your project benefit your community?
- Are there other potential project sponsors?
Find other funding sources.
- The normal Federal share is limited to 80% reimbursement. Some State or local governments may provide some matching funds, but usually the project sponsor has to provide most or all of the funds before requesting reimbursement. Consider donations of materials and volunteer labor.
Consider how to involve youth conservation or service corps in your project.
- Applicants are encouraged to use qualified youth conservation or service corps for construction and maintenance of recreational trails under this program.
Develop a good project design.
- Consider the project's natural environment. Consider user needs, including use by people with disabilities.
Consider potential problems.
- Environmental impacts - these must be documented and minimized.
- Permits - you may need to obtain various permits prior to submitting your proposal.
- Possible opposition - some people may oppose your project for various reasons, including concerns about property rights, liability, safety, or historic or environmental impacts.
Request, complete, and submit the project application for approval.
Develop a proposal sufficiently so that the project may move quickly into implementation after project approval. If your project is approved, get to work! Project approval may be withdrawn if a sponsor does not begin work within a reasonable time frame.
How do I obtain Recreational Trails Program project funding?
Mississippi Recreational Trails Program develops has its own procedures for soliciting and selecting recreational trails projects for funding. This is usually done once a year through public announcements, press releases, and mail outs to municipalities, counties, planning and development districts, state and federal agencies. Applications can also be acquired by calling or e-mailing the Mississippi Recreational Trails Program and requesting an application.
For more information
Contact the Mississippi Recreational Trails Program by calling (601) 432-2227.