What is the Recreational Trails
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
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
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
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
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
- facilitating access and use of trails by persons with
- operation of educational programs to promote safety and
environmental protection related to trails (limited to 5% of a
Which projects are not
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
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
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
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
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
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
- 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
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