Recreational Trails Program

To provide funds to the States to develop and maintain recreational trails and trail-related facilities for both nonmotorized and motorized recreational trail uses.

Related Programs

Examples of Funded Projects

Trail projects to develop and maintain recreational trails and trail-related facilities for both non motorized and motorized recreational trail uses.

Examples include maintenance and construction of trails for hiking, bicycling, in-line skating, equestrian use, cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, off-road motorcycling, all-terrain vehicle riding, four-wheel driving, or using other off-road motorized vehicles; development and rehabilitation of trailside and trailhead facilities; operation of educational projects and programs to promote safety and environmental protection related to recreational trails; State administrative costs related to this program.

Many projects use youth conservation or service corps.

See specific project examples at: Award winning projects: Project database:

Agency - Department of Transportation

The Department of Transportation's mission is to ensure fast, safe, efficient, accessible and convenient transportation that meets vital national interests and enhances the quality of life of the American people, today and into the future.

Office - State-level offices of the Federal Highway Administration (as listed in Appendix IV of the Catalog) or the State agency designated by the Governor to administer this program.

Program Accomplishments

States selected projects located on Federal, State, local, and private lands for all kinds of recreational trail uses including projects such as: grooming snow trails, maintaining trails, constructing nature trails, constructing urban multiple use trails, developing rail-trails, repairing motorized and non motorized trails, constructing and rehabilitating trail bridges, improving trail access for people with disabilities, developing trailside and trailhead facilities, assessing trails for accessibility and maintenance, improving trail information and signs, and providing trail safety patrols and trail-related training. Many projects use youth conservation or service corps.

Uses and Use Restrictions

Funds from this program may be used for: (1) Maintenance and restoration of existing trails; (2) development and rehabilitation of trailside and trailhead facilities and trail linkages; (3) purchase and lease of trail construction and maintenance equipment; (4) construction of new trails (with restrictions for new trails on Federal lands); (5) acquisition of easements or property for trails or trail corridors; (6) assessment of trail conditions for accessibility and maintenance; (7) development and dissemination of publications and operation of educational programs to promote safety and environmental protection (as those objectives relate to one or more of the use of recreational trails, supporting non-law enforcement trail safety and trail use monitoring patrol programs, and providing trail-related training), (limited to 5 percent of a State's funds); and(8) State administrative costs related to this program (limited to 7 percent of a State's funds).

Funds may not be used for: property condemnation; constructing new trails for motorized use on National Forest or Bureau of Land Management lands unless the project is consistent with resource management plans; or facilitating motorized access on otherwise non motorized trails.

The USDOT encourages States to enter into contracts and cooperative agreements with qualified youth conservation or service corps to perform construction and maintenance of recreational trails under this program.

Eligibility Requirements

Applicant Eligibility

The Governor of each State must designate the State agency or agencies responsible for administering this program.

The State must have a State recreational trail advisory committee that represents both motorized and nonmotorized recreational trail users, which shall meet not less than once per fiscal year.

The State agency may accept project proposals from private organizations, or from municipal, county, State, or Federal government entities, and other government entities.

The projects must satisfy one or more of the permissible uses.

Beneficiary Eligibility

The State agency designated by the Governor.


Allowable costs will be determined in accordance with applicable cost principles listed in 49 CFR Part 18.22 for the kind of organization receiving the grant or subgrant.

Aplication and Award Process

Preapplication Coordination

Some States require preapplication submittals.

Trail and trail-related projects must be planned and developed under the laws, policies, and administrative procedures within each State, and be identified in, or further a specific goal of, a recreational trail plan, or a statewide comprehensive outdoor recreation plan required by the Land and Water Conservation Fund Act of 1965 (16 U.S.C.

460l 4 et seq.), that is in effect.

This program is excluded from coverage under E.O.


Application Procedures

The States must submit project proposals to the FHWA division office located in each State for approval. The State may submit individual projects or consolidate similar projects for the purposes of program approval. FHWA approval constitutes a commitment to pay the Federal share of the project's cost. The State's projects also must be included in State transportation improvement programs and applicable metropolitan transportation improvement programs.

Award Procedures

The State agency or agencies designated by the Governors decide which projects will be developed within funding levels, but the FHWA division office located in each State makes the final decision on the eligibility of specific projects for funding.


There are no Federal deadlines for funding requests. Each State establishes deadlines for projects within that State.


Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU), Public Law 109-59, 23 U.S.C. 104, 206.

Range of Approval/Disapproval Time

From 5 days to 5 months.





Assistance Considerations

Formula and Matching Requirements

Funds are distributed to the States by statutory formula: 50 percent of the funds are apportioned equally among all States, and 50 percent are apportioned in proportion to the estimated amount of non highway recreational fuel use in each State. In general, the Federal share is determined in accordance with 23 U.S.C. 120(b): generally 80%, with higher Federal shares in States with larger proportions of Federal lands. A Federal agency project sponsor may provide additional Federal funds, provided the total Federal share does not exceed 95 percent. Funds from any other Federal program may be used for the non Federal match if the project also is eligible under the other program. Recreational Trails Program funds may be used to match other Federal funds if the project also is eligible under the other program. States also may allow a programmatic match: if some project sponsors in a State provide more match funds than required, other sponsors in the State may provide less. Some in-kind materials and services may be credited toward the project match. States may allow some pre-approval planning and environmental assessment costs toward the project match.

Length and Time Phasing of Assistance

Funds generally become available at the beginning of the fiscal year for which they are authorized, and must be obligated within 3 years after the close of that fiscal year.

Post Assistance Requirements


Generally, the FHWA division office in each State monitors and reviews State projects and programs.


In accordance with the provisions of OMB Circular No. A- 133 (Revised, June 27, 2003), Audits of State, Local Governments, and Nonprofit Organizations, nonfederal entities that expend financial assistance of $500,000 or more in Federal awards will have a single or a program-specific audit conducted for that year. Nonfederal entities that expend less than $500,000 in a year in Federal awards are exempt from Federal audit requirements for that year, except as noted in Circular No. A-133.


Project records and documents must be retained by the State for 3 years following the final submission for Federal payment in accordance with 49 CFR 18.41.

Financial Information

Account Identification



(Grants) Obligations are reported under Federal-aid Highway program totals.

Range and Average of Financial Assistance

Apportionments to the States are based on statutory formula. All 50 States and the District of Columbia are eligible to receive apportionments. For fiscal year 2007 funds ranged from $727,059 to $5,555,406; the average was $1,473,725 (however, some States rescinded funds). For fiscal year 2008 funds ranged from $776,078 to $6,037,429, but were subject to rescissions resulting about an 11.5 percent decrease.

Regulations, Guidelines, and Literature

23 CFR, Highways and 49 CFR, Transportation. There are no regulations specifically for this program. Program guidance was completed on April 1, 1999; and is posted at along with program updates.

Information Contacts

Regional or Local Office

State-level offices of the Federal Highway Administration (as listed in Appendix IV of the Catalog) or the State agency designated by the Governor to administer this program.

Headquarters Office

Christopher B. Douwes, Office of Planning and Environment (HEPN-50), Federal Highway Administration, 1200 New Jersey Ave S.E., Washington DC 20590. Telephone: (202) 366-5013. Fax: 202-366-3409. E-mail:

Criteria for Selecting Proposals

To be eligible, projects must be selected on the basis of State priorities within the limit of the funds apportioned to each State.

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