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Recreational Trails Program

The Recreational Trails Program (RTP) provides funds to states to develop and maintain recreational trails and trail-related facilities. This program is very important to hikers but little understood. WTA has developed a short Q & A to help bring some clarity to what RTP is and how it works.

In a land of government acronyms, the Recreational Trails Program (or RTP) stands out as one of the most important for hiking trails in Washington state. RTP is a federal program that provides funds to states for the development and maintenance of recreational trails and trail-related facilities.

WTA has developed a short Q & A to help bring some clarity to what RTP is and how it works.


Q. What is the Recreational Trails Program?

A. This national program was started in the early 1990s. It authorizes the revenue generated by the gas tax on non-highway recreational fuel use (fuel used for off-highway recreation by snowmobiles, all-terrain vehicles, off-highway motorcycles, and off-highway light trucks) to fund recreational trails that provide a backcountry experience. These funds can be awarded to federal or state agencies as well as non-profit organizations that provide volunteer trail maintenance to land managers.

Q. How is the money distributed to the states?

A. Half of the money in the RTP fund is split equally between all 50 states, and the other half is distributed proportionally based on the estimated percentage of RTP funds generated in that state.

Q. How much RTP does Washington state receive each year?

A. Each year, Washington receives about $1.8 million to distribute as grants.

Q. How does Washington allocate the funding it receives among the various recreational uses?

A. Each state has a body that administers the fund. In Washington it is the Recreation and Conservation Office (ROC), advised by the RTP Advisory Committee. The Advisory Committee is made up of recreational users who provide funds for RTP. Every state must adhere to the same funding formula:

  • 30% goes to non-motorized recreation, such as hiking, mountain biking and equestrian use.
  • 30% goes to motorized recreation, such as dirt bike, quad, and 4X4 use.
  • 40% is allocated as competitive, going to projects that serve the largest number of users, be they motorized, non-motorized, or non-trail.

Q. Does WTA's receive RTP funding?

A. Yes. WTA receives RTP funding each year, and our grants are typically among the top-scoring proposals. In 2011 we received $175,000 from RTP, roughly 20% of WTA's annual trail maintenance budget. This funding is critical to our trail maintenance program’s success.

Q. What is the current state of RTP funding?

A. RTP has been reauthorized for two years as part of the Surface Transportation Funding Bill passed in June. The reauthorization included an opt-out provision, allowing Governors to spend RTP dollars on transportation projects if they notify the Secretary of Transportation. Governor Gregoire has chosen to opt-in to RTP, allowing those funds to pay for recreational trails and facilities.


>> View the full list of 2011 RTP Grants in Washington state.

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