By Stuart Macdonald, American Trails magazine and website editor
We would like to thank every one who helped in the national effort to ensure that State Governors do not opt out of the Recreational Trails Program (RTP). It appears that only Florida and Kansas have opted out. MAP-21, the new transportation funding bill, allows state governors to opt out of the Recreational Trails Program they notify the U.S. Secretary of Transportation of their decision no later than 30 days before the funds are apportioned (which was September 1, 2012).
Both are a surprise to trail advocates. Florida has had a large and highly successful State Trails Program for many years, and among the top in state-funded rail trails. Florida also has seven regional bike/ped coordinators involved with trails as well as roads, sidewalks, and safety programs. Kansas trail advocates expressed confidence that their state would continue the RTP funding, right up to the official announcement.
Several other states narrowly avoided losing RTP funds. New Mexico, a State with a large unspent balance of RTP funds, Alabama, a State with an increasingly effective trails program and widespread local interest in community trails, narrowly avoided the opt out which was supported by the State's department of transportation. New Mexico reversed its official stance at the last minute, and decided not to opt out. Nebraska and Iowa DOTs were reportedly seeking to opt out, but decided not to, apparently due to well-publicized public support for the trails funding.
As part of the Coalition for Recreational Trails, American Trails and other groups worked to raise the potential problem of States being allowed to opt out of RTP. As one result, there would be no funding for State trails program operation in addition to losing the grant funds. While funding for bicycle and pedestrian facilities is eligible under the new Transportation Alternatives category, nonprofits and volunteer groups would lose eligibility for funding.
During August 2012, the International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA) took the lead in developing a joint letter for each of the 50 Governors. Almost 800 organizations have signed on to the letters that were sent. A campaign was also mounted following that effort to encourage organizations and grassroots supporters to make their voices heard by contacting their Governor directly.
It is important to note that the widespread, visible and continuous support that the RTP received prior to enactment of the legislation that reauthorized RTP last month was almost exclusively focused on the U.S. Congress. Now efforts have shifted to the States and local governments: See our recent Blog: Trail politics: it’s all local...
For more information on the campaign to ask State governors to support RTP funding: Catherine Ahern (202) 682-9530 - Fax (202) 682-9529 - firstname.lastname@example.org