For nearly four decades, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC) has served as the nation’s foremost champion for trails, working with thousands of partners to establish and elevate best practices for creating, connecting and maintaining trails and active transportation networks.
As trails have become part of the fabric of American life, our focus has evolved. We're elevating the impact that connected systems have on communities and regions, and supporting our nation’s trail builders by helping them access essential funding and technical support for their projects that connect people and places by trail.
Providing Trail-Building Resources
RTC is leading the movement in developing tools and resources that meet the most pressing needs facing trail builders and managers—from funding strategies, to approaches that center on equitable trail development, to strategies for connecting the nation’s trails, and engaging and activating these spaces.
In collaboration with a growing community of 6,000+ trail advocates and professionals, we seek ways to collectively tackle the biggest challenges—and embrace promising opportunities—in advancing plans to create, connect and maintain trails around the country.
Our Trail-Building Toolbox and free webinar series are designed to share that knowledge with trail professionals across the country and accelerate the pace of trail network development. In fiscal year (FY) 2022, RTC hosted 11 webinars viewed by more than 2,400 attendees, including current topics and issues facing the sector, such as federal transportation funding and the role of trail networks in housing stability.
Prioritizing Equity on America's Trails
RTC is centered on developing resources and partnerships that will result in meaningful change and empowerment in America’s neighborhoods—particularly in underrepresented and under-resourced communities. That’s why we’re focused on doing what it takes to ensure every stakeholder in a community is a part of the process to envision and build the trail network, and will benefit when the project is complete.
RTC’s new Trail Building Toolbox resources elevate accessible trail design for people with disabilities and equitable trail development, providing comprehensive advice and best practices to assist planners in ensuring every stakeholder in a community is part of the trail development process and will benefit from their use.
Investing in Equitable and Inclusive Trails Nationwide
RTC awarded a combined $300,000+ to 25 local and national organizations through our 2022 Trail Grants Program to build organizational capacity and develop inclusive and equitable trail programming to engage residents in underrepresented and under-resourced communities. These awards were specifically geared toward projects designed to remove barriers to trail use, through programming and community-led initiatives, for low-income youth, women and Communities of Color.
Since 2008, through our Trail Grants program, RTC has distributed more than $2.6 million to 209 organizations who are working to achieve regional and community development goals through connected trails and active transportation systems.
Trailblazer Society: Crucial Support for Trails
Our Trailblazer Society plays a critical role in supporting the growth of America's trail networks. These RTC members provide donations of $1,000 or more annually, creating a crucial pool of funding for our mission-guided work. In 2022, Trailblazer Society members visited key sections of the Great American Rail Trail®—Idaho's Route of the Hiawatha and Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes—to see firsthand the positive impact that these trails have on their local communities and nationally.
Throughout the year, RTC programs and events keep this community of critical supporters engaged and in the know about the most important issues facing the trails sector—from priority projects to deep dives on the funding strategy to connect the nation's trails.
Protecting Trails in Our Courts
As the foremost defender of rail-trails, RTC continues to protect rail-trails in America’s courts and provide important technical assistance on legal issues, having been involved in more than 60 cases to date.
Our legal team participates in cases and legal proceedings that have implications for rail-trail conversions with a simple objective—protecting the legal and policy framework for railbanking, which has helped make an estimated 194 rail-trails possible since 1983.