Beyond the Ribbon-Cutting, What You Sometimes Don't Hear About How Trails Get Built

Posted 06/04/13 by Jake Lynch in Building Trails

Photo © Danvers Rail Trail Advisory Committee

The determined grassroots effort in Danvers, Mass., to build their local rail-trail was typical of the kind of "can-do" attitude we often see behind successful rail-trail projects.

They scrapped and scraped, put in many volunteer hours, and found creative ways to raise funds when money was tight. In addition to making headway on the development of the trail itself, this committed effort also showed the state's elected officials that this project was one the community cared deeply about.

So it was great to see last week the local residents and businesses behind the Danvers Rail Trail receive a huge boost in the form of a $50,000 grant courtesy of the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR), money that will be used to finish trail surfacing in Danvers and nearby Wenham.

Unfortunately, as the ribbons get cut and the cameras flash, what sometimes gets lost in the news coverage of these exciting projects is where this money came from.

Though the local papers neglected to mention it, this grant, and many others supporting grassroots projects just like it across the country, came from the Recreational Trails Program. Funded largely by gas taxes from off-road vehicles, since 1992 the Recreational Trails Program has enjoyed remarkable bipartisan support and funded nonmotorized and motorized trails in every state. It remains one of the few federal sources dedicated to the construction and maintenance of trails.

Using relatively small amounts of money, the Recreational Trails Program enables local groups like these champions in Danvers to promote the benefits of trail use and build and maintain trails in their state.

Why is it important that the general public be made aware that the Recreational Trails Program is responsible for so much terrific trail development? Because despite its tremendous success, the program constantly faces the threat of elimination. Each year, state governors can opt out of the program by notifying the U.S. Department of Transportation of that intention by August 31. This decision would erode one of the few remaining dedicated sources for trails funding and siphon that money to other programs and works.

Rails-to-Trails Conservancy wants you to tell your Governor that the Recreational Trails Program, and the trails it makes possible, is important to you and communities in your state. And we've made it quick and easy to do so. Simply visit and add your voice to support trails.

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