RTC’s Doppelt Fund Helps Move the Needle on Six Rail-Trails in 2017

Posted 05/31/17 by Eli Griffen in Building Trails

Ashton-Tetonia Trail in Idaho, part of the Greater Yellowstone Trail system | Photo by Camrin Dengel

Today, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC) announced the recipients of the 2017 Doppelt Family Trail Development Fund grant program, awarding more than $100,000 to enhance or complete multiuse trail projects in six communities across the United States.

Greater Yellowstone Trail | Photo by Camrin Dengel

The grant awards mark a three-year track record for the Doppelt Fund—established with funding from philanthropist Jeff Doppelt of Great Neck, New York, and an anonymous donor—of helping to move the dial on small, regional projects that are vital to trail systems but that often fall through the cracks of larger funding streams (think state and federal).

This year’s projects, which aim to fill gaps in existing trail systems, support expansion and maintenance needs, and measure economic impact, were chosen from a pool of applications totaling $5 million in asks (an increase of nearly $1 million from last year alone)—speaking to the growing demand for trails nationwide.

“We are lucky to have the capacity to invest in a handful of these projects through the Doppelt Fund grant program, but the growing need far exceeds the funding available,” states Jeff Doppelt. “These projects are vital to the health of local and regional trail systems.”

The 2017 Doppelt Fund recipients include the following:

  • Colorado Springs Parks, Recreation, and Cultural Services (Colorado), receiving $35,000 to complete Phase 1 of the Legacy Loop, a comprehensive multiuse trail project that will improve connectivity and accessibility for over 120,000 families living within 2 miles of the project in the heart of Colorado Springs
  • Tillamook Forest Heritage Trust (Oregon), receiving $30,000 to support analysis of the social-economic benefits associated with the 86-mile Salmonberry Trail
  • Wyoming Pathways (Idaho, Montana and Wyoming), receiving $20,000 to support the opening of the Greater Yellowstone Trail, a 180-mile pathway and rail-trail route that connects Jackson Hole, Wyoming, to West Yellowstone, Montana, via small towns in eastern Idaho
  • National Road Heritage Corridor (Pennsylvania), receiving $7,500 for the construction of the Marion Segment of the Sheepskin Trail, which will close an existing gap in the Industrial Heartland Trails Coalition’s Parkersburg-to-Pittsburgh corridor
  • Detroit Greenways Coalition (Michigan), receiving $5,000 to support the Inner Circle Greenway in Highland Park, the largest urban trail project within the state of Michigan
  • Cowboy Trail West, Inc. (Nebraska), receiving $5,000 to support a 15-mile expansion of the Cowboy Trail from Gordon to Rushville
RELATED: 2016 Doppelt Grant Awards to Fund Innovative Trail Projects Around US

Since 2015, RTC’s Doppelt Fund has awarded well over a quarter of a million dollars in grants to friends groups, nonprofits and government agencies. The program seeks not only to provide critical project transformation (trail building) support—for example, construction, maintenance, land acquisition, signage, bathrooms, etc.—but also to support community outreach and capacity building.

Lake Britton Bridge trestle on the Great Shasta Rail Trail in California | Photo by Christina Schmidlin

A past recipient of multiple awards in the trail-building category is Pennsylvania’s Allegheny Trail Alliance for a project to repair the Pinkerton Tunnel, an 849-foot, 139-year-old railway structure along the Great Allegheny Passage in Markleton. Due to structural problems, the forbidding-looking barricade was closed for decades, and this meant a 1.5-mile detour between the Pinkerton Low Bridge and Pinkerton High Bridge (which bordered the tunnel on either side). Today, the Pinkerton Tunnel is not only a part of a remarkable bridge-tunnel-bridge experience along the rail-trail, it is also a gap-filler in a seamless rail-trail route between Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C.

On the capacity-building side—the Doppelt Fund awarded a grant to the Great Shasta Rail Trail Association in 2016 to hire a consultant to assist in the management of grant-funded projects to open more of the trail, which currently spans 37 miles through northern California and will eventually stretch to 80. Incidentally, part of this rail-trail happens to be the Lake Britton Bridge trestle, made famous by the 1986 film “Stand by Me.” It’s expected that the rail-rail—built on a railroad right-of-way that formally ceased operations in 2005—will help spur tourism and recreation-related commerce in the very rural areas through which it passes.

Congratulations again to this year’s grantees. The active transportation, health and tourism benefits provided by these projects will be a testament to the difference small investments in trail infrastructure can make on a regional scale.

To learn more about RTC’s trail development resources, and get information on the 2018 funding cycle for the Doppelt Fund, sign up for our Trail Expert Network.

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