RTC’s 2020 Doppelt Trail Fund Helps Fill Critical Funding, Gaps in Six Communities

Posted 02/03/20 by Mary Ellen Koontz in Building Trails

Rock Island Spur of Katy Trail State Park in Missouri | Photo by TrailLink user chia57

Today, in anticipation of the 2020 spring trail season, Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC) announced the recipients of the 2020 Doppelt Family Trail Development Fund grant program, awarding a total of $100,000 to six impactful trail projects across the United States.

Since 2015, the Doppelt Fund has awarded well over a half-million dollars to nonprofits and government agencies in some 25 states to support critical trail development work, and this year’s projects—hailing from Pennsylvania, Missouri, Louisiana and Florida—were chosen for their significant potential to improve existing trails, bring new trail concepts to fruition and fill critical trail gaps for increased local and regional connectivity.

The Doppelt Family Trail Development Fund

The Doppelt Family Trail Development Fund was established with funding from philanthropist Jeff Doppelt of Great Neck, New York, and an anonymous donor to support communities seeking to build and improve their multiuse trails. Learn more about this vital trail-funding program.


The power of the Doppelt Fund is demonstrated in the unique support it provides for trail projects that—while vital to enhanced local and regional connectivity, mobility or health—are often too small for state and federal funding programs. Doppelt Funds can be used to match federal and state grant awards, however—encouraging municipalities and other levels of government to seek these forms of funding and amplifying the Doppelt Fund’s impact.

This year’s projects were chosen from a pool of 170 applications totaling nearly $5 million, demonstrating the demand for trails across the United States and the need for increased funding at the national, state and local levels to help support the completion of America’s trail networks. Each project will help transform their communities by supporting trail connectivity goals and enhancing the economic development of nearby towns. Here’s a brief summary of how each project will impact their local region.

Bridging New Connections: the Rock Island Trail (Missouri)

Rock Island Trail in Missouri | Courtesy Missouri Rock Island Trail Inc.
Rock Island Trail in Missouri | Courtesy Missouri Rock Island Trail Inc.

A $20,000 grant awarded to the Missouri Rock Island Trail, Inc. (MoRIT) is critical to help meet funding gaps to repair two trestles that could open 43 miles of seamless trail to the public. Part of a larger 144-mile developing corridor stretching almost across the state, this new portion will connect communities in Osage, Maries, Gasconade and Franklin counties to St. Louis and the eastern state border. “[This trail] is the front porch for these towns,” said MORIT Executive Director Greg Harris, noting that the trail is expected to drive the local economy across all four counties, similar to Katy Trail State Park, which has an annual impact surpassing $18 million per year. The two trails will eventually connect to form a 450-mile loop.


The Rock Island Trail Is a 144-Mile Would Be Game-Changer for Missouri


Creating Urban Connections: Emerald Trail (Florida)

In Florida, the Doppelt grant is funding a critical trail connectivity project in Duval County, supporting construction of the first segment of the Emerald Trail, a planned 30-mile urban trail system in Jacksonville. Groundwork Jacksonville, the recipient of a $30,000 grant for the project, hopes to “expose [residents and visitors] to parts of the city they may have never seen before,” said Chief Executive Officer Kay Ehas. Once complete, the Emerald Trail will connect the existing S-Line Trail and developing McCoys Creek Trail to the regional transit hub in the LaVilla neighborhood, a historically African American community in Jacksonville, while providing new opportunities for green infrastructure through bioswales and other flood mitigation techniques along the trail.

Empowering Disadvantaged Communities: Rail-Trail Along North Saint Antonine Street (Louisiana)

In Lafayette, Louisiana, a future trail along North Saint Antonine Street is set to connect historically disadvantaged communities to parks, recreational opportunities and the downtown employment center on a piece of disused rail line running through neighborhoods with low personal car ownership but few sidewalks. The $5,000 Doppelt grant, awarded to the Lafayette Consolidated Government, will help to propel the project into forward momentum, supporting the development of design renderings and stakeholder outreach to acquire community input, vision and support for the project.

Building Regional Connectivity: Bootlace Trail Network (Louisiana)

Farther east in New Orleans, Louisiana, Bike Easy is working to build connectivity across the region. Their $5,000 Doppelt grant will spearhead the formation of the Bootlace Trail Network Coalition to lead the build-out of the trail project across Orleans, St. Tammany, Jefferson, St. Bernard and St. John the Baptist parishes. Project developers are creating the network of trails to enable residents and visitors to easily navigate the entire region for a broader economic impact. The network will also allow residents easy access to safe biking and walking infrastructure and recreation.

Bringing Economic Opportunity: Armstrong Trails (Pennsylvania)

Brady Tunnel along Armstrong Trails in Pennsylvania | Photo courtesy Armstrong Trails
Brady Tunnel along Armstrong Trails in Pennsylvania | Photo courtesy Armstrong Trails

Similarly, in Pennsylvania, the Armstrong Trails (formerly Allegheny Valley Land Trust) received $35,000 from the Doppelt Fund to open the Brady Tunnel in Clarion County, enabling a link between communities at the disjointed 4.5-mile northern section of trail and the southern 31-mile portion connecting East Brady and Ford City. The tunnel and adjoining sluice have long been in disrepair, despite the economic opportunity the trail will bring to neighboring towns. Completing this project will also help support increased connectivity and regionwide outdoor tourism along the larger 270-mile Erie to Pittsburgh Trail, of which the trail makes up a portion.

Making Safe Routes: D&H Rail-Trail (Pennsylvania)

D&H Rail-Trail in Pennsylvania | Photo by TrailLink user jaley_tl
D&H Rail-Trail in Pennsylvania | Photo by TrailLink user jaley_tl

Across the state, the Rail-Trail Council of Northeastern Pennsylvania plans to use their $5,000 grant to match a state grant to install a small bridge that connects the D&H Rail-Trail to the small town of Lanesboro, Pennsylvania, and eliminate the need for an on-road detour that is dangerous to walkers and bicyclists. According to Lynn Conrad, executive director of the council, the bridge will provide the “missing link” for the community and provide a safe route for area students to access the local elementary and high schools.

Congratulations to all of this year’s grant recipients, who are working hard to advance trails in their communities. In the words of Jeff Doppelt, “We are thrilled to be able to support our grantees in their vital work to create impactful new connections across their communities and their regions, and we look forward to seeing how these projects transform communities and generate benefits for decades to come.”

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