Recreational Trails Program

Recreational Trails Program (RTP) Overview 

The Recreational Trails Program (RTP) is a federal assistance program of the United States Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), administered at the State level, providing funding for the development and maintenance of recreational trail potojects.  Both motorized and non-motorized trail projects may qualify for assistance. 

The Agency of Natural Resources Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation (FPR) administers RTP in Vermont.  FPR accepts RTP grant applications for trail projects from municipalities and non-profit organizations on an annual basis. 

RTP grants typically range from $5,000 to $50,000, and are awarded for well-planned trail projects that help to develop, protect and maintain trails and trail systems that are open and maintained for public recreational use.

RTP supports a wide range of recreational trail activities such as hking, mountain biking, walking, running, paddling (water-based trail use), cross-country and back-country skiing, nature-based interpretive trail use, equestrian use, snowmobiling, off-road motorcycling, all-terrain vehicular riding or other off-road motorized recreational uses.  

Local communities and non-profit organizations using RTP funds have opportunity to help improve livability in Vermont. And, by conserving and developing trails in your community you can also contribute to environmental and human health while providing great economic benefits for the people of Vermont. 

Applicants for the next round of grants must submit a Pre-Application by December 1, 2017 to be able to submit a full grant application.   

Full grant applications are due Feb. 1, 2018.  A selection process will take place by April and sponsors.  FPR will then announce selected trail projects and get project grants approved by or soon after July 1, 2018.  Project sponsors may begin the trail project in their grant application only after a grant agreement is fully approved and executed by both FPR and the project sponsor. 

Applicants should plan their projects accordingly, including securing all needed permits before beginning the project.   

Who is Eligible?  

  • Municipalities, non-profit organizations, and other governmental entities may apply. 

What types of projects may be funded?

  • Construction of new recreational trails or trail linkages;
  • Construction of new trailhead areas/parking facilities;
  • Construction of trailside facilities directly associated with the recreational trail;
  • Maintenance, renovation, or restoration of recreational trails;
  • Improvements to signage, or trail structures along the trail;
  • Assessment of existing trail conditions for accessibility and trail improvements to improve accessibility;
  • Professional project management for project oversight;
  • Equipment purchases;
  • Acquisition of trail easements or fee simple title to property with trails or recreational trail corridors in conformance with the Federal Uniform Relocation Assistance and Real Property Acquisition Policies Act of 1970, P.L. 91-646. 
  • States have the flexibility to choose to use up to 5% of the annual apportionment for educational projects:  Educational projects or educational components are to be trail related with information about: trail safety, appropriate trail use, managed and allowable use(s), accessibility, and environmental protection. 

Buy America requirements apply to all projects.  If proposing to purchase a piece of equipment or if you have a structure in your proposed trail project application that will be made with steel or iron, this activity will fall under the United States Department of Transportation FHWA's Buy America provisions.  See

Ineligible Projects (Not permissible):

  • Condemnation of any kind of interest in property;
  • Construction of recreational trails on land where the proposed trail use is not permitted and landowner permission or support is not granted;
  • Feasibility studies (or stand-alone planning);
  • Law enforcement;
  • Picnic facilities;
  • Play equipment;
  • Promotional items;
  • Campground or park facilities; 

RTP Funding Availability:  FPR anticipates approximately $500,000 being available for municipalities and non-profit organizations in the 2018 competitive grant round.  Awards will be given for trail projects planned to begin July 1, 2018. Projects should be planned to be completed within 1-2 years. 

Grant Award Limits:   Grants up to $50,000 are awarded to provide eligible applicants with a reimbursement of 80% of a project's cost.  This cap allows fund to be distributed for a variety of projects around the State.

Sponsor's Match Requirements:  A 20% sponsor match is required, 20% of the total estimated project cost - also referred to as the sponsor's "share". 

Match may Consist of:

  • State Funds: other state grants/funds;
  • Local Cash or In-Kind Contributions: Sponsor's direct monetary contribution; (i.e. cash from fund-raising efforts, organizational or municipal funds, local tax revenues, set-aside project funds, force-fund accounts of town/organizational labor forces, local business, private or public contributions etc.);
  • Private Contributions and Other non-governmental Grants (i.e. foundation grants, local non-profit organizational grants, awards)
  • Non-Monetary Contributions: Value of volunteer labor or donations (i.e. donations of labor; in-kind labor contributions; or business donations of materials, tools, equipment/supplies needed for the project); However, donations of materials, supplies, or volunteers may not be counted if donated prior to project approval.
  • Other Federal Funds: (i.e. other federal grants, funds, federal aid) might be able to be used as match, but you will need to check with the RTP Administrator and the other federal funding source(s) ahead of time.

A budget form must be submitted with the full grant application to list all the estimated costs (and value of donations) of labor and materials needed for the project.  If donated labor or donated materials are to be used the value of those donations need to be listed in the budget as line items (as donated labor or donated materials).  The sum of donations in the budget also be shown as donations in the match summary. 

Project Preparedness:  Be ready to start your project by July 1, 2018 (the date anticipated when grant agreements for grants awarded will be fully approved and executed) 

  • Obtain public and/or private landowner permission for trail work proposed in the grant application;
  • Obtain landowner permission to bring in equipment and crews into the project area;
  • Obtain landowner permission for public use of the trail(s) once the project is completed;
  • As soon as you can before submitting a full application, find out and secure your project's needed permits by contacting a project review specialist through the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation. 
  • Permit processes can take 3 - 6 months, or longer, depending on the nature of the work you will be doing;
  • Plan to obtain all your permits before July 1, 2018. All needed permits must be secured before doing any work in the grant agreement. 
  • Be sure you have sufficient funds to pay all the project's expenses. Applicants who become grantees are responsible for coming up with funds to pay for the entire cost of the project upfront (all those line items listed in the budget that gets submitted with the full application). 

Planning, permitting, engineering or professional design costs are the only allowable costs that can be incurred prior to grant approval. These costs can be used toward match if incurred within 18 months prior to grant approval.

Do not incur any other costs other than planning, permitting, engineering & design prior to a fully executed grant agreement. Failure to comply with this requirement may jeopardize the grant. 

Once a grant agreement is fully executed, the grantee can then start the work in the grant agreement.

How is Funding Received? RTP is a reimbursement program, which means project sponsors do not receive a cash grant at the time of grant approval. Instead, sponsors must first pay the bills for incurred expenses (after receiving a fully executed grant agreement by FPR) and then be reimbursed 80% of expenses incurred for the project according to the terms of the project grant agreement.  Reimbursement is not permitted for work that takes place prior to the project's grant approval.

Grantees will need to account for purchases (and donations) of labor and materials and request reimbursements from FPR in accordance with payment provisions in their grant agreement using required forms and procedures.  FPR then processes reimbursement, applying the 20% match rate to each reimbursement.

Allowable costs are reimbursable. A cost is allowable if it is reasonable, necessary to complete the work in the approved scope of work in your grant agreement and a) if eligible under the RTP, b) documented adequately, and c) incurred during the period of performance set forth in the grant agreement.

Reimbursement Request Forms     Performance Report Form

Allocation of Funds:  Federal program legislation requires portions of funds be reserved for different types of projects:  30% of the RTP funds are to go to motorized trail use, 30% to non-motorized trail use, and 40% to diverse trail uses.

Projects funded are to be primarily recreation oriented and must support goals and objectives in Vermont's Trails & Greenways Plan of the Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan (SCORP).  

7% of the annual apportionment is used for the State's administrative costs. 

2018 Competitive RTP Grant Cycle 

  • Dec. 1, 2017 - Due date for Pre-applications
  • Feb. 1, 2018 - Due date for full grant applications;  Only those who submit a pre-application by December 1, 2017 may submit a full application
  • March 2018 - RTP Review Committee meets, scores  & recommends projects to be funded. Recommendations are forwarded to FPR's Commissioner for review and final decision making.
  • April  2018 - FPR Commissioner reviews recommendations & announces decision of what projects will be awarded grants 
  • May 2018 - FPR requests funding approval from FHWA for those projects awarded grants & begins preparing grant agreements for grantees for their final execution when approvedJune 2018       
  • July 1, 2018 - Estimated date of approval; Grant agreements fully executed by both Grantee &FPR - Projects can begin

Pre-Application and Full Grant Application Materials

If you or your community or organization intends to submit a grant application for a trail project in this grant round, fill out the 2017 Pre-Application below and send (1) electronic copy of the Pre-Application by December 1, 2017 to: 

Click Here for Pre-Application

Then, all those who have submitted a pre-application by Dec. 1 are to send (1) electronic copy of the Full 2018 RTP Grant Application and the 2018 RTP Budget Form by Feb. 1, 2018  to:

Click here for the 2018 RTP Full Application (to be posted mid-October)

Click here for the 2018 RTP Full Application Instructioins/Guidebook (to be posted mid-October) 

Contact Information:

For more information about the RTP please contact FPR's Grant Program Manager:

Sherry Smecker Winnie

Vermont Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation

1 National Life Drive, Davis 2

Montpelier, VT  05620-3801

Tel:  802-760-8450