Recreational Trails Program

Recreational Trails Program (RTP) Grants

The Vermont Department of Forests, Parks & Recreation (FPR) provides RTP grants for recreational trail-related projects for hiking, running, mountain biking, all-terrain vehicle (ATV) recreation, snowmobiling, cross-country and back-country skiing, nature-based recreation and education, paddling, and horseback riding.

Recreational Trails Program 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 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.  On an annual basis each fall FPR solicits RTP grant applications for trail projects from municipalities and non-profit organizations. 

RTP grants in Vermont typically range from $5,000 to $50,000. Grants are awarded for well-planned trail projects that will develop, protect and maintain trails and trail systems to create linkages to communities, improve livability and user-ability, and are open and maintained for public recreational use.

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

There are many benefits to trail infrastructure in our communities.  Vermont's trails connect people to our communities, and to Vermont's natural and treasured landscapes. Trail activities help improve the quality of life in Vermont and support our economy.  

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; 

Upcoming RTP Funding Availability:  FPR anticipates approximately $500,000 being available for municipalities and non-profit organizations in the 2019 competitive grant round.  Awards will be given for trail projects planned to begin June 2019. 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 projects by mid-June or July after submitting a grant application (the anticipated timing for grant agreements to be fully approved and executed) 

  • Planning ahead (before you apply for a grant) means developing a project that can move quickly and smoothly into implementation after grant approval. 
  • Be sure you have public support for your project. How does your project benefit the community?
  • Have funding to pay for all the expenses for your project ahead of time (this is a reimbursement program).  Find other sources of funds, donations, and volunteers to contribute toward the expenses.  
  • Develop a good project design.  Consider the recreational users, plan and design your trail using acceptable standards and designs.  Minimize environmental impacts with a trail's layout and work plans.  
  • Develop partnerships with organizations, professional trailbuilders, and other organizations who can support with best practices in trail construction, trail maintenance, and future management.
  • To obtain a federal grant to develop a trail on private property parcels, a legally binding agreement/easement is needed to assure the public investment being made, for a period of at least ten years.
  • 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 possible, before submitting a pre or full application, find out what permits are needed for the project and begin securing them. Contact a project review specialist through the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation:
  • Plan projects accordingly:  Secure all needed permits before beginning the project. 
  • Permit processes can take 3 - 6 months, or longer, depending on the nature of the work being proposed; 
  • Plan to obtain all permits that were pending at the application deadline, before the end of June or July.  All needed permits must be secured before doing any work in the grant agreement. 
  • Be sure to have sufficient funds to pay all project expenses.  Awarded grantees are responsible for coming up with funds to pay for the entire cost of the project upfront (all eligible items listed in the budget submitted with the full grant 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. 

Contingent on requirements in the grant agreement, once a grant agreement is fully executed, work can be started. 

How is Funding Received? 

This is a federal reimbursement program. 

Grant applicants awarded funds ("Subrecipients"), will not receive a cash grant at the time of grant approval. Instead, Subrecipients must first pay the incurred expenses (after getting an executed grant agreement next July).

Subrecipients then document their project costs and request a reimbursement from the State (FPR) in accordance with payment provisions in their grant agreement.

The State then reviews, approves and processes reimbursement requests applying the 20% match rate to each reimbursement.

Reimbursement is not allowed for work that takes place prior to the project's grant approval.

Allowable costs:  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 Requirements of Vermont's RTP 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. And the State may choose to use up to 5% of its apportionment for educational projects.

2019 Competitive RTP Grant Cycle 

  • Jan. 1, 2019:    Due date for Full RTP Grant Application.  
    • Only those who submited a pre-application by Nov. 15, 2018 may submit a full application;
  • February 2019:
    • RTP Review Committee meets, scores  & recommends projects to be funded;
    • Recommendations are forwarded to FPR's Commissioner for review and final decision making;
  • March  2019:
    • FPR Commissioner reviews recommendations & decides what projects will be awarded grants;
    • All applicants are notified of the results;  
  • April 2019:
    • FPR requests funding approval from FHWA for those projects being awarded grants; 
    • FPR begins preparing grant agreements for their final execution once approved by FHWA;     
  • June 15, 2019
    • Estimated date of approval/full execution of grant agreements;

Full Grant Application Materials

All those who submitted a pre-application by November 15, 2018 are eligible to send (1) electronic copy of the Full 2019 RTP Grant Application and the 2019 RTP Budget Form, which must be submitted by January 1, 2019  to:

Click here for the 2019 RTP Full Application Instructions/Guidebook

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, Dewey 2

Montpelier, VT  05620-3801

Tel:  802-760-8450