Recreational Trails Program

Recreational Trails Program Grants

The Vermont Department of Forests, Parks & Recreation (FPR) awards RTP grants to local communities and non-profit organizations for recreational trail projects every year because of their many benefits of connecting people to communities. With linkages to natural and scenic landscapes, trails contribute to livability through a wide range of trail activities that can be made available such as hiking, mountain biking, running, paddling (with portage trails), cross-country and back-country skiing, nature-based interpretive use, equestrian, snowmobiling, off-road bicycling, all-terrain vehicular or other off-road recreational uses.

What is the Recreational Trails Program (RTP)

The Recreational Trails Program (RTP) is a federal assistance program of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). The RTP provides funds to the States to develop and maintain recreational trails and trail-related facilities for motorized and non-motorized trail uses. 

The Fixing America's Surface Transportation (FAST) Act reauthorized the Recreational Trails Program (RTP) for Federal fiscal years 2016 through 2020 as a set-aside of funds from the Transportation Alternatives (TA) Set-Aside under Surface Transportation Block Grant Program (STBG). The State of Vermont has agreed to take on the Recreational Trails Program under the FHWA, the federal agency that administers the program at the national level. The Vermont Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation (FPR) has been designated to administer RTP in Vermont.   

Application Deadlines for Next Grant Round

Who is Eligible

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

Project Eligibility

  • Maintenance and construction of public recreational trails, trail linkages, trailhead facilities/parking areas, and trailside amenities such as signage, kiosks or trail structures along the trail, directly associated with the trail; 
  • Trail rehabilitation, major trail restoration;
  • 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 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.  

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;
  • General land acquisition;
  • Picnic facilities; 
  • Play equipment; 
  • Promotional items; 
  • Campground or park facilities; 

Grant Awards (Limits):   Applicants may apply for up to $50,000 in grant funds for a project. This cap allows funds to be distributed for a variety of projects around the State.

Match Requirements:  Applicants must commit to a 20% match (20% of the total estimated project cost), also referred to as the sponsor's "share". 

Match may Consist of:

  • Non-monetary donations of labor or business donations of materials, tools, equipment/supplies needed for the project; However, donations may not be counted if donated prior to a grant agreement's full execution (tentatively scheduled to be on or after July 1, 2021).   
  • 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)
  • 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.

Project Preparedness:  

  • All projects funded shall be well planned.   Before applying, be sure to develop a project past its conceptual stage, one that can move quickly and smoothly into implementation after grant approval next July. 
  • A budget of the project should be developed to outline estimated costs of labor and materials needed to implement the planned project.  When you plan to purchase labor and materials it is best practice to get a few price quotes from qualified businesses to support your estimates.  If you get a federal RTP grant, written price quotes are required. After you get a grant, you will need to comply with your organization's procurement policies and RTP requirements, or use the State's procurement and contracting procedures.
  • Written landowner permission for the project and for future trail use is required for all projects. Obtain written landowner agreements, easements or other legally binding agreements for all work that will be done on all privately owned and publicly owned properties. Read our Program Guide for instructions as to what you'll need to attach to your grant application.
  • Projects funded shall have local public support. Start early in the planning process to garner the local support you need for your project. Host a public meeting and invite community members to learn and be involved in the plans for this project; offer ways community members can support this project; Consider partnering with local schools, businesses, local agencies and other organizations; Local support helps build capacity.  
  • Be sure the project meets local needs in the community where the trail project will occur. Create ways to offer fun future use of the trail, and future stewardship of the trail.   
  • Develop partnerships with organizations, professional trail builders, and other organizations who can support with best practices in trail construction, trail maintenance, and future stewardship. Collaboration and community partnerships are key to success. 
  • Develop a good trail design and scope of work with established trail design parameters using a set of trail guidelines.  Consider the recreational users, plan, and design your trail using acceptable standards, guidelines, and designs.  Minimize environmental impacts with a trail's layout and work plans.  
  • As soon as you have a plan sufficient enough to submit with your pre-application, you should find out if what you are proposing will need any State and local permits. Start this process of finding out what permits you'll need by contacting the local permit specialist through the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation online:  https://dec.vermont.gov/environmental-assistance/permits/specialists
  • Permit processes can take 3 - 6 months, or longer, depending on the nature of the work being proposed or if site visits are necessary.  
  • Secure enough funds 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.  
  • 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). 
  • Projects funded are to be primarily recreation oriented and must support strategies identified in the Action Plan of Vermont's Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan (SCORP).  

Contact Information:

For more information about the RTP please contact:  Sherry Smecker Winnie, Vermont Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation, 1 National Life Drive, Davis 2, Montpelier, VT  05620-3801  Tel:  802-760-8450 or E-Mail:  sherry.winnie@vermont.gov