What is the Virginia Recreational Trails Program? The program provides funding for recreational trails and trail related facilities for motorized and non-motorized recreational uses. The Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) administer the program in Virginia.
On what can the recreational trail funds be used? The Recreational Trails Program mandates that not less than 30 percent of the monies received annually be reserved for uses relating to motorized recreational trails and not less than 30 percent shall be reserved for uses relating to non-motorized recreation. The remaining 40 percent is given to projects with the greatest number of compatible recreational purposes and/or which provide for innovative recreational use sharing. Eligible activities include the construction of new trails, new trailhead facilities, maintenance and/or rehabilitation of existing trails.
How is funding divided between motorized and non-motorized? Federal rules governing the Recreational Trails Program require that 30 percent of the funds be used for motorized trails, 30 percent be used for non-motorized trials and 40 percent be used for multi-use trails. A diverse motorized project, i.e., a trail that allows ATVs and dirt bikes, or a diverse non-motorized project, i.e., a trail for pedestrians and equestrians, may satisfy two of the categories at once.
What are diversified trails? Diversified trail projects are those projects which provide for the greatest number of compatible recreational purposes on the same trail corridor and/or those which provide for innovative recreational corridor-sharing by motorized and non-motorized use.
Who may apply for assistance from this program? Assistance through this program is available to cities, towns, counties, state agencies, Indian tribal governments and non-profit organizations. Federal agencies, such as the forest service, may also be eligible. When federal funds are pledged as the RTP project match, however, the combined total of RTP grant funds requested and other federal matching share funds may not exceed 95 percent of total project costs. In such cases, at least 5 percent of project costs must come from state, local or private sources.
What are the requirements for trail planning? The intent of the Recreational Trail Program is that funds be used for trails and trail-related projects. The planning of trails is not eligible for funding through this program. However, expenses for structure, design or engineering, or for GPS mapping when included with trail development, may be allowed but are limited to five percent of grant (e.g., a $50,000 trail construction project could include up to $2,500 in planning or engineering or GPS mapping costs).
Does this program require a match? What is a matching share? Yes. This is a reimbursement program. As such, the grant recipient must pay 100 percent of the cost of an eligible item before submitting a request for reimbursement for 80 percent of eligible costs, i.e. $5,000 (in eligible expenditures) submitted x 80 percent = $4,000, reimbursed to grant recipient.
Project sponsors must provide at least a 20 percent of the resources needed to complete the project. Availability of these resources, called the “applicant’s matching share,” must be confirmed before formal approval. This share may come from several sources including appropriations, bonds, force accounts and donations (private funds, materials, right-of-way, and services) at fair market value to be counted toward the match. For donations, a letter of commitment from the donor is needed prior to formal project approval. Note that donations of existing state or local government right-of-way, materials or services cannot be credited toward the local match. When federal funds are pledged as the RTP project match, be aware that the combined total of RTP grant funds requested and other federal matching share funds may not exceed 95 percent of total project costs. In such cases, at least 5 percent of project costs must come from state, local or private sources.
When must the matching share be available? The matching share is a critical component of the grant application evaluation. One of the criteria on which applications are scored is the budget. Applicants must demonstrate their capacity to fund the project over the life of the grant while seeking periodic reimbursements.
How are award selections made? Funding is made available through a competitive grant round. The Department of Conservation and Recreation announces an open grant round with a project application deadline. Applications received by the deadline are reviewed for eligibility and then forwarded to the Virginia Recreational Trail Advisory Committee. The committee is made up of government representatives and active trail users. The committee reviews, comments on and scores applications based on published scoring criteria. It then makes recommendations on which projects should advance to the second phase of the competition. Second Phase applicants must submit Environmental Review and Public Commenting documentation by the announced deadline. Second-phase documentation is reviewed for compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act. Projects for which applicants have submitted documentation that demonstrates compliance are presented to the Board of Conservation and Recreation, which recommends projects for submission to the Federal Highway Administration for formal approval and funding commitment.
How will I know the status of my proposal ? All sponsors submitting an RTP Application receive a letter indicating whether or not their project has been chosen to advance to the second phase. Sponsors whose projects are selected to advance will be given a deadline for submitting required environmental review and public commenting documentation. Sponsors will be notified whether or not their project has been forwarded to the FHWA for review and formal approval. Once FHWA approves a project, DCR prepares an RTP Project Agreement between the state and the grant recipient. The RTP administrator then contacts successful sponsors to schedule a meeting for signing the agreement and to provide instructions on managing the grant.
Once the project is formally approved, will the sponsor be asked to do anything other than complete the project? Yes. Grant recipients will be required to manage project agreements, provide quarterly progress reports, abide by federal assurances agreed to in the application submissions, manage and document reimbursement requests, and provide required supporting documentation that must accompany the request (copies of all invoices and billing records, timesheets, etc.).
What is the Disadvantage Business Enterprise (DBE) requirement? The purpose of the Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) requirement is to provide disadvantaged business enterprises opportunities to compete for government contracts. In keeping with this requirement, each trail grant recipient is to encourage DBE listed contractors and suppliers to bid for trail work granted in the Recreational Trail Program award. (See the DBE Policy and Procedure in the Recreational Trails Program Manual
When are quarterly reports due? Project sponsors awarded funds must submit quarterly progress reports. They are due March 31, June 30, Sept. 30 and Dec. 31 each active year of the project grant. Reporting requirements are further detailed in the RTP Manual.
How does a project sponsor get the money awarded for their project? This is a reimbursement program. Reimbursements are made only on eligible expenditures for elements listed in the scope of work described in the RTP project agreement and subsequent amendments. The project sponsor must expend the funds for the materials, contracts, etc., before requesting reimbursement. Project sponsors must submit copies of all bills, invoices and proof of payment (front and back of canceled checks, credit card receipts, etc.) with the reimbursement request. DCR receives the money from FHWA for payment to the project sponsors. There are no state funds for recreational trails.
What expenses are eligible? Eligible expenses are the contract, materials and labor expenses for the authorized scope of work defined in the project agreement. Indirect costs and administrative expenses are ineligible for reimbursement.
Are water trails eligible? Yes. Water trails that are eligible for funding are those listed on pages 118-120 of the Virginia Outdoors Plan and those listed by name in the regional sections of the Virginia Outdoors Plan.
As the trail project evolves, can the project be changed to meet changes in cost, design, etc.? If not, why? The Recreational Trail Program is highly competitive. Project applications are evaluated according to published scoring criteria. Many applications are separated by a single point. Changing the original scope of work could invalidate the score afforded the project funding.
However, DCR understands that minor changes in an approved scope of work are sometimes necessary. Such changes, however, cannot take place without formal approval from DCR. Changes in scope of work must be formally requested in writing. If approved, an amendment to the project agreement is drafted outlining the new scope of work. The amendment takes effect when signatures of both DCR and the project sponsor are obtained.
Can the project be extended if it falls behind schedule? Grant agreement extensions result in increased financial tracking, reporting and project management workloads. Therefore, extensions are rare and are considered only when circumstances beyond the control of the grantee occur and if appropriate justification is provided. For details, see Appendix G, Extension Policy, in the Recreational Trails Program Manual.