November 15, 2011

What's fast, fun and federally funded?

A chance to pilot Air Force 1 would probably fit the bill, but that's not what we have in mind.

Spend a few hours on the FATS trails, a popular IMBA Epic in South Carolina, and we're sure you'll agree that "fast" and "fun" are accurate descriptors. But what about the last part — how does federal funding fit into this story?

It turns out that FATS received significant support from the Recreational Trails Program (RTP). RTP constitutes a tiny part of the massive federal Transportation Bill, but it's vitally important to mountain bikers across the United States. It's a program worth fighting for, which is why IMBA is calling on all of its chapters, clubs and individual members to take action and urge Congress to protect RTP and other Transportation Enhancements.

Not sure if RTP funding pertains to trails you ride? All of these great rides were built with RTP funds, and this is just a small sample of the thousands of trails that RTP monies have provided for mountain bikers:

Brown County State Park, IN (IMBA Epic)

Bull Mountain, GA

Coldwater Mountain, AL

Forks Area Trail System (FATS), SC (IMBA Epic)

Fountainhead, VA

Highbridge, NYC

Jackrabbit Mountain, NC

M-Hill, Rapid City, ND

Oak Mountain, AL

Raystown Lake, PA

Stubb Stewart State Park, OR

This is a very effective, user-pay/user-benefit program and a proven success story. It serves as the foundation for state trail programs across the country, leverages hundreds of millions of dollars of additional support for trails and boosts economic activity in hundreds of communities.

If you're still not convinced, check out the info that leading advocates from around the nation sent us about why RTP is worth fighting for:

The CAMBA trails in northwest Wisconsin received a RTP grant this past year. The $19,000 grant has helped fund the construction of a 5.1-mile singletrack trail, Seeley Pass. The project is not yet complete but will conclude next season with a comparable amount of construction. It was our intent to again apply to the program for funding for the next phase of our construction, a new connector trail that will link two of our trail clusters.

— Ron Bergin, Executive Director of the Chequamegon Area Mountain Bike Association

There are many, many many examples of how Recreation Trails Program funding has benefitted mountain bike trails here in VT. The funds have been used on the following trails:

Pine Hill Park in Rutland: 16+/- miles of singletrack, in downtown Rutland, visited by many thousands of riders per year

Hinesburg Town Forest: 15 miles of trails for all levels, a very popular destination in Vermonts most populous county (Chittenden County)

Perry Hill in Waterbury: 15 miles of singletrack, one of VTs most popular mountain bike trail systems, known as a significant economic engine in the area

Camels Hump State Forest, Fayston: 15 miles of technical singletrack, very popular in the Mad River Valley area, and adjacent to Sugarbush Ski Resort, which operates a lift-serve mountain bike program

Leicester Hollow, Goshen, VT: part of a major VMBA project in the Green Mountain National Forest, which was opened in fall 2011, and instantly saw increased usage

Adams Camp, Stowe, VT: a component of the Vermont Ride Center, which includes Adams Camp, Trapp Family Lodge and Stowe Town Forest. $40,000 in Recreation Trails Funding has been used here in 2010-2011

There are lots more too! Check out the photos on the VMBA page, most of these projects have included Rec Trails Funding.

— Patrick Kell, Executive Director of the Vermont Mountain Bike Association

Brown County State Park, which just got IMBA epic status, has 10 miles of trail that were built with a 2005 RTP grant. The trails built with the RTP grant elevated Brown County State Park from a good Indiana trail system to a national destination.

— Paul Arlinghaus, President of the Hoosier Mountain Bike Association

Here are some of the trails and trail systems in Idaho that have been funded with RTP grants: Ponderosa Park (McCall, Idaho), Bear Basin (McCall, Idaho), McCall Pathways (McCall, Idaho), the Weiser River Trail (Weiser, Idaho to Council, Idaho), Crooked River Trail (Idaho City, Idaho) and the Lakeshore trail (Priest Lake, Idaho). As a fundraiser for mountain bike trails, I know how important it is that we don't lose this funding.

— Geoff Baker President of Mountain Bike Idaho

GHORBA has used the RTP grants to great effect over the last few years:

Carl F. Barton Jr. Park, City of Conroe, TX, with GHORBA support

Double Lake Trail (Sam Houston National Forest), near Coldspring

Huntsville State Park, a new trail on National Forest Land adjacent to State Park (effectively doubling its size)

Funds to provide support for upgrade of Houston regional MTB trails

Sugarland River Park Trail — grant provides trailhead infrastructure for a GHORBA volunteer-constructed trail

Additionally, GHORBA provide a representative for the Texas State Trails Advisory Board who recommend worthy projects for RTP funding. In the last 3 years, every natural surface trail project grant application was approved for funding, scoring near the top of the list of projects, bringing new trails for bikers, hikers, equestrians and OHVs. The RTP program has been vital to providing major trail mileage to our inventory. The grants have been very effective and provided excellent value for money.

— Kevin Highfield, Board Member of the Greater Houston Off Road Biking Association

RTP funds have supported many great trails in my region, including Highbridge Park in Manhattan, Manorville Hills County Park in Manorville, NY and Hempstead Harbor's coastal trail in Roslyn, NY. A new mountain bike trail project has recently won an RTP grant for Coram, NY's Overton Preserve but we haven't started construction yet.

— Michael Vitti, President of the Concerned Long Island Mountain Bicyclists

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