Rails-to-trails is an exciting movement that converts abandoned railroad tracks into trails for pedestrians, equestrians, cyclists and kinetic enthusiasts of all kind. High profile repurposed lines include the Atlanta Beltway, Chicago’s Bloomingdale Trail, and New York's High Line which is beginning to rival Central Park as a must visit tourist attraction. Whether urban, rural, or
somewhere in between, recycled railroads are a perfect place for fitness, fun, and financial renaissance. The Rails-to-Trails Conservancy via the Doppelt Family Trail Development Fund is currently offering competitive grants to build or improve mulituse trails.
The Rails-to-Trails Conservancy: The Doppelt Family Trail Development Fund
This program offers grants in two different areas:
Community Support Awards - The first category is capacity building to help programs get started. Eligible uses include public relations and awareness campaigns about new projects, feasibility studies, and adding personnel or volunteer coordination.
Project Transformation Awards - This category is designed to help organizations complete trail developments or improvements. Eligible uses may include new construction, facility and infrastructure including trailheads and rest rooms, land acquisition, signage and maintenance. A rarity in the grant world, one allowed use of funds is to help match existing federal or state awards.
Selected Past Recipients
- The Erie to Pittsburgh Trail Alliance, INC (PA) was awarded $1000 to help match a Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resource grant.
- The Missouri Rock Island Trail, Inc (MO) will incorporate a dormant Rock Island Line into a 384 mile trail system that will one day connect St. Louis and Kansas City.
The Nebraska Game and Parks Commission (NE) has formulated a plan for economic develop along its Cowboy Recreation and Nature Trail in Northwest Nebraska.
- Gallatin Valley Land Trust (MT) plans on rehabilitating bridges, repairing signage and installing solar powered counters on the Gallagator Trail that runs through Bozeman.
- The Great Shasta Trail Association (CA) hired grant management consultants in order to expand this celebrity trail which was featured in the movie "Stand by Me."
Applying for the Doppelt Family Trail Development Fund
Eligible applicants include state and local government and nonprofits who are members of the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy's Trail Expert Network. Trails must serve multiple users (for example, be used by pedestrians and cyclists). While projects involving rail lines will be given a preference, a rail-trail designation is not an absolute requirement. Apply by January 31, 2018.
Explore the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy Site
Even if you are not looking to convert a trail just yet, this site has much to offer. There is a blog that features past projects and current issues affecting trails and the communities that host them. The magazine highlights some great adventure opportunities to add to your get-away destination list. (Did you know that even looking at pictures of nature can make your brain work better?) Whether you are seeking tips to revitalize a rail-to-trail path in your own locality, or just want to start gathering options for summer vacation, this is a great site to explore.
Editors note: This post was updated on December 20, 2017 to reflect the current year's deadline. Since it does allow for leveraging other funding sources through matching opportunities, we are reposting so that our new readers can be aware of it.