TRAILS — Organized trail user groups — including hikers, bikers, equestrians, snowmobilers and OHVers — are scrambling to avoid loss of recreational trail funding from the federal transportation budget.
With the Recreational Trails Program in jeopardy, a contingent of trail user group representatives met with Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-WA, recently to see what can be done. The recreational groups said Beutler, who serves on Beutler serves on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, was receptive to their information on the cost-effectiveness of the RTP program grants, which usually are matched and boosted by volunteer groups.
RTP funds critical maintenance projects by the Forest Service and non-profit volunteer organizations, keeping hundreds of miles of trail open. In fact, your state receives roughly $1.8 million annually from this program. Local clubs leverage this money several times over as it is used it to build and maintain trails all over Washington state.
RTP is funded through a federal gas tax, which provides revenue for important motorized and non-motorized trail projects. Unfortunately, Congress is looking for cuts, and by sweeping RTP dollars away to cover some other non-recreation transportation projects, they would be redirecting the gas tax money trail users pay at the pump. (The gas tax for RTP is based on an estimate of the amount of gas purchased for off-highway recreation).
The Washington Trails Association says RTP grants account for 20 percent of its funding for trail maintenance program budget.
The International Mountain Biking Association is asking trail users to contact representatives in Congress to urge them to sign Rep. Herrera Beutler's letter in support of the Recreational Trails Program.