Presenter: Tim Hogsett

Commission Agenda Item No. 5
National Recreational Trail Grant Fund Awards
August 2004

I. Executive Summary: Action item to award federal funds allocated under the National Recreational Trail Grants for trail construction, renovation and acquisition projects. These funds must be obligated to projects by the end of the federal fiscal year September 30, 2004. Obligates federal National Recreational Trail Funds to eligible trail projects based upon the recommendations of the Texas Trails Advisory Board.

II. Discussion: The National Recreational Trails Fund (NRTF) comes from a portion of the federal gas tax generated by gasoline purchases to utilize off-road recreational vehicles, such as off-road motorcycles and four-wheelers. The purpose of the NRFT is to provide funding for projects that create new and maintain existing motorized and non-motorized recreational trails. These federal funds are administered by the Federal Highway Administration and distributed to states via a formula that takes into account state population and sales of fuel for off-road recreational vehicles. Nationwide, the program was appropriated $50 million for the current federal fiscal year (FY2004); Texas' share of these funds is $2,018,172. A few projects funded in previous years were completed under budget or were withdrawn creating another $341,897 available for re-allocation this year. The majority of these funds will be utilized to improve trail systems in existing TPWD managed sites at Sheldon Lake, Tyler, and Resaca de la Palma State Parks and Parrie Haynes Youth Ranch. In addition, $200,000 of previous years funds earmarked for motorized trail projects is available. The recommendation is to fund two motorized projects with these older funds and carry over the bulk of this year's motorized trail funds into next year.

In March 2004, a 90-day call for proposals was issued. Fifty- three projects were submitted for funding consideration requesting over $4 million in funds.

The Act that created this fund stipulates that states must have a trails advisory board made up of various trail user group representatives to be eligible to receive the federal funds. The purpose of the trails advisory board is to provide guidance in the distribution of these funds. The 10 member, Texas Trails Advisory Board met in July to review the submitted trail project proposals and develop a list of recommended projects for funding. Each project was reviewed by the advisory board and ranked based on the quality of the project, its cost effectiveness, its impact on recreational trail opportunities, and geographic distribution of funds. Exhibit A contains the list of submitted projects, with funds requested by each sponsor, funding recommended by the advisory board and a description of each project. The four TPWD projects receiving the re-allocated funds are also listed.

A federal requirement of the NRTF is that 30 percent of the funds be spent on motorized recreational trail projects, 30 percent on non-motorized trail projects, with the remaining 40 percent discretionary. We only received three requests for motorized trail projects, two of which are recommended for funding with older, returned funds. The bulk of this year's earmarked motorized trail funds ($500,000) will be carried forward into next year's funding cycle. The Department utilizes seven percent of the state's share to cover administrative costs associated with this program.

III. Recommendation: The staff recommends the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission adopt the following motion:

"Funding for 27 projects recommended in Exhibit A in the amount of $1,918,797 is approved."