- What is the Indiana Trails Program (ITP)?
The Indiana Trails Program is a new trails program that will replace the Recreational Trails Program (RTP) in 2021. The new ITP program will be similar to Indiana’s existing RTP and will still be administered by Department of Natural Resources Division of Outdoor Recreation. The main difference is that funds for ITP will now be state dollars rather than federal funds.
- Where are the ITP funds coming from?
Similar to RTP, the funds for ITP will be passed from INDOT to the DNR to administer. ITP simply exchanges Indiana’s normal allocation of federal RTP funds, which are based on a return of federal fuel tax for non-highway recreation, with available state funds through INDOT’s Federal Fund Exchange program (Indiana Code 36-9-42.2). ITP funds are not a result of a new tax, user fee, or other allocation. The federal RTP funding allocation represents a portion of the revenue received by the Federal Highway Trust Fund from the federal motor fuel excise tax paid by users of off-road recreational vehicles such as snowmobiles, off-road motorcycles, all-terrain vehicles, and off-road light trucks. These monies are made available from Indiana's share of funds from the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) as a set-aside of the new Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) (23 U.S.C. 213).
- How is this better for grant awardees?
As many awardees have learned, state funds are easier and faster to work with than federal funds. When using federal funds, awardees must follow detailed federal land acquisition, environmental, purchasing, and administration processes. Many of these processes, which were designed for larger federal agency projects, added both significant time and costs to smaller, local trail projects. By using state funds instead, awardees can bypass many of these processes to make their projects more cost and time effective.
- Why is Indiana changing RTP?
The switch to state funds will streamline grant and program administration for DNR and INDOT, saving significant time and money. This allows more of the grant money to build trails with the same funds in a shorter timeline. The change will be beneficial to INDOT, DNR, and the grant recipients.
- How will ITP differ from RTP?
There will be very few changes to the grant program. ITP shares the intent and general design of RTP. The goal of the new program is to streamline the grant process to put more trail on the ground.
- Will the funding amount remain the same as for RTP?
Yes, the Indiana Trails Program will receive the same money to use on trails, including grants, education, and administration, just as it did under RTP. If the RTP allocation amount changes in the future, the state funds the DNR receives for ITP from INDOT will reflect that new amount.
- Will the funding allocations to motorized and non-motorized trails remain the same?
Yes, funding allocations within the program will remain unchanged. Indiana will earmark 30% of the funds for motorized recreation trail projects and 30% for non-motorized trail projects. The remaining 40%, minus education and administration costs, will remain as discretionary funds.
- Is the local match requirement the same?
Yes. ITP grants will still require a 20% local match. At the time of application, the project sponsor must have at least 20% of the total project cost available. The local share may include tax sources, bond issues, Community Development Funds, Farmers Home Administration Loans, or force account contributions. The donated value of land, cash, labor, equipment and materials may also be used.
- Will ITP continue to be a reimbursement program?
Yes, ITP will be a reimbursement program. Eligible funds will be reimbursed after the costs have been incurred and submitted to the DNR. No funds will be dispersed up front.
- Who is eligible to apply to ITP?
Local units of governments and non-profit organizations that were eligible to apply for RTP will be able to apply for ITP.
- What types of projects are eligible for ITP grant funding?
Just like RTP, ITP will fund the development of trails, including land acquisition and basic amenities. Both motorized and non-motorized programs qualify for grant assistance.
- When can I apply for ITP funds?
Applications are due March 1, 2021.
- What about my existing RTP grant? Will it be converted or change?
Projects that received RTP funding in 2020 or earlier will see no changes. Those funds are still federal funds, and all the previous rules will still apply. Those grant projects will continue under the previous federal rules until they are completed.
- Why did Indiana choose to opt out of Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) Recreational Trails Program?
Indiana opted out of RTP to satisfy a technical requirement of the Federal Funds Exchange program. This change to state funds benefits awardees and the state by making the program more efficient and simpler to administer.
- Does Indiana have to opt out each year from RTP?
Yes, RTP requires the state to opt out each year the RTP funds are available. A signed Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between DNR and INDOT spells out all the responsibilities to ensure the partnership runs smoothly. An MOU will be signed every year.
- Will Indiana retain the Trails Advisory Board?
Yes, the Indiana Trails Advisory Board (TAB) has proven to be an asset to the DNR. The TAB provides important educational and networking opportunities for trail stakeholders as well as for the DNR. The DNR will continue to administer the TAB, which had already gone above FHWA requirements, in its current capacity.
- Where can I learn more about ITP?