The following is an update from Derrick Crandall, president of the American Recreation Coalition (ARC), outlining progress in Congress on reauthorization of the Recreational Trails Program (RTP) initiative.
The nation’s leading trail organizations expressed appreciation and delight regarding a new letter to key congressional leaders, who are crafting a new national surface transportation bill, calling for reauthorization of the Recreational Trails Program (RTP). The letter was drafted by U.S. representatives Tom Petri (R-WI) and Mike Michaud (D-ME) and signed by 74 members of Congress.
“The letter demonstrates that this program, created in 1991, has made a difference across the nation,” said Crandall, who serves as co-chair of the Coalition for Recreational Trails. “It may be small by Washington standards, but has made a real difference in community after community, and has made public lands more accessible and valued.”
The congressional letter is unusual both because of the large number of signers and the geographic and ideological diversity of the support it demonstrates. The letter is especially timely because Congress is expected to take action on a successor to SAFETEA-LU, a multi-year surface transportation law directing the use of collected federal motorfuel taxes which expired in 2009 and has been extended for short periods ever since.
According to the congressional letter, “The philosophy behind the RTP is simple: fuel taxes collected from non-highway users should benefit those who paid the taxes.” The letter goes on to say,” the RTP has brought new economic vitality to communities across the nation, helped Americans to be active and healthy, and unified often-divided trail interests to craft state trail plans and aid all trail interests. More than 15,000 projects have been funded under this program to date, including trail corridor purchases, trail construction and maintenance and environmental mitigation.”
Crandall noted that the 74 signers included longtime members of Congress holding senior positions on key committees as well as new members of Congress, and that the signers were from 36 states.
“The Congressional letter demonstrates the same kind of broad support as that shown earlier this year when nearly 500 national, state and local organizations wrote to the Congress and expressed strong support for continuing RTP,” said Crandall.
“We especially want to thank congressmen Petri and Michaud for taking action on behalf of their constituents and trail enthusiasts across the nation,” Crandall added. “With the number and complexity of issues before the Congress, small but vital federal programs like RTP could be forgotten without champions in the House and Senate. We thank each of the signers – and especially Representatives Petri and Michaud.”