The Department of Environmental Management (DEM) along with the RI Department of Transportation and Federal Highway Administration (FHA) announce the availability of $1.6 million in federal transportation funds for recreational trail projects in Rhode Island. Applications for the grants will be accepted by DEM through January 28.

“There are tremendous economic, health, and environmental benefits to modernizing our recreational facilities and creating greenspace in our communities,” said DEM Director Janet Coit. “Never were our open spaces as popular as in 2020, when state and locally-managed open spaces were at full capacity during much of the summer. Good trail networks connect residents and visitors to the wide array of natural resources Rhode Island has to offer. By enhancing public enjoyment, a good trail network also helps protect these resources.”

Local, state and non-profit agencies and Native American tribes are eligible for the matching grants, which provide 80 percent of the cost up to $100,000, for projects that promote and enhance trail-based recreation. Grants may be used for the development of new trails, improvement or restoration of existing trails, and development of trailside and trailhead facilities and trail linkages. Projects on trails that are not open to the general public, as well as research and planning projects and landscaping, are not eligible for grant funding.

The local trails grants draw upon federal funds made available under the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21). Under an interagency cooperative agreement, DEM administers the grant program with funds made available by RIDOT and the Federal Highway Administration.

An online pre-application training workshop will be held on Wednesday, December 2, at 1:30 PM. Prospective applicants are encouraged to join the workshop via Zoom Meetings using the following link: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/85899443242?pwd=T0FRZUFFdWErWm5oNnNjK0Rrd1N3dz09 Meeting ID: 858 9944 3242. Passcode: 555155.

Prospective applicants also may call in to hear the workshop: (929) 205-6099, meeting ID: 858 9944 3242. The workshop will be recorded and posted on DEM’s website. Applicants are encouraged to review the Recreational Trail Grants instructions available online at www.dem.ri.gov/programs/planning/grants/index.php

Electronic applications are encouraged and should be submitted to Gregg Cassidy in DEM’s Division of Planning & Development at Gregg.Cassidy@dem.ri.gov by 3:00 PM on Thursday, January 28. Proposals and supporting materials also may also be mailed to Mr. Cassidy’s attention at DEM, Division of Planning & Development, 235 Promenade Street, Providence, RI 02908. The trails grant awards are expected to be awarded in February 2021.

In 2013, 28 projects across Rhode Island were awarded over $1.5 million in recreational trails grants. Among the funded projects were a trail head at Granite Mill Park in Burrillville that connects the villages of Pascoag and Harrisville; enhancements to public safety and pedestrian access to Cliff Walk from the eastern end of Narragansett Avenue and installation of new signage, bike racks, and a water fountain; and construction of the Meehan-Notte trail in North Providence connecting recreational facilities at Governor Notte Park with woodland trails and a beach on the Camp Meehan property.

Rhode Island’s outdoor recreation industry is an important part of the state economy, contributing an estimated $3.3 billion annually and supporting 36,000 jobs. As part of a larger network of recreational opportunities in the state, municipal facilities play an important role in beautifying communities, supporting public health, and promoting a cleaner environment.

DEM’s Green Space programs – which include Recreational Trails, Outdoor Recreation, and Local Open Space grants – fund land conservation, recreational land acquisition and development, and recreational trail development and improvements statewide. Rhode Island’s historic parks, bikeways, and green spaces provide opportunity for public enjoyment – in addition to improving the health of the environment, strengthening the state’s climate resilience, and supporting the economy. According to the Outdoor Industry Association, outdoor recreation in Rhode Island generates $2.4 billion in consumer spending and supports 24,000 local jobs.