Location: Kansas

Kansas To Spend $2 Million in Federal Funding for Recreational Trails

After opting out of the federal Recreational Trails Program, which would have provided $1.3 million in dedicated funding for trails in Kansas, the Kansas Department of Transportation announced that Kansas will instead devote $2 million to trails in Kansas:

Kansas’ recreational trails program will receive $2 million under the federal transportation bill passed by Congress this summer.

“One of our highest priorities is to enhance ecotourism in Kansas, which includes developing a good trail system,” said Robin Jennison, Secretary of the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism (KDWPT), which manages the trails program. “This level of funding will allow us to make great strides in the number and quality of trails across our state.”

Federal transportation dollars go to the Kansas Department of Transportation, which then transfers an allocation to KDWPT for the trails program. The federal transportation bill – Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21stCentury, or MAP-21 – had specified $1.3 million for the trails program, but a decision was made to increase the allocation in accordance with new flexibility provisions in MAP-21.

“KDOT and KDWPT worked to come up with a way to prioritize the amount of money that should be applied to recreational trails and determined that $2 million is the appropriate level,” said Transportation Secretary Mike King. “This will help move ecotourism forward in Kansas.”

Earlier this month, Kansas exercised a provision in the federal transportation bill to “opt out” of the recreational trails program. Exercising that provision simply gave the state maximum flexibility to prioritize the funding. It didn’t eliminate state support for the recreational trails program, which has received about $1.3 million annually in recent years. To have that flexibility option, the state had to “opt out” by Sept. 1.

Kansas will receive $366 million in federal transportation funding for the 2012 federal fiscal year, which is down from the $399 million it received in 2011.

Kansas.com explains the development a little differently:

Kansas officials said Friday that the federal government apportioned $2 million of the state’s transportation funding to go toward enhancing its recreational trails, and that even though Kansas was opting out of a federal trails program, all of that money would go for that purpose.

The funding is more than the $1.3 million Kansas had specified it wanted. It comes days after the Kansas Department of Transportation said it was joining only Florida in opting out of a provision of the federal highway funding law that gives states money to develop trails.

KDOT spokesman Steve Swartz said the agency never intended to abandon the trails system. By opting out of the federal program the state would still receive funds, but Kansas officials would be able use part of the money for other needs.

“It looked like the wrong message was being attached to this decision,” Swartz said. “In this case, opting out means we were gaining flexibility and more money.”

Swartz said KDOT will send all of the money to the Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism for use on trails. Under the program guidelines, the state can use the federal money to purchase new trails, equipment to construct or maintain the trails or refurbish existing trails.

Kansas was one of only two states to opt out of the Recreational Trails Program, which was a huge black eye for the state. KDOT and Governor Brownback took a bit of a beating, from both Kansans and from the national press.

It was heart-warming to see the outrage that the opt-out generated — a lot of people really do care about trails. They understand their importance for transportation, for health and wellness, for tourism.

And now Kansas is able to invest $2 million into trails, rather than the $1.3 million that would have come from opting in to the Recreational Trails Program. So that’s great news!

But it sure was a strange and confusing sequence of events to get us there…

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About The Author

By Randy Rasa, editor/webmaster at Kansas Cyclist, the web's premier Kansas cycling information site, featuring authoritative guides to Kansas cycling clubs, bike shops, organized bike rides, touring, trails, and much more. [learn more]

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